When it comes to inexpensive compacts, buyers usually have to choose between a car with great gas mileage, one with a lot of premium features or one that offers endless hours of driving pleasure. In the 2010-2013 Mazda3, however, buyers get all three features, which is why the Mazda3 is held in such high regard by consumers and auto industry critics alike.
What We Like
Sporty driving dynamics; comfortable front seats; lots of cool features; excellent fuel economy with Skyactiv engine
What We Don't
Problem with early rear tire wear; smallish rear seat and trunk; noisy interior; poor fuel economy with the 2.5-liter engine; annoyingly small navigation screen on early models
Fuel Economy & Engine Specs
From 2010 to 2011, the Mazda3 i is powered by a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine good for 148 horsepower. Models with the 5-speed manual attain Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates of 25 miles per gallon city and 33 mpg highway, while those with the 5-speed automatic get 24 mpg city/33 mpg hwy. The Mazda3 s models have a larger engine and are available as a 5-door or sedan. The 2.5-liter engine produces 167 hp and offers a choice of a 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic. EPA estimates for this engine are a rather disappointing 20 mpg city/28 mpg hwy with the manual and 22 mpg city/29 mpg hwy with the automatic.
In 2012, a third engine option is offered with Mazda's Skyactiv technology. Although it displaces the same 2.0-liter size as the base SV, the Skyactiv engine ups horsepower to 155 while pushing fuel economy to an impressive 27 mpg city/40 mpg hwy with the 6-speed manual, and 28 mpg city/40 mpg hwy with the 6-speed automatic. This engine is offered on all i trims except for the SV model, which retains the 148 hp 2.0-liter engine.
Notable Features & Options
The 2010 and 2011 Mazda3 come in two model designations: i and s. The i trims include the SV, Sport and Touring, while the s trims include Sport and Grand Touring on both a 4-door sedan and 5-door hatchback. Standard equipment on the SV includes power windows and mirrors, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, AM/FM/CD audio, 16-inch steel wheels with cover and intermittent wipers. The Touring trim adds air conditioning, cruise control, alloy wheels, keyless entry and Bluetooth. The s Sport brings sport seats, multi-information display and upgraded audio. The Grand Touring adds leather seats, heated front seats, a power driver's seat and adaptive front headlights.
In 2011, the Grand Touring's rain-sensing wipers, bi-xenon adaptive front lighting and keyless entry with push-button start are moved to the optional Tech Package, which also brings navigation, automatic headlights and satellite radio. Power door locks and remote entry are added to the SV and Sport trims, while a power sunroof and Bose audio are made standard on the Grand Touring.
The 2012 lineup has been revamped, adding a Touring and Grand Touring i model available in both sedan and hatchback. Equipment levels are shuffled again, with the SV losing its standard power door locks, but the s trims add keyless entry, push-button start and automatic temperature control. The Grand Touring models gain standard navigation, while blind spot monitoring is added to the Tech Package.
Only a few minor upgrades are seen in 2013, including a new, larger navigation screen powered by TomTom, streaming Bluetooth, SMS text messaging and voice activation. Sport models receive a USB port and cruise control, while the Bose audio system is made optional on Touring trims.
The Mazda3 retains a strong resale history, but its initial low cost when new helps keep even the most pristine used example affordable. To get a good idea of the Mazda3's price range, we suggest using the used car values at KBB.com. You also can search the AutoTrader Classifieds to see models that are for sale in your area.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued the following recalls for the Mazda3:
2010 -- A recall was issued for a possible problem in which the engine wiring harness may have been too close to the starter motor, possibly causing damage to the harness and risking an electrical short.
As for known issues not subject to recall, the Mazda3 has numerous complaints about premature "cupping" of the rear tires. The Mazda3's rear camber settings are fixed from the factory, and the rear tires tend to tilt out at the bottom, causing the tire to cup or wear unevenly. This creates added noise and vibration, and can be costly even when you follow Mazda's recommended tire rotation schedule.
Recall repairs are required by law even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed; if the repairs were not performed, they will fix the car at no charge to you.
Safety Ratings & Warranties
Every Mazda3 comes standard with ABS, electronic traction and stability control and six air bags, including front side impact and side curtain. An available blind spot monitor warns of traffic lurking in the driver's side blind spot, while the standard tire pressure monitor alerts when your tires are low on air.
Mazda3 gets good to fair marks in NHTSA's newest crash tests, earning five out of five stars in the front collision test, three stars in the side impact test and four stars in the rollover test. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the Mazda3 good ratings in all of its tests (IIHS did not perform a small overlap front crash test on the Mazda3) and awards it a Top Safety Pick designation.
The 2010-2013 Mazda3 comes with a 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. You also can purchase a Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) Mazda3 from a dealer. CPO cars undergo a rigorous 150-point inspection, and they come with a 12-month/12,000-mile warranty (if the original has expired) and extend the powertrain warranty to seven years/100,000 miles from the time the car originally entered service. The plan includes roadside assistance, as well, and is fully transferable. You can even purchase additional warranty coverage for up to nine years or 100,000 miles.
Other Cars to Consider
VW Golf -- The Golf rides better and offers superior isolation from road noise; also, it is available with an efficient diesel engine. However, the Golf costs more and isn't as much fun to drive.
Ford Focus -- The Focus isn't as powerful as the Mazda3, but it too can achieve 40 mpg. Premium trims can cost more but also provide more high-tech features. The Focus interior offers less rear-seat legroom but is much quieter at highway speeds.
Honda Civic -- The Civic isn't as well equipped or as fun to drive as the Mazda3, but it offers superior resale values, a near flawless repair history, more shoulder and trunk space and much better mileage in city driving.
We think one of the Skyactiv models, either the Touring or Grand Touring, offers the best value. Excellent gas mileage and an impressive list of standard and available equipment make it hard to pass up. Those who like factory navigation should really shop for a 2013 model, as previous years offer a small, rather unsophisticated setup.