Compact car; Built in Japan
  • 4-door hatchback
  • 4-door sedan
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $5,200 – $19,600*


2010 Mazda 3 4-door sedan front


2010 Mazda 3 4-door sedan rear


2010 Mazda 3 interior


2010 Mazda 3 hatchback rear


2010 Mazda 3 4-door sedan front


2010 Mazda 3 hatchback front

Pros:
  • Acceleration (s models)
  • Cargo room (hatchback)
  • Fuel economy
  • Interior materials
  • Steering/handling
Cons:
  • Acceleration (i models)
  • Navigation-system controls
  • Noise (especially MazdaSpeed)
  • Rear-seat entry/exit
  • Rear-seat room

No wonder the Mazda 3 is the brand’s best-selling car. This model boasts a stable ride, solid cabin appointments, a versatile hatchback body style, and a fun-to-drive character unmatched by most like-priced rivals of any size. The raucous and powerful MazdaSpeed can be rewarding to drive, but it requires more finesse and attention than rival factory-tuned compact cars. On all, the engines are on the loud side, and rear-seat room fails to impress. New-car prices have been rather high for the class, but Mazda’s 3 has been available with several unexpected features, including steering-linked headlights and dual-zone automatic climate control. For everything they offer, Mazda 3 i and s models are strong picks.

Overview

Redesigning of the Mazda 3 for 2010 gave the second-generation version freshened styling and more available power. First introduced in 2004 with the theme of affordable sportiness, these compact cars again came in four-door sedan and four-door hatchback body styles, all with front-wheel drive. Measuring 3 inches longer overall, they rode the same wheelbase as before, adding some features borrowed from the larger Mazda 6. The 3 was available in i and s versions. Mazda 3s with the i prefix were sedans only, available in SV, Sport, and Touring trim levels. Sport and Grand Touring trim levels were available on 3s with the s prefix. Each was offered as a sedan or hatchback. Also available was a revamped high-performance MazdaSpeed 3 hatchback. All Mazda 3s had four-cylinder engines. Mazda 3 i versions had a 148-horsepower 2.0-liter that carried over from previous models. The s versions got a new 167-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder that replaced the previous models’ 156-horsepower 2.3-liter four-cylinder. The 2.0-liter models were paired with either a five-speed manual or new five-speed automatic transmission. The 2.5-liter versions mated with a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic. The MazdaSpeed 3 reprised its turbocharged 263-horsepower 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission. Standard safety features included all-disc antilock braking, traction control, an antiskid system, curtain-side airbags, and front-side airbags. Available features included stability control, leather trim, a navigation system, keyless entry and starting, a wireless cell-phone link, and satellite radio. The Mazda 3 competed against such rivals as the Honda Civic, Ford Focus, Nissan Sentra and Versa, and Volkswagen Golf/GTI/Jetta.

Yearly Updates

2011 3
The Mazda 3 lineup saw expanded feature availability on some models, and other versions got some new standard equipment. Traction control and an antiskid system, previously unavailable on the i SV and i Sport, were now standard. A sunroof and Bose-brand audio system became standard on the s Grand Touring (previously optional). A navigation system, satellite radio, keyless access/engine start, rain-sensing wipers, and steering linked bi-xenon headlights were optional as part of a Tech Package on s and MazdaSpeed models. Chevrolet’s Cruze debuted for 2011 as a new Mazda 3 competitor.
2012 3
The Mazda 3 received freshened styling and two new models for 2012. New were the i Touring SKYACTIV and i Grand Touring SKYACTIV, both having a more-efficient 155-horsepower version of the148-hp 2.0-liter engine found in other i models, along with additional fuel-saving features.
2013 3
Changes for the 2013 Mazda 3 took place in the cabin. Interior materials saw some updates, and all included revised audio/infotainment/navigation systems.

Engines

transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

Mazda 3 models came in tthree basic forms, each with a four-cylinder engine. The 3 i used a 2.0-liter version, rated at 148 horsepower, driving a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. The SKYACTIV models introduced for 2012 had a 155-hp version of that engine with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic. Mazda 3 s models got a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that produced 167 horsepower, with a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. In the performance-oriented MazdaSpeed 3, a turbocharged 2.3-liter engine developed 263 horsepower, mating with a six-speed manual gearbox. All Mazda 3 models had front-wheel drive.

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.0/122
Engine HP 148
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 135
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
5-speed automatic
25/33
24/33
30.0
dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.0/122
Engine HP 155
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 148
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed manual
6-speed automatic
27/39
28/40
32.0
28.3
dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.5/153
Engine HP 167
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 168
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed manual
5-speed automatic
20/28
22/29
28.5
26.1
Turbocharged dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.3/138
Engine HP 263
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 280
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed manual

18/25

Road Test

Mazda 3 i models have acceptable acceleration from a stop, with little difference between the manual and automatic transmission. The base 148-hp 2.0-liter engine strains in highway merging and passing; the SKYACTIV version introduced for 2012 is a bit better. The s versions are stronger overall, with manual-transmission models feeling quicker than their automatic counterparts. Any s model has sufficient passing reserves. On non-turbo versions, the manual transmission has positive shift and clutch action, but some testers thought it had slightly long throws. Mazda’s automatic is smooth and responsive. The MazdaSpeed is very quick, but acceleration is blunted by turbo lag. The clutch is stiff on this model, and it can be tricky to modulate.

Fuel economy scores well. In Consumer Guide testing, 3 i Tourings with automatic transmission averaged 29.2 to 30.7 mpg with slightly more highway driving than city use. SKYACTIV versions did even better: one with manual transmission averaged 32.0, and one with automatic managed 28.3 in nearly all city driving. Manual-transmission 3 s models averaged 28.1 to 28.8 mpg with more highway driving than city use. Another manual-transmission 3 s averaged 21.0 mpg in mostly city driving. Our extended-use 3 s Grand Touring with automatic transmission averaged 26.1 mpg. A MazdaSpeed averaged 19.6 mpg in mostly city driving. Mazda 3 i and s models use regular-grade gas; the MazdaSpeed 3 requires premium.

Non-MazdaSpeed versions are among the best-riding in their class. These 3s exhibit near-premium levels of comfort and composure. Base i models have 16-inch wheels, which exhibit the best overall ride. The s versions have 17-inch wheels that don’t absorb bumps quite as well, but the difference is negligible. MazdaSpeed is much tauter, but livable.

In steering/handling, the s models are also among the best in class, but i versions are no slouches, either. Any 3 is confident, exhibiting little body lean, though i versions have more than s models. Steering feel is accurate and responsive, and the brakes have excellent pedal feel and control.

MazdaSpeed tries to minimize torque steer by modulating engine power and torque transfer, but some wander during full-throttle acceleration is noticeable.

Engine noise under full-throttle acceleration and some coarse-surface tire thrum are the biggest sources of ruckus. Wind noise is well suppressed. The hatchback’s open cargo area generates a bit more resonance than the sedan. MazdaSpeed’s low-profile tire racket and sporty exhaust note could be tiring.

Audio and climate controls are simple to decipher and logically arranged. They’re also completely separate from the optional navigation system–a plus. All models have two light settings for the instrument panel and major controls, which are governed by a button in the gauge cluster. In low light and foggy conditions, the “day” mode renders the display too bright while the “night” mode is too dim. The navigation system display is placed close to the driver’s line of sight atop the center of the dashboard. The screen is small, however, requiring just as long a look away from the road as a display in the traditional location near the audio and climate controls. The navigation system is controlled by buttons on the steering wheel, which is less convenient than a touchscreen. Models without navigation have a central dashtop display as well, but it’s canted toward the driver, making it difficult for other passengers to read. Textured and padded surfaces abound in most places where occupants are most likely to see and touch them. The cloth and leather upholstery look and feel high-end. Hard molded plastics are found on lower panels, but they don’t look cheap.

Most adults should have sufficient headroom and legroom up front. Taller folks and those of generous girth will be a bit cramped. If the steering wheel is positioned high, it obscures the view of the odometer.

Backseat legroom and knee clearance are adequate for a 5-foot-8 adult sitting behind another of the same height, though the bench is a bit too firm for ideal comfort. The rear roof line and rear-door shape squeeze entry and exit for adults.

Cargo space is no different than the previous-generation Mazda 3. The sedan’s trunk is a bit small but useful, with low liftover and sufficient height. The more-versatile hatchback includes a handy rear cargo organizer. The hatchback’s liftgate rises high enough to clear the heads of taller folks. Its handle, though, is in an awkward location that makes it difficult to open without hands scraping across the top of the rear bumper. All 3s have 60/40 split rear seatbacks that fold almost flat. Interior storage is decent, with a good-sized center console box, an average-sized glovebox, and door pockets.

Ratings

Model Tested: 2011 Mazda 3 s Sport sedan w/auto.

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 5
50%
Fuel Economy - 7
70%
Ride Quality - 7
70%
Steering/Handling - 7
70%
Quietness - 6
60%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 6
60%
Room/Comfort Front - 6
60%
Room/Comfort Rear - 3
30%
Cargo Room - 3
30%

Other

Value - 9
90%

Total: 59

Specifications

4-door hatchback
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
103.9 177.4 69.1 57.9
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
17.0 15.9 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.9 38.0 42.0 36.2
4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
103.9 180.9 69.1 57.9
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
11.8 15.9 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.9 37.5 42.0 36.2
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2011 3 4-door hatchback

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
100%
Front Passenger Injury - 4
80%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
100%
Rear Passenger Injury - 2
40%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Air conditioner
Description: Poor airflow from the vents and water on the passenger floor can be caused by running the blower (A/C or heat) on high when going through a carwash on cars with a cabin air filter as it traps water or soap and becomes restricted. (2010-11)
Air conditioner
Description: A squeak comes from under the hood whenever the air conditioning clutch engages unless the original compressor pressure plate has been replaced. (2010-11)
Rough idle
Description: Engine may experience rough idle because of drop in oil pressure that can be caused by foreign objects stuck on oil pressure relief valve or the OCV. (2012-13)
Seat
Description: On cars with cloth seats, the seat warmer may quit working and redesigned seat cushions and heaters must be installed. (2010-11)
Vehicle shake
Description: Vibrations in the steering wheel are caused by the original brake rotors warping and improved rotors have been made available as replacements. (2010)
Headlights
Description: Headlights may flicker while braking because of inadequate alternator output. (2012-13)
Electrical problem
Description: The sound of the caller’s voice may fade when using the onboard Bluetooth system due to the microphone picking up vehicle noise at highway speeds requiring the microphone to be moved from the dash to the headliner. (2010-11)

Recall History

2010
Description: Clearance between engine harness and starter-motor housing may be insufficient. Harness covering could be damaged through vibration, possible causing short-circuit that could result in engine control malfunction, poor shift quality, or stalling.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.