22 July 2019

Mazda3 Car Review 2019

SUVs might be taking over the market, but there’s still a solid, if reduced demand for hatches.

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Mazda3 2019
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Mazda3 2019
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Mazda3 2019
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Mazda3 2019
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Mazda3 2019
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Mazda3 2019

And with families turning to pseudo off-roaders, manufacturers can arguably turn their focus once more to the still sizeable number of buyers thinking more about those in the front seats, than the rears.

Perhaps that’s why the back seats seem to, well, take a back seat these days. There may be a plethora of cupholders and power sockets, but sporty designs cut glass height, and a more spacious front cabin can impact the rear, at least for some buyers.

Take the Mazda3: that high windowline and its kick up toward the rear pillar look great from outside, but if you have small kids, or basketballing teens, you’ll want to check they’ll fit in and see out.

Everyone else should be happy, especially if they’re behind the wheel. That’s not so much because of Mazda’s 2.5-litre SkyActive-G engine, which is competent, if unexciting, with an economy bonus as it drops two cylinders to save fuel under light throttle load. No idea when it happened, clearly it’s seamless.

It’s not for the smooth-shifting auto, which on a tightly twisting road seemed a little too relaxed for our tastes. There are steering wheel paddles, and to get along briskly you’ll use them to settle the car into corners – if that’ll bother you, so will the omission of a version with a manual transmission – but then, you were only one per cent of the predecessor’s buyers.  

What will please keen drivers – and those simply looking for a stylish mode of transport – is this chassis’ great balance of sweet handling combined with decent ride comfort.

Some of the tech touches are also useful. We like the rotary controller for the eight-inch screen – forget about touching it, apparently a safety move to avoid folk leaning to reach it, and taking their eyes off the road. We like the head-up display, with traffic sign recognition. We like how easy it is to tailor some functions – like choosing whether the car locks automatically as you walk away.

Initially we argued with the voice control – which didn’t seem to like our perfectly normal accents – then realized we hadn’t followed the prompts’ exact phrasing, and suddenly everything fell into place. Accessing the satnav via voice control in busy traffic is fabulous – no taking your eyes off the road to fiddle, or needing to pull over to set it — unless you wish to do so manually, in which case the car must be in park, with the handbrake on. Bah.

The reversing camera has an impressively wide field of view, especially useful when combined with rear cross traffic alert. We gave it an unexpectedly good test when a large SUV angle-parked next to us in a busy supermarket car park. Normally reversing blind is an act of faith. Not this time, and there was no way we could accidentally reverse into an oncoming car, pedestrian or bicycle – it literally felt like having eyes in the back of one’s head.

The driver’s rear three-quarter view is certainly restricted, but in this car the blind spot warning and, when reversing, the camera and alarm mean you barely realize – as long as you use your mirrors and pay attention to those alerts.

Fortunately this Mazda is subtle enough to encourage you to leave them all engaged, yet assertive enough to ensure you know when there’s a problem, and we were never tempted to disable the many safety nannies.

It’s the modern tech which makes cars like this feel a cut above, here considerably assisted by the cabin design and materials. This Mazda3 looks smart, it feels smart, and it exhibits a handsome yet restrained design ethos which rivals the Euros for ambience.

There’s a lot to like here. It looks and feels elegant inside and out. There’s plenty of fancy spec, as you’d expect at this price, and now a five-year, 100,000km free servicing programme, plus five years of unlimited km warranty and roadside assist.

However, it’s easy to argue that given neither engine is a ball of fire, you might prefer to shop among the lower-spec, lower-priced 2.0-litre versions. The entry-level GSX has smaller, 16-inch wheels and so is a smidge less agile, but it still gets a lot of the goodies – like traffic sign recognition, rear cross traffic alert and head up display – and leaves an extra 12K in your pocket.

You might also prefer a more affordable VW Golf, or BMW’s 1 Series opener, which undercuts this Limited spec. Once upon a time, a Euro buyer would never consider Japanese, but the quality line has blurred so far that cars like this Mazda3 truly blur those taste margins.

At a glance


Mazda3 Ltd hatch


2.5-litre petrol



ANCAP safety rating


Power and Torque

139kW at 6000rpm and 252Nm at 4000rpm


Six-speed auto

Fuel economy


Towing capacity

600/1200kg (unbraked/braked)


2WD front

Seating capacity


Luggage capacity/payload

295/997 litres (row two seats up/folded)

Safety systems

  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Traffic sign recognition
  • Lane Keep Assist
  • Lane Departure Warning
  • Driver Attention Alert
  • High Beam Control
  • Reversing camera plus park sensors front/rear
  • Radar cruise control
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