Mazda3 2009-2013 used car review

The Mazda3 is a practical small hatchback that drives extremely well.

Richard Edwards
Richard Edwards
Expert Reviewer | Auto Media Group

The Mazda3 is a practical small hatchback that drives extremely well. It is heavy on fuel.

Exterior , 3.5 out of 5 Drive , 4 out of 5 Safety , 5 out of 5 Value , 3.5 out of 5 Interior , 4 out of 5

Overall score , 4.0 out of 5

The good
  • Excellent handling and comfortable ride
  • Good reliability and build quality
  • Sporty looks for a family car
The not-so-good
  • Interior design feels a little confused and mismatched
  • Boot could be bigger
  • Thirsty compared to competitors

The Mazda3 is the most popular hatchback for buyers, thanks to its solid performance and excellent drivability. There were hatchback and sedan models offered; the hatchback was more readily available. The Japanese import version is called the Axela.

Inside and out

Small Mazdas often look like they have a smile and this one takes that to the extreme - the front has a huge grin-shaped grille. Above it are angled headlights set into the sculpted bonnet. The taillights cut across both corners of the car and the boot lid. The rear window angles down into a V-shape and is covered by a spoiler. The side windows taper up towards the back, which gives the car a solid look but restricts visibility.

The interior is pleasant, although its design is a little confused. The dash features three sporty gauge pods, with two information screens set to the right - one for the stereo and climate control, and one for vehicle information. Below are the controls for the stereo and the manual controls for the air-conditioning. It all feels of good quality and works well. The two screens are different colours, as is the backlighting on the stereo controls; the manual air-conditioning controls look cheap and tacked on.

The front seats are comfortable and feel roomy. We were concerned that the right side bolsters on the driver's seat are showing signs of collapse. The rear seat feels a lot tighter. Although the legroom is acceptable, it’s wide enough only for two adults. The centre seat is shorter in the base and probably best suited to children.

The boot is not the biggest in the class - at 364 litres it should take two large and two small suitcases. The space is square with only small intrusions from wheel arches. The boot lip is high, which means lifting items higher to get them in.

On the road

Four engines are available in the Mazda3. The “hero” model of the range is the MPS, powered by a 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine. The SP25 model is equipped with a 2.5-litre four-cylinder, while the SP20, GLX and GSX use a 2-litre four-cylinder engine. The GSE was introduced in 2012 and has a new generation 2-litre four-cylinder direct injection engine that uses nearly 20% less fuel than the standard engine. 

Manual transmissions are six-speed units while the automatics are five-speeds which can be shifted manually. The GSE uses an efficient six-speed automatic. The engine in our review GLX produces 110kW and 183Nm and is paired with the five-speed transmission. It delivers reasonable performance and should not be bothered by hills or a load. The transmission is also very smooth - knock the shifter to the right to select your gear.

The engine is good and the way the car drives is great. The steering feels well weighted and is very responsive. The ride is comfortable; there is little body roll and plenty of grip. It is impressive considering this is the base model for a mass-market family hatchback.

Visibility forward is decent, but to the rear the thick corners and small rear window make it a little difficult to park. No parking aids are fitted as standard to any model. We recommend you install a reversing camera - these can be purchased to fit yourself from $50 or a professional can do it from $200.

The Mazda3 is not a great car to buy if you need to tow. All models can tow 500kg unbraked (a small garden trailer). Manual models can pull 1,200kg braked (a small trailer boat) and automatics can pull just 900kg. Few braked trailers are that light, which significantly limits what can be towed.


RightCar lists the Mazda3 as having a five-star ANCAP rating (2009 and onwards). Standard safety equipment levels are very high and include front, side and curtain airbags, electronic stability control, electronic brake-force distribution and emergency brake assist.

ISOFIX child seat mounts and top tethers are found in the window positions at the back. All three rear seats feature full shoulder-type belts, which offer more protection than the lap-only type.


The Mazda3 is considered well built and very reliable. There are a few issues to note, but they are not major and shouldn't put anyone off. The engines use a timing chain which will not require regular replacement.

The driver's seat frame can suffer from weak welds, and the seat will feel loose and insecure. It results in a failure of the structure underneath. Mazda fixed this as part of a recall, but not everyone followed the correct process to have their car repaired. Check the movement of the seat and call a dealer with the car’s number plate to check if the work was done.

Regular exposure to hot temperatures and sun can degrade the black dashboard top.

Look for a glossy, sticky, wet-look appearance. It won’t affect the dashboard integrity itself but it will certainly make a mess of anything left on top of the surface and, worse, cause a shiny “glare” that can distract the driver.

The tailgate stay gas struts can develop rust on the end-cap tops, due to different paint used on two distinct parts of the assembly. You can check this easily by opening the hatchback and looking at the end of the strut by the lift cylinder.

Make sure to get both sets of keys and put one set away in a safe place. Coded Mazda keys are notoriously expensive to replace and recode if you lose them.

Cost of ownership

The Mazda3 needs to be serviced every 12 months or 10,000km, whichever comes first. A local Mazda dealer says this service costs from $200.

Over 14,000km of driving a year, RightCar says the GLX will cost $2,300 a year to fuel. If you are looking for a more efficient car, the GSE model offers more performance but costs $500 less a year to run. The 55-litre fuel tank will cost $110 to fill and should take you 610km before the fuel light comes on.

A vehicle licence for the Mazda3 costs $76.92 a year, with the car in the cheapest ACC levy group.

Trade Me Insurance estimates insurance for a Mazda3 valued at $10,360 will cost $47.09* per month. This is slightly more than a Toyota Corolla.

Buyers’ guide

The Mazda3 is very popular and commands a premium over other small hatchbacks. The model is available on Trade Me priced from $8000 to $23,500. Low mileage GSX and GSE models are worth the most.


  • GLX - Powered by a 2-litre engine. Features steel wheels, manual air-conditioning, remote central locking, CD player stereo with Bluetooth connectivity, electric windows, electronic stability control, and front, side and curtain airbags.
  • GSX - Adds 16-inch alloy wheels, climate control with separate temperature settings for the driver and passenger, fog lights and cruise control.
  • GSE - Powered by a unique SkyActiv engine and automatic transmission. Adds sports front seats, leather steering wheel and start/stop system.
  • SP20 - Adds sports seats, sports suspension, 17-inch alloy wheels and body kit.
  • SP25 - Powered by a 2.5-litre engine. Adds steering wheel shifters for the transmission and premium Bose-branded audio system.
  • MPS - Powered by a 2.3-litre turbocharged engine. Adds part-leather sports seats, unique sports suspension setup, keyless start, body kit, rear spoiler and hood scoop in the bonnet.


  • 2009 Launched globally
  • 2012 New “SkyActiv” engine and transmission option launched in the GSE model
  • 2014 Replaced by new model


Review vehicle

2010 Mazda3 GLX hatch


$9,000 to $25,000 for models which have travelled 70,000 to 120,000km


2.0-litre four-cylinder, 110kW and 183Nm


Five-speed automatic, front-wheel drive

Safety rating

Five-star ANCAP rating


10,000km or 12 months

Spare wheel

Full size spare

Fuel economy

8.3-litres per 100km (claimed)

Fuel type








Towing capacity

500kg (unbraked), 900kg (braked)

Turning circle


This review covers the Mazda3 for model years 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Review vehicle supplied by Turners Cars.

*Our insurance estimates are based on a 35-year-old male with no accidents in the last two years, garaging the car in Mission Bay, Auckland. The car is not used for business and will cover 10,000km to 20,000km a year. We estimate with no option add-ons and $500 excess. Customise your estimate at Trade Me Insurance.

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