Mazda 3 (2009-2014)

If you’re looking for a small family car that’s good to drive and reliable into the bargain, but you don’t want to follow the crowd, Mazda could have just what you’ve been looking for; its Golf-sized 3. Despite its Focus roots, the Mazda 3 has never set the charts alight as Ford’s family car has done. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as you can enjoy many of the benefits of the Focus while also having something more distinctive on your drive. And while the 3 is class-leading in few areas, as an all-rounder it’s a great small family hatch. We’d avoid the MPS though, as while it’s enjoyable to drive, there are plenty of alternatives that do a better job.

Key dates

5/09: The Mazda 3 Mk2 is introduced. There are four-door saloons or five-door hatchbacks in S, TS, TS2 or Sport trims, with 1.6-litre petrol or diesel engines, a 2.0-litre petrol or 2.2 diesel, the latter in 148 or 182bhp forms. There’s also a 256bhp 2.3-litre petrol option, in the MPS.

3/10: The 1.6D engine is upgraded and gets a six-speed manual gearbox for better efficiency.

2010: The Tamura and Takuya special editions arrive in February and June respectively.

3/12: A facelift brings a reprofiled nose, improved refinement and extra standard equipment. The steering is also improved to provide more feedback and two new trim levels are introduced: the Sport and Sport Nav, the latter featuring standard navigation.


  • Servicing can be expensive thanks to short intervals and high costs.
  • Saloons are rare and unloved, so can be tricky to sell on.
  • The diesel particulate filter on 2.2 diesels can cause problems which require a dealer visit to change the oil.
  • Diesel-powered cars tend to get through front tyres quickly, thanks to the extra weight of the engine.
  • The Bluetooth sometimes play ups, but a software update usually fixes things.
  • The rubber boot button can crack, letting water in, leading to reliability issues.
  • While the headlamps are great on main beam, they’re poor when dipped. Upgraded bulbs don’t seem to help.
  • The front seats could be more supportive, so you might suffer back ache after a long journey.

We like

  • Distinctive looks
  • Sharp dynamics
  • Good value
  • Strong engines
  • Reliability
  • Equipment levels
  • Build quality

We don’t like

  • So-so MPS
  • Unrefined 1.6D
  • Busy dash design
  • Thirsty petrol engines