If you're looking for a small family car that's good to drive and reliable, but you don't want to follow the crowd, the 3 could fit the bill perfectly. With great dynamics and strong build quality, the 3 is well worth a closer look - but running costs can be high. If you're tempted, choose a post-July 2006 car as these have better chassis settings and improved interiors. While the 3 is class-leading in few areas, as an all-rounder it's a great small family hatch; just ask any owner.
12/03: The Mazda 3 debuts.
7/06: The 3 is facelifted, with a revised nose and tail, improved interior trim and recalibrated suspension.
11/06: The 2.3-litre MPS (Mazda Performance Series) arrives.
1/07: A 2.0-litre turbodiesel appears.
5/08: All cars get extra standard equipment.
Mazda 3 (2003-2008) Checklist
- Steering creaks and groans mean new front suspension bushes are needed.
- A knocking from the front when the engine is cold, is the exhaust rattling.
- On diesels, black or blue exhaust smoke points to a failed turbocharger.
- The exhaust gas recirculation valve can fail on early 1.6Ds; look for uneven idling or hesitation when accelerating.
- The end of the plastic dipstick of the 1.6D engine can break and drop into the sump; the only fix is to remove the sump to retrieve it.
- Some 2004/2005 cars have suffered from corrosion around the rear wheelarches.
- The alloy wheel lacquer can bubble and blister.
- Great diesel engines
We Don't Like
- Lacklustre 1.4 and 1.6 petrol engines
- Unruly MPS is costly to tax