23 July 2020

Used Car Review: Mazda Axela (2009)

There were an impressive 7,342 sales of the Mazda Axela in 2019, making it the best-selling used import passenger car in New Zealand.

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Mazda Axela (2009)
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Mazda Axela (2009)
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Mazda Axela (2009)
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Mazda Axela (2009)
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Mazda Axela (2009)
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Mazda Axela (2009)

To help put this figure into context, the best-selling new passenger car of 2019 was the popular Toyota Corolla, which sold 6,806 units.

We often receive calls from AA Members asking if we’d recommend a Mazda Axela, so we wanted to review used a model to find out exactly what people love about the smiley faced Japanese hatch.


The Mazda Axela’s name is derived from a combination of the words ‘accelerate’ and ‘excellent’ and it started life as the BK series, which was produced between 2003 and 2008. It was introduced to address the aging Mazda 323 and Mazda Protégé, and was very well received due to its much improved styling and interior.

The second generation, or the Mazda BL series, was in production from 2009 to 2013, and can be seen on used car yards across New Zealand in abundance. This model is often mistaken for the NZ-new Mazda 3.

The Mazda BL series offers four great engine choices, ranging from a 1.5L to a 2.3L Mazda MZR L4 turbocharged engine for those who need some added spice beneath the bonnet.

The Mazda Axela can be found in either a compact sedan or hatch variety and there’s also a broad selection of transmissions on offer with four, five and six-speed automatics, as well as five and six-speed manual options.

She’s got the look

The exterior styling of the Mazda Axela is streamlined and has a swept-back, aerodynamic look. Mazda were certainly looking towards the future when the designers set to work, as even today it has a very modern feel about it. It also has a low accent line that runs along the lower portion of the front doors and feathers upwards towards the rear door, almost as if it’s mirroring the tail feathers of a bird. The particular model we tested also had a stand-out body kit that ran the length of the sills.

The front of the car has a broad black grill that extends across the full width of the front bumper. From the front, the Axela looks quite low and sporty, and when combined with the centralised badge and angular lights, it seems to form the look of a smiling face. The rear of the car continues the fluid design aesthetic, and the clear light clusters complete the look. Although the hatch opens very wide for storing items, it looks like all that styling may have restricted the overall width of the cargo area slightly.

The overall dimensions of the Axela hatchback are compact with a length of 4490mm and a width of 1755mm. It’s sleek, compact design means that it slips into most inner city parking spaces or garages with ease.

Interior Design

The interior has a very conventional layout and simple touches that have likely broadened its appeal. Take the clock adjustment for example, which is located just below the hazard light switch and has the typical three-button configuration we’re all familiar with from any number of Japanese models of the past few decades. This simplicity extends to the climate control system, which features a familiar three-knob arrangement.

The instrument cluster has all the essential gauges - like the tachometer and speedometer - positioned squarely in front of the driver. To the left of the driver, there are two separate screens - one is an old fashioned display dedicated to the climate control settings, and just to the right is a small modern display dedicated to the fuel savings being made.

The low-swept roof line can be a bit of a double edged sword. Sure it can make the car look sporty, but it also makes the cabin feel slightly more restricted than it should be, especially in the rear middle seat.

The interior is durable, and the model we tested had a mostly black and grey theme throughout the entire cabin, except for the matte silver accents which surrounded the climate control and on the twin paddle shifters mounted either side of the steering wheel.

With all seats up, storage comes in at around 340 litres, which isn’t the biggest, but the rear seats can be collapsed for further room if you need to transport bulkier items.

There are two cup holders in the front, as well as further storage in each of the door panels. The front of the cockpit also receives a large centre console storage box with an extendable armrest, as well as a small center pocket beneath the climate control knobs.

The rear of the car has decent side door pockets for storage, and a handy pull-down armrest that adds another couple of cup holders for passengers.


The 2.0L engine is powerful enough for most - generating 113kW @ 6000 rpm. Its six-speed automatic gearbox feels sharp, and you have the added luxury of being able to cycle through the gears manually, either via the paddle shifts or by pushing the gearstick to the right. The Axela is by no means a rocket ship, but during testing it reached 100kmh in just under 10 seconds.

Economy-wise, we averaged about six litres of fuel per 100km during our 45km test, which included a combination of motorway driving and crawling through traffic in the suburbs, which will likely be the car’s natural habitat. The suspension wasn’t too firm, and it was quite easy to find a comfortable driving position before setting off. While the Mazda Axela wasn't the quietest of rides on the motorway, but given the low mileage on the model we tested, this may have been down to the tyres.


There’s a lot to love about the Mazda Axela, and it’s great that there’s an engine and gearbox combination for almost every driver. The modern, slick look still holds up well today, and everything appears to be where it should be and functions exactly as intended. For the price, a Mazda Axela really is hard to beat.

We asked GVI why they think the Axela is such a popular model and here's what they had to say….

“The Mazda Axela (or Mazda 3) is our most popular selling hatchback and it’s not hard to see why. As a mid-sized hatchback, it sits in-between the Mazda Demio (Mazda 2) and Mazda Atenza (Mazda 6) and offers space, good looks and an economical, reliable power train.

"Available in a range of popular colours and engine sizes from 1500cc through to 2300cc, the Mazda Axela is perfect as the around town commuter or the weekend road trip warrior!

"Production started in 2003 and they are still releasing new models today, so we hope the Mazda Axela will be part of our model range for many years to come." - Hayden (GVI)

At a glance

Model and year

Mazda Axela (2009)



Date Tested



$13,680 (+ORC)


2.0L petrol


Six-speed auto

Fuel economy


Towing capacity




Seating capacity


Luggage capacity/payload

340 litres (all seats up)

Safety features include:

  • Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)
  • Airbags
  • Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
  • Rear Vehicle Monitoring System (RVM)
  • Adaptive Front light Systems (AFS)

Choosing you next used car?

A good start is to find a vehicle that is stocked by an AA Appraised Dealer. AA Appraised used cars have received a 43-point mechanical check by the AA, which focuses on the mechanical and safety aspects of the car and gives an overall evaluation of the vehicle.

Click here to find an AA Appraised Used Vehicle dealer

Get total peace of mind with an AA Pre Purchase Inspection

When you buy a car, you may have a number of questions about its condition and safety. Assume nothing. An AA Pre Purchase Vehicle Inspection will give you complete peace of mind a comprehensive 100+ point vehicle check by an independent experienced mechanic.

Click here for more information on AA Pre Purchase Inspections

Thank you to AA Appraised Used Vehicle Dealer GVI for supplying us with the 2009 Mazda Axela for review.

To view this car and similar models, click here.


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