Mazda 3 Sport Nav 2.2 Diesel

£8,000 - £12,000 Used
7.6

Acceleration

7.4/10

Handling

7.5/10

Practicality

7.0/10

Fun Factor

7.5/10

Aesthetic

8.7/10

Pros

  • Excellent design and colour opportunities
  • Great features from base spec
  • Surprisingly roomy
  • Shockingly easy to handle
  • One of the most user-friendly infotainment systems available

Cons

  • Same design used across the range
  • Lack of memory seat functions
  • Fuel economy can be deceiving at times
  • Driver's side can feel a little cramped
  • No Android Auto or Apple CarPlay

The Mazda 3 is beyond fascinating when you take its history into account. It’s one of those “cars of the people”, a true hero for the average Joe.

As of writing this, we’re currently on the fourth generation of Mazda 3, the successor to the Familia/323. In this review, I’ll be going back in time to the third-generation Mazda 3. To emphasize, it’s the biggest leap since the car was first launched.

It’s almost a completely different car. Almost, but not quite.

I would say the mission throughout its history is rather simple: create a small family car that’s accessible, easy to manoeuvre and affordable. It’s rather easy to see that. The Mazda I’ve been driving proves it, well, to me at least.

So, without further ado, I present to you the strikingly beautiful third-generation Mazda 3. Isn’t it just a stunner?

A front-side view of the Mazda 3. Showing off a soul red colour along with the 18-inch alloy wheels.
An aggressive front grille. No more fun-and-games with the Kodo design language.

Let’s Get Down To The Nitty Gritty…

As with most manufacturers, there’s never just a set specification across the line. There will always be differences, so I’ll be narrowing down the common options and specifications.

For a better break-down of these specifications, I’d recommend checking out Mazda’s brochures or the details on Parkers.

EnginePetrol: 1.5, 1.6, 2.0 & 2.5-litre inline 4-cylinder (98bhp – 162bhp)
Diesel: 1.5 & 2.2-litre inline 4-cylinder (103bhp – 147bhp)
Gearbox4-speed & 6-speed automatic gearbox
6-speed manual gearbox
Fuel EconomyAutomatic: varying between 35mpg & 70mpg combined*
Manual: varying between 40 & 80mpg combined*
Fuel Tank Capacity51 litres
Top Speed~130mph (based on Sport Nav model)
Turning Circle11 meters

* Fuel economy can be tough to measure accurately as every driver tends to have driving habits that may affect their fuel economy. It may also vary depending on the type of fuel your vehicle uses. These are only to be used as an estimated guideline.

A New Generation In Styling

The Mazda 3 marked the beginning of a new era in styling. Celebrating what they call the “Kodo” design language. Kodo, meaning rhythm/heartbeat is an accurate description of what it is. Quite simply, it will get your heart racing.

The Inspiration

Mazda has taken what was, honestly, a boring design and made it into something exciting. It looks mean, yet tame. And it seems to me it’s taken some clear design hints from other high-performance manufacturers.

A rear-side view of the Mazda 3 in the centre of a car parking space.
The Mazda 3, as seen from the rear.

The rear seems to have been inspired by Alfa Romeo with their Giulietta. And that Soul Red colour feels almost reminiscent of the Rosso Corsa colour used in Ferraris. Put it up against most other modern family cars in a car park and the Mazda 3 will stick out like a sore thumb.

And the culprit for that vibrant red paintwork would be down to the art of Takumi-Nuri. The art of hand craftsmanship, which Mazda have taken pride in getting the same results from robotic arms painting the car.

Not only that, it almost seems like other manufacturer’s have taken design hints from the 3 since it was released. From a front-side angle, it almost looks like the new Toyota Corolla has even taken some inspiration from the headlights.

The bi-xenon headlamps. A night-time prowler.

Extras

It’s a shame that there only seems to be one option for the alloy wheels. The same look, albeit different sizes. I don’t think there’s particularly anything wrong with the look of them, it’d just be nice to have the option for something different. Take, for example, diamond-cut alloys with two-tone. That, being one of the more popular options these days.

There’s a little something that bugs me, too, and I don’t know if it’s good or bad. And that’s the trim differences. Like with the wheels, there seems to be hardly any variation.

The over-used alloy rims. Still, at least they come in multiple sizes… that’s a bonus, right?

Comparing the base-spec SE with the range-topping Sport Nav, there is virtually no difference apart from the addition of fog lights. Then again, you’ll also be getting nifty LED brake lights and bi-xenon headlamps with the pricier options.

Thankfully, Mazda has given either the option of a hatchback or, for anyone who may prefer it, a saloon. Which I’m sure will be one of the more popular options out there for our American friends.

So this begs the question; is it worth paying extra for looks? Well, this is where Mazda has got you covered:

It’s The Little Things That Count

If it’s not engine size or exterior looks you are looking for, then it’s probably gadgets or comfort.

Unquestionably, paying that little bit extra will get you some peachy features. And it all starts in the cabin. Forget making the car look more fancy on the outside, that’s very much a yesteryear statement to be making.

No, if there’s any way to show the money you’ve splashed, it’s with a premium-feeling interior. Mazda has certainly got you covered on this one… depending on what you’re looking for, that is.

The navigation wheel and buttons used for the infotainment system while in motion.

The fully-equipped Sport Nav model will offer you the finer luxuries such as leather seats, a Bose sound system and even a heads-up display. Besides, you’ll get the equally important safety features like blind-spot monitoring, lane monitoring and Mazda’s Smart City Brake Support (SCBS).

Nevertheless, this isn’t just limited to the Sport Nav variants, as the other models could be customised to reach similar results.

Interior

Mazda seems to have focused their efforts with the interior of the car. There are out-and-out quality materials used, and that’s even from the base spec. On top of that, there is clear use of their craftsmanship with the stitching used on the leather seats. It feels and looks the part.

This is where the Mazda 3 shines, its interior is the centrepiece of a well-characterised exterior. This is what will set apart your range-topper from the base spec. Because of these changes, you’ll see optional extras like two-tone leather seats as well as heated seats.

Mazda 3 Interior

Of course, the option of having dual-zone climate control is certainly a must for any long summer drive. You’ll usually find this on the higher end specced Mazda 3’s.

Practicality

Typically, a car of this size you would already expect to be quite spacious. And it certainly lives up to that, but then again, nothing is always perfect.

Space

The Mazda 3 includes an electronic adjustable driver’s side seat, which is great for finding that sweet spot. On the other hand, there is no memory setting, so, if you’re sharing this car with anyone else you may find it a struggle to get it back to that sweet spot.

A view from the rear seats looking forward inside the Mazda 3. The steering wheel, infotainment system, air vents & gear stick is visible.

As a driver, you may find your legs occasionally hitting the door and transmission tunnel. It can certainly feel a little bit cramped at times. That isn’t to say it’s limited and I’m sure most drivers may not come across this issue. But it purely does depend on the size of the driver.

At least your passengers will feel right at home. There’s plenty of space for your front passenger with their adjustable seat. Although, peculiarly, there seems to be no height adjustment. Whereas rear passengers have great legroom, even at my height and size, I can still fit with ample legroom.

A view from the side looking into the interior of the car. Showing the steering wheel, seats & infotainment system.
The front of the cabin, a modern, but slightly cramped front-end.

There’s a generous amount of space in the Mazda 3. As much as 364-litres, it’s more than enough for a regular shopping trip or keeping some family necessities inside, like a pram, for example. Although, the boot space here will fall short compared to cars of similar sizes, such as the Ford Focus.

Fuel Economy

In short, fuel economy will vastly depend on driving habits, engine capacity, and load. The 2.2-litre automatic diesel I’ve had the pleasure of driving is a little bit hit-and-miss. And I think this is something that every car salesman would say… “it just depends on whether you have a heavy right foot or not”.

Except, it never really is that. There are all sorts of calculations being made by the onboard computer before even touching the pedal. And with any automatic, it’ll always tend to rev higher than necessary before changing gear.

Generally, with city driving, I’ve found a steady 35-38mpg. And I would say that’s not too shabby, comparing it with a manual transmission of similar spec, you’d probably expect the same results. On the contrary, you’ll find that fuel economy will quickly diminish as you put your foot down.

The fuel economy monitor in the Mazda 3.
Mazda’s very own Fuel Economy Monitor. A great way to keep track of your driving habits.

Similarly, you’ll see rather respectable figures when travelling on motorways. Ranging between 50 & 65mpg, it’s safe to say those really are not bad figures.

For the eager to save on fuel, Mazda has included a Fuel Economy Monitor, which is easily accessible and will give you the opportunity to check on your driving habits. And of course, you can check on your start/stop (or i-stop, if you want to be accurate) times, and even when the system is ready to shut off at traffic lights.

Performance

As expected from a 2.2-litre diesel with nearly 150bhp, the Mazda 3 is undoubtedly pokey at best. You’ll find a multitude of engine sizes across the range, each boasting their own performance figures. For the sake of this review, I’ll be going over my experiences with the 2.2-litre diesel automatic variant.

Immediately, it’s noticeably quiet for a diesel car. Something I thought was only crafted by German manufacturers. But Mazda seems to have followed suit and put together an elegant little diesel engine. Naturally, the alternative petrol Mazda 3 will be equally quiet, if not, even more quiet.

A top-down photograph of the Mazda 3 engine bay.
The neatly presented engine bay of the Mazda 3.

Stepping into the cockpit and pressing that ominous racing-style start button gives you a great thrill. Often, the engine will tend to rev just a little before idling, though, I’d assume that’s just because the engine is cold. Upon pulling off, it will give you a comfortable sensation, i.e – you’re not being thrown into the back of your seat as if this was some Nürburgring track weapon.

The ride is laid back and rather mellow. But don’t be fooled, a quick push of the throttle will give you that unexpected push, the sort of pin-back feeling you get from that heavy torque.

Suspension

You won’t be let down by a poor suspension set up either. Cornering feels very fluid, even at a pace. Although because of this, naturally, the suspension does feel a little firmer.

That’s the thing when you sacrifice comfort for performance. It’s safe to say there’s a good balance, at least. The Mazda 3 isn’t too low to the ground so you’re not going to be facing the dreaded speed bump with gritted teeth. It’ll happily glide over it with minimal discomfort.

Without a doubt, there could’ve been some improvements. For one, I haven’t come across any options for adaptive dampers and considering the amount of gadgets, there should have been this option. Not that you’ll likely need to use it much anyway, it’s just a nice option to have. But, as explained earlier – it’s by no means a track car, so the likelihood of you chucking the car into corners at 60mph+ is doubtful.

In Conclusion…

The Mazda 3 is an excellent competitor when it comes to similarly specced vehicles. Even so, you may find that there is a steep step-up in terms of pricing. For example, a fully equipped used Mazda 3 vs the equivalent Ford Focus, you’ll find that the Ford will be around £2,000 cheaper. And that could be a deal-breaker if you’re looking to save some cash.

However, there is no denying that the Mazda certainly has the better looks, tech and comfort. It’s truly ahead of the game, even when it comes to other Japanese competitors including Honda & Toyota.

With that being said, you will be lacking with certain features in Mazda’s infotainment system. One of the most sought after features in a modern car is the inclusion of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Unfortunately, you will not be finding that in this system. And with that, you’ll find many of Vauxhall’s lineup include these as standard in their own systems. More to the point, you’ll probably save a lot of money with one of their cars, as well.

But, you’ll more than likely be risking the quality and craftsmanship used in Mazda’s vehicles. Likewise, a manufacturer of vehicles with a long list of reliability is also a tempting push for the Mazda.

A side shot of the Mazda 3 with the front wheels turned left a few degrees.

But, as with any review; I’d strongly urge you, the reader, to go out and test drive one for yourself and look into the alternatives before jumping straight onto the bandwagon.


As with most of our reviews, we’ll be following up with a point-of-view drive in the Mazda 3. Be sure to keep up with us by following scoopd.online. You can also subscribe to us on YouTube and press the bell icon to be notified when we upload next.


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