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Mazda 3 verdict

2019 onwards (change model)
Parkers overall rating: 3 out of 53.0

Written by Jake Groves Published: 6 October 2023 Updated: 9 October 2023

Should you buy one?

That all depends on what you intend to use it for. If you just want a sporty hatchback that looks great and drives well, the Mazda 3 could be perfect for your needs. We still think the 3 is one of the best hatchbacks on the market to drive – and it’s probably the ideal hatch if you’re single or coupled up. But the 3 makes sacrifices in other areas that ultimately limits its appeal for family buyers.

The Mazda 3 has plenty of rivals with a greater breadth of ability. The Ford Focus, for example, is almost as much fun to drive, but it has way more space inside. The Toyota Corolla is available with a proper self-charging hybrid system, too, which promises to save you even more money in fuel costs.

And while its naturally aspirated engines are great fun to wring out to the redline, they don’t feel as nippy as the smaller turbocharged units fitted to the like of the Volkswagen Golf and SEAT Leon. Mazda’s engines lack a lot of mid-range punch, which means you’ll be stirring through the gearbox more often to make progress. Depending on how much you enjoy driving, though, that might not be such a bad thing.

What we like

We love that the Mazda 3 has such an uncompromising focus on driving pleasure. With our petrolhead hats on, we’d steer you in its direction before any other hatchback. Its engines are smooth and free revving, its manual gearbox is the most satisfying to use in its class by a long shot and its steering is exceptionally well-weighted and surprisingly talkative. We love the interior, too – its quality still feels like a cut above cars such as the Focus and the Golf.

What we don’t like

It isn’t a very spacious car inside. The front seats are snug, while the rears can feel downright constrictive due to the sloping roofline, limited kneeroom and lack of natural light. The 3’s boot is also one of the smallest in its class. We’re a little disappointed Mazda couldn’t extract a few more horses from its 2.0-litre engines – a little more in-gear grunt on the motorway would add a welcome dash of flexibility to the driving experience.