Nearly new buying guide: Mazda 3

Mazda’s Focus rival, the previous model, is a great deal. But don’t forget about diesels if your mileage isn’t too high.

Mazda is known for its clever engineering and unique ways of doing things, so any new model by the Japanese car manufacturer is worth looking at. The Mazda 3 was no exception. The Mazda 3 of 2014 was a great example. Although it has been replaced by a new model, the old car still outperforms fresher competitors.

It was featured in this magazine as one of the top four cars in an eight-car group test, competing with the Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Golf for top honors. Although it came in third, Matt Saunders felt moved enough to comment that he couldn’t have chosen a more difficult dynamic test for Focus than to compare it to the Mazda 3.

By the way, he was referring to hatchback versions. The Fastback saloon is also available, but the hatchback is the most popular and one we are interested in.

You can still get 2019/19-registered cars that have a few thousand miles for around PS16,000. Many of these cars are high-spec SE-L Nav or Sport Nav models at this price.

These 148bhp, 2.2-litre diesel models are great for high-mileage drivers or those who just want to get 60mpg. The 104bhp 1.5 diesel was also introduced in 2016. However, it is weedy, and very rare. You can get a 2018/18 SE Nav with 5000m for PS14,000.

There are many petrol options and they all suit the Mazda 3’s light-footed nature more than others. But, the petrols are what you should be focusing on. The model came with two petrol engines at different times: a 1.5-liter engine with a low 99bhp (it was removed in 2016), and a pair 2.0s with a respectable 163bhp.

Mazda’s “go-it-alone” approach is typical. No turbocharger is available. According to the company, this results in a better real-world economy. They pull strong enough at low revs, but feel somewhat flat in the middle-range.

We chose the 118bhp2.0 for its combination of economy, performance and price. Although the 163bhp engine is more powerful, it produces the same 115lbft at 4000rpm as its 118bhp counterpart. It’s also less fast and more expensive. An average 2016/66 Mazda 3 2.0 120PS Sport model with 10,000 miles will cost around PS13.250, while a 165PS model costs PS14,000 at PS14,000.

In 2016, the model received a facelift that included a new grille, better interior materials, and an electronic parking brake. The trims offered entry-level SE and Sport Nav options. Standard features included automatic emergency braking and alloys. With its rear parking sensors, climate control, and 16-inch wheels, SE-L is a great choice. We would choose it, but the Sport Nav trim with its bigger wheels and more sporty instrument display appeals to our emotions more.

BUYER BEWARE

Recalls The Mazda3 has received a surprising amount of these, so make sure they have been taken into consideration.

Brakes Check the condition. Some owners report that the rear brakes fail before the fronts. This is due to water entering the parking brake actuator.

Interior Bluetooth connectivity problems and the fact some infotainment system require re-booting were reported.

Bodywork Broken bonnet paint on Mazdas is common, but repairs are a sign of a meticulous owmer.

You need to be familiar with

Safety recalls are a hallmark of the 3. There are five of them. They range from inoperable windshield wipers to software errors that can lead to engine failure or poorly tightened fuel injector mounting nuts.

Mazda has a reputation for tackling small technical problems until they are solved. G-Vectoring Control was introduced to the Mazda 3 in 2017. This system stabilizes the car in corners and automatically backs off the throttle when it detects a change of steering angle.

Avoid early models if you want pin-sharp reception – they did not have digital radio. Interestingly, there was no Apple CarPlay.

Our choice

Mazda3 2.0 120ps Sports Nav: This version is a great choice for those who want to enjoy strong performance, a BOSE soundsystem, and a head up display. However, the 18in wheels make it a bit boring. The PS8795 is an approved 2014-reg car with 50,000 mi.

Wildcard

Mazda3 2.2 150ps SE: This big, 2.2-litre diesel engine is a rare find in this class, but it does the job. It returns 60mpg and pulls like a train thanks to its 280lb feet. PS8500 is the 2015-reg model with 48,000 miles.

We found

2015 Mazda 3 2.2 TDSE, 61,000 Miles, PS7000

2016 Mazda 32.0 120PS SE Navigation, 44,000 Miles, PS8495

2017 Mazda 32.0 120PS SE Nav, 35,000 Miles, PS10,495

2018 Mazda 3 2.0 120PS Sport Nav 21,000 miles, PS13,690