Perry bought this Mazda 3 new with extra options for $23,300 (including all on-road costs). Perry would buy this car again because: “Overall, this Mazda provided a pleasant ownership experience with many positives. Let’s start with its style.”
Remember the mid-1990s Mazda 323 Stina V6 (known elsewhere as the 323F or Lantis)? In my humble opinion, the hardtop Astina is still one of the most beautiful sedans to come from the land of the rising sun. Nowadays you’ll see the slimline form factor as a four-door coupe.
I’ve never had the chance to own or drive an Astina hardtop but it looks like a beautiful third generation 3 direct descendant. It’s a good example of how sensible transport doesn’t look boring either.
We bought the 3 to replace a 2001 Mazda 626, and they are basically the same size even though the 3 is classified as a small car. Since it’s not really that small it’s perfect for our fine family of four, with plenty of room for a rear-facing baby seat behind the comfortably seated front passenger.
For the driver, the cabin was a lovely place to sit, although I agree with its presentation. After four years the fabric on the seats still looked as good as new, and the interior proved tough with nothing falling or breaking. Some additional lumbar support on the driver’s seat would have been nice.
It’s hard to fault the Mazda on their ergonomics, the driving position is good and all the major controls are where you’d expect them to be. Gear shift paddles hidden behind the steering wheel were perfect for engine braking or dropping down a few gears for better acceleration, and made the tiptronic-style manual shift redundant.
My favorite feature of the car was the steering – it felt very natural, but still very direct, which made the 3 feel very agile and fluid, and easy to corner.
I thought the balance between ride and handling was also well thought out. Pottering around Sydney’s pockmarked roads the 3 was comfortable and more indifferent to bumps, in fact more comfortable than our other car (a Mercedes GLC on steel springs and 20-inch wheels). Part of that is due to the sensible 16-inch wheels and 50-series tires, which coincidentally or not are the exact same 205/50 R16 size as those on the aforementioned 323 Astina V6.
The car came with Bridgestone Turanza ER33s, which were dry on the road and quite engaging on the racetrack.
What, a racetrack?! I hear you say. Well, an opportunity arose for a private track day at Luddenham Raceway and if nothing better came up I took 3.
It was my first track day, and it turned out to be a real eye-opener, so much so that I would now recommend that everyone should experience a track day at least once. You’ll be able to see how your car performs and responds at high speeds in a safe, controlled environment.
With a 2.0L engine producing 114kW/200Nm, the 3 was certainly no slouch on the track but the engine revs happily to redline, and second and third gears were all that was needed to get around. .
We kept the car for just over four years, and you don’t expect any mechanical problems in a new car, especially a Japanese-made one with an NA engine and conventional automatic transmission.
The most notable issue we had was some parasitic drain on the battery which was enough to completely flatten the battery when the car was parked for a few weeks.
This happened twice and the battery needed to be replaced both times. Thankfully, the cost of a new Q85 EFB battery has dropped over the years (another replacement battery costs $165).
3 was flawless on track day. Engine temperature (checked via OBD2 port) remained constant throughout the day. The only preparation was cleaning the junk off the boat and pumping up the tires.
Overall it has been a pleasant experience. It lived up to my expectations as a comfortable passenger car and I was sad to see it go the day it was sold.
It looked smart in machine gray and after a wash on the wheels and some silicone, was worth a second look before driving away.
We literally went to our local dealer, agreed on a no-trade price and bought the car on the spot without a test drive.
Dealer servicing costs about $400 per year, which is neither cheap nor too expensive.
The folding actuators in both mirrors were replaced under warranty – apparently this is a common point of failure in recent Mazdas. At the time we bought the 3, it only came with a short three-year warranty.
With the benefit of hindsight, the value offered by small cars before COVID and the Ukraine invasion was pretty incredible.
3 includes all the safety systems and accoutrements you’d expect in a modern car, as well as some you don’t. Our 3 apparently came with ‘G-Vectoring Control’, which (as I understand it) slightly reduces engine torque on turn-in to put extra weight on the front tires, but no such thing to the rear. It is difficult to assess the effectiveness of Back-to-back comparisons
The main fault I wished for was a digital speedo, and auto up/down on all four windows would have been helpful.
By today’s standards, the performance offered by the 2.0L SkyActiv-G is nothing to write home about, but that’s more a reflection of the feedback than the engine itself. With feet on the floor, an Auto 3 should sprint to 100 km/h in around 9.3 seconds, which is respectable.
Comparisons with the 323 Astina V6 are again apt. The smaller V6 produced 104kW of power and 183Nm of torque, both less than the outputs of the 3, yet the Astana V6 was considered fairly obvious when it was launched 25+ years ago.
The 2.5L in the SP25 offers more performance, but the base engine is just fine for city traffic. I didn’t bother with the ‘Sport’ mode, as it keeps the auto gears too long. Shifts using the steering paddles were quite responsive.
As for fuel consumption, the trip meter often hovers around 10-10.5L/100km, which isn’t particularly economical but not too surprising given that our 3 is mainly used for school runs and other short trips. It was used for
The SkyActiv-G is a fairly noisy unit at start-up, and will run quite vigorously until it warms up.
The third-generation 3 was launched in 2013, the same year as the iPhone 5S, so the 7.0-inch infotainment screen might seem old and small in a world where the iPhone 13 Pro Max is nearly as big. It’s still functional and was easy enough to navigate via touch or via the rotary dial.
The standard GPS sat nav worked reliably but the DAB+ radio dropped out frequently.
I paid ~$500 to retrofit Apple CarPlay, and the Music and Maps apps worked fine except for the occasional glitch.
The screen may overheat when left in the sun and shut down until it cools down again.
As mentioned earlier, Mazda nailed the ride/handling balance at 3 in my eyes. The sharp steering makes the car feel light on its proverbial feet. Yet it rode well even on rough surfaces and remained stable through corners.
It is interesting to note that this generation 3 used a multi-link rear suspension setup, which undoubtedly contributed to the good ride and handling, however Mazda has since added torsion beams to the rear end in the latest BP Mazda3. has gone.
It’s also a shame Mazda didn’t stick with the MPS 3, as this chassis can certainly handle the extra power.