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Mazda 3 vs Subaru Impreza: Which small car is best for country driving?

29 May 2017 Car Advice

Mazda 3 vs Subaru Impreza: Which small car is best for country driving?

Catherine wants a roomy small car that will suit life in the Blue Mountains.

Question: Catherine

I live in the Blue Mountains and occasionally it snows and we often have black ice, making driving hazardous. I currently have 2004 Honda Accord Euro – this level of power is about right for my next car. I can't decide between Mazda 3 Touring, Mazda CX 3 or Subaru Impreza. Reliability, handling, safety are all equally important as I occasionally transport young grandchildren. I drive about 11,000kms a year, mostly in the mountains, occasionally to Sydney, all highway, no off road. No pram space required but I do like plenty of space for shopping.

Budget: $30,000

Answer: Samantha

Hi Catherine, 

Given your wants and needs, you will almost certainly find the CX-3 too small. A CX-3 is actually the size of a Mazda2, the CX-5 is the equivalent of a Mazda3. Plus, if you do not need a SUV, you also don’t need the extra costs associated with them either.


The Mazda3 is an excellent vehicle, and in Touring spec you get some great features such as sat-nav, leather trim, auto headlights, and dual-zone climate control, plus auto-braking was made standard on all but the base car in August last year. It’s reliable, safe, and super practical.

Also, while the boot opening may be a bit restrictive, the Mazda 3 sedan has 100 litres more space than the hatch version (408 vs 308 litres) if you want more boot room. A downside – the servicing intervals are just 1yr/10,000km and not 1yr/15K like some others, so you will have to factor that in to your budget if you travel more than 11,000kms annually.

The Subaru Impreza 2.0P Automatic 2.0L “Premium” spec is our favourite, and is $800 cheaper than the Mazda3 Touring. You get the safety of all-wheel-drive, plus similar spec levels and the addition of a sunroof. It is thirstier than the Mazda, and in real world driving conditions will easily sip a litre more per hundred kilometres.

It also has a CVT auto where the Mazda has a conventional auto; some people have a preference for one over the other, so a test drive is a must. See if there are dealers near you that sell either vehicle so you can drive them back-to-back.