At the start of 2004, the all-new and stylish Mazda 3 replaced the popular but ageing 323.
Mazda 3 truly raised the bar for what a small car could offer a market whose ardour for large cars was cooling, and it’s gone on to be a tearaway sales success.
The five-door hatch and four-door sedan model specifications comprise the entry level Neo, the mid-fielding Maxx, and the superior Maxx Sport. Neo standard offerings include air conditioning, dual airbags and CD. ABS, power windows and mirrors were Neo options, but included as standard on better specified versions.
An upgrade in July 2006 brought small engine output and fuel economy gains, and other worthwhile improvements across the range, plus standard ABS for Neo. Cruise control was a dealer ‘add-on’ prior to that and can be troublesome, so check operation carefully. Dynamic stability control also became an option for 2.0-litre models.
There was a makeover in April 2008 and a brand-new model in 2009. Look for the latest series car your budget allows.
The range includes a sportier 2.3 litre model, the SP23, and the scorching 3 MPS turbo hatch.
Mated to a five-speed manual or four-speed auto, the 2.0-litre petrol is one of the class’s more sprightly performers, though its best work comes with higher revs. The six-speed manual-only 2.0-litre turbo-diesel, released in 2007, impresses for its beefy torque, drivability and fuel economy.
On the road the 3 is a class act offering driver enjoyment with good ride and top-shelf handling and steering. Tyre and road noise levels aren’t as classy though. Inside there’s plenty to like, including decent front seats, plus style and functionality. A spacesaver spare disappoints.
Running costs are higher than some competitors, but it’s a well-built car with sound reliability credentials. Check for coolant leaks at the water pump and on series one cars expensive-to-fix dash pad cover cracking. Diesels had a recall for a loose engine mount bolt.
Under the pump
Mazda 3 will use between 7.2 and 10.5 litres of unleaded or 6.0 and 8.0 litres of diesel every 100km, depending on model and driving conditions.
What will it cost?
For an indication of what you would pay for this vehicle please go to CD's online car price guide or our Car review Advice Service on 07 3666 9148 or 623 456 outside the Brisbane area.