2016-2018 Mazda 3 Range Review

By Toby Hagon and WhichCar Staff

2016-2018 Mazda 3 Range Review

Priced From N/AInformation

Overall Rating


4.5 out of 5 stars

Rating breakdown
Expand Section

Safety, value & features

5 out of 5 stars

Comfort & space

4 out of 5 stars

Engine & gearbox

4 out of 5 stars

Ride & handling

5 out of 5 stars


5 out of 5 stars

Pros & Cons

  1. ProFuel use; driving manners; safety tech.

  2. ConSpace and vision out for rear passengers.

  3. The Pick: 2019 Mazda 3 Maxx Sport (5YR) 5D Hatchback

What stands out?

The previous-generation Mazda 3 small car still impresses as a package. It is easy on fuel, stylish inside and fun to drive, with both engine options delivering ease on the highway. You can have a hatchback or a sedan. All third-generation Mazda 3s gained autonomous emergency braking in 2016, with several other active safety aids available in selected variants.

What might bug me?

Perhaps tyre noise at freeway speeds. Cars on sale since the facelift of August 2016 are quieter inside than their predecessors, however.

Driving at 80km/h on the space-saver spare until you can fix your full-sized flat tyre.

If you drive a friend’s new turbocharged small car, perhaps a sense afterwards that your 2.0-litre Mazda3 feels a bit weak when you first press the throttle to accelerate. It is a lovely, smooth, engine however, and it goes hard once it’s spinning.

What body styles are there?

Five-door hatchback and four-door sedan.

Both are front-wheel drive. The Mazda3 is classed as a small car, lower priced.

What features do every third-gen Mazda 3 have?

A multimedia system built around a 7.0-inch colour screen and controlled by a dial on the centre console. The screen displays images from a reversing camera, as well as settings for AM/FM/Digital radio and in-built entertainment apps.

Bluetooth connectivity and AUX, USB inputs for mobile devices, and six-speaker sound system.

Rear parking sensors, and electric folding mirrors.

Hill-launch assist, which controls the brakes automatically to help you start from rest on an uphill slope.

Rear parking sensors, which help you judge your distance from the car behind you. Power-folding exterior mirrors, so that you can easily keep the mirrors out of the way when parked.

Wheels made from aluminium alloy (which are lighter and nicer looking than steel wheels with plastic covers). A space-saver spare wheel, with a recommended maximum speed of 80km/h.

G-Vectoring Control, a Mazda technology that makes the car respond more consistently to the steering wheel.

Electronic stability control, which helps the driver recover from skids. (All new cars must have this feature.)

Smart City Brake Support, a camera-based system that can detect an impending collision with a car or pedestrian ahead and apply the brakes automatically, perhaps avoiding a crash. (For more on Mazda3 safety systems, please open the Safety section below.)

Six airbags: two directly in front of the driver and passenger; a side airbag protecting the torso of each front occupant; and a head-protecting curtain airbag along each side, covering front and rear occupants.

2016-19 Mazda 3s were initially covered by a three-year warranty, with no limit on kilometres driven. Mazda extended its warranty to five years for all vehicles purchased from August 1, 2018.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

The 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol is the more fuel-efficient of the two engines available in a Mazda3, consuming as little as 5.7 litres/100km in the official test (city and country combined). This is the only engine choice for the Mazda3 Neo, Maxx and Touring, and it is an excellent unit.

A Mazda3 Maxx auto averaged 8.7 litres/100km in a real-world comparison undertaken for the January 2016 edition of Wheels magazine – a litre more than the most frugal of 10 cars reviewed, a Volkswagen Golf.

The sportier Mazda3 SP25, SP25 GT and SP25 Astina models are available only with a bigger and more powerful 2.5-litre petrol. It brings you about 25 per cent more thrust in most driving conditions, which is not necessary but brings swifter overtaking and, for some drivers, more fun, while consuming more fuel but not much more.

Both engines have an auto stop-start system that cuts fuel use in city driving. It shuts down the engine whenever you stop, and starts it automatically when you take your foot off the brake pedal to drive away (or in manuals, depress the clutch pedal).

All Mazda3s offer a choice between six-speed manual and six-speed automatic gearboxes.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

Step past the least costly model, the Neo Sport, and spend more for the Maxx Sport and you get a more welcoming feel in the cabin, with the steering wheel, gear lever and handbrake lever trimmed in leather. On auto versions the wheel has paddle shifters for controlling the gearbox.

The Maxx Sport also adds active safety features to the forward auto-braking that comes with the Neo Sport. Its auto braking also works in reverse, and there is a blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert.

Dual-zone climate control that lets the driver and front passenger set their own temperature and fan settings.

Dusk-sensing headlights and rain-sensing windscreen wipers add convenience and an electric parking brake switch frees up space on the centre console.

Spend more again for a Mazda3 Touring and the cloth seat trim of the less costly versions are replaced with a mix of real and fake leather.

You also get advanced keyless entry and the exterior mirrors fold automatically when you have parked.

For not many more dollars than a Mazda 3 Touring you could have instead a Mazda3 SP25, which drops the leather seat trim (it reverts to cloth) but brings you the more powerful, 2.5-litre engine. The SP25 replaces the smaller-engined cars’ 16-inch wheels with 18-inch wheels, and these mount wider tyres that have shallower sidewalls (giving you more grip and sharper steering response). Smart key entry allows you to unlock the doors and drive away without taking the key out of your pocket or bag. Like the Touring, the SP25 has automatic wipers and dual-zone air-conditioning.

The SP25 GT returns leather trim to the seats and adds heating for the front seats and powered seat-adjustment for the driver. It also brings you a great Bose sound system, with extra speakers. A head-up display projects the speedo on to an adjustable screen atop the regular instrument cluster. Headlights use very bright, long-lived LEDs and shine their beams into corners as you turn the wheel. A driver-attention alert monitors your control inputs for signs of fatigue, and Traffic Sign Recognition helps you keep track of speed limits.

The most expensive Mazda3 is the SP25 Astina, which adds a sunroof and more active driver aids. These begin with LED headlights that automatically dip only a part of their high beams for oncoming traffic, retaining long-range illumination for your side of the road. There is radar cruise control (which automatically slows the car as you approach a slower vehicle ahead). The radar allows a more comprehensive automatic emergency braking system that works at speeds up to 160km/h. And a lane-keep assist not only warns you if you have begun to drift distractedly – and possibly very dangerously – out of your lane on the highway, but turns the steering wheel gently to help you guide the car back.

Mazda3 SP25 GTs and Astinas in some exterior colours offer the option of white leather for the interior trim.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

The 2.5 litre petrol engine uses about 5 per cent more fuel than the 2.0 Petrol.

The lower profile, wider tyres on the SP25 versions decrease ride comfort, because there is less air between the wheel and the road. These tyres may also cost more to replace.

How comfortable is the Mazda3?

The Mazda3’s cabin looks and feels elegant, with the switches and gauges conveniently placed. Seats even on the lower-priced versions feel supportive, and there is plenty of scope for tailoring the driving position for your body shape.

In the centre of the dash there is a colour touchscreen that looks as though it was inspired by an iPad. A control knob is placed between the front seats. Main menu items work okay, but selecting radio stations from the screen can take more movements and clicks than it would have with traditional buttons. Unfortunately, Mazda is yet to adopt Apple CarPlay and Androind Auto, which makes it easier to access your phone’s functions via the infotainment system.

The SP25 GT and Astina impress with their head-up speedos. These are teamed with a revised instrument cluster, which puts more emphasis on the tachometer. The leather seats in these cars come with stronger side bolsters that hold you in place around corners.

Accurate steering helps the driver relax and the Mazda3 rides quite smoothly, disposing of bumps well and settling quickly. Noise from the tyres might intrude on coarser road surfaces, but other dins are kept at bay.

Extra sound insulation and revised suspension have made Mazda3s on sale since the facelift of August 2016 a bit quieter and smoother to ride in than those that came before.

What about safety in a Mazda3?

Six airbags, stability control, seatbelt reminders on all seats, and rear parking sensors, contribute to a well-rounded safety package on all Mazda 3s.

In addition, every Mazda3 comes with Smart City Brake Support Forward – a significantly enhanced version of the automatic emergency braking system that had been offered as an extra-cost option prior to the facelift of August 2016.

The Mazda3’s auto braking now works at speeds up to 80km/h, using a camera to detect obstacles on the roadway ahead (typically another car that has slowed suddenly, but also pedestrians), and braking the car if you do not react immediately to a warning.

On all but the least costly Mazda3, the Neo Sport, auto braking also works in reverse, applying the brakes to prevent your backing into objects (or people) detected by a sensor on the rear bumper.

All Mazda 3s have a reversing camera and rear parking sensors to help you check back there yourself.

All versions except the Neo Sport have a blind-spot monitor that alerts you, when you indicate to change lanes, if it detects another car near your rear corner but out of view of your mirrors. And a rear cross-traffic alert helps you avoid trouble when reversing out of parking spaces or driveways, warning you if it detects a vehicle approaching from either side.

Two more driving aids arrive with the Mazda3 SP25 GT, most significantly a fatigue detector that looks for changes in the way that you steer the car on the highway. If it detects evidence that you may be falling asleep, it warns you to take a break. The other is Traffic Sign Recognition, which helps you keep track of speed limits. It reads roadside signs, and shows the most recently detected limit on your head-up display.

On the SP25 Astina, the active safety suite is enhanced further. The addition of a radar sensor to the auto-braking system extends its operating range to 160km/h. And Lane Keep Assist acts to guide the car back into its lane if you have begun to drift distractedly across the roadway.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the third-generation Mazda3 its maximum rating of five stars, most recently in August 2016.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

Yes, it is very likely you will. The 2.0 litre engine copes admirably with city life and has enough power for easy highway touring. It revs freely and mates well with the six-speed auto gearbox that most buyers opt for.

While this engine does not thrust as hard when you first press the accelerator as the turbo engines in some small-car alternatives, needing to spin past 4000rpm before it really performs, it is keen from there and it even sounds a bit rorty.

The bigger, 2.5 litre petrol engine in the SP25 versions is also a good fit for the car, and offers about 25 per cent more go than the 2.0. With the added grunt the car feels deliciously responsive, and its driveability is abetted in auto form by immaculate gearchanges.

The Mazda3 dishes up an excellent blend of polished dynamics, with fluent yet engaging steering and an agility that makes light work of suburban streets and country roads alike. It has a very natural, flowing feel as you guide it through a series of bends. The ride feels soft but delivers enough control for sharp cornering.

Cars on sale since August 2016 benefit from Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control, whose operating principle is simpler than the name might suggest. It adjusts the engine when you turn the steering wheel, decelerating slightly so as to transfer load to the front tyres and help them bite (and reversing the process as you return to centre). You don’t notice it working but the car feels more planted, while changing direction more fluidly.

The August 2016 facelift also added a Sport mode to automatic versions, which allows the gearbox to encourage more thrust from the engine when you want to press on.

How is life in the rear seats?

Leg room is average for the class rather than generous. As in all small cars, three full-sized adults across the rear is a squeeze.

There are no rear air-conditioning vents. And a rising window line means smaller occupants could be looking up rather than out.

How is it for carrying stuff?

The boot on the hatch is relatively spacious at 308 litres, helped by 60/40 split-folding seats and a broad tailgate opening. But it’s the sedan that has more space, at 408 litres, albeit without the hatchback functionality.

Where is the Mazda 3 made?

All Mazda3 versions are made in Japan.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

Support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which would let you plug in a smartphone and run some of its apps on the car’s touchscreen. Among small cars offering this feature are the Volkswagen Golf, Hyundai i30, Subaru Impreza, Honda Civic, Ford Focus, Holden Astra, and Renault Megane.

Perhaps a more robust first-response to the accelerator, such as you might get from a turbocharged engine. The Golf, Astra, Focus, and Civic offer this, for example.

Perhaps the greater all-weather security of all-wheel drive, standard on an Impreza.

If you plan on doing a lot of country-road driving, maybe better fuel-efficiency from a diesel engine. The Golf and Hyundai i30 offer diesels, for example.

If you face a lot of city commuting, possibly a fuel-saving petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain. Toyota offers an excellent hybrid Corolla.

Other small-car alternatives include the Kia Cerato and Peugeot 308.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

Our reviewers like the Mazda3 Maxx Sport. It brings you the central touchscreen, satellite navigation and reversing camera, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, and some helpful active safety tech in addition to auto braking. The leather-bound steering wheel is a nice finishing touch.

When did Mazda retire the third-generation Mazda 3?

The hugely popular third-generation Mazda 3 began being phased out in February 2019 and was ultimately replaced by the all-new model in April 2019. It was consistently the second biggest-selling passenger car behind the Toyota Corolla and went out on a high to be the biggest selling passenger car in March 2019.

It first went on sale early in 2014 and received a significant mid-cycle facelift in August 2016 that kept it competitive against newer models and will make it an excellent ex-demonstrator or used by for months and years to come.

Exterior changes were minor, but mechanical and software updates resulted in a Mazda3 that was quieter and more comfortable to ride in, and that steered more accurately (in part through the introduction of G-Vectoring Control). Autonomous emergency braking was made standard on all Mazda 3s, using an enhanced, camera-based system that operated over a much broader speed range than the laser-based system it superseded. Among other changes, the most expensive Mazda3s received a broader range of active driving aids, and the diesel-powered Mazda3 Astina XD was dropped.

In February 2018, Mazda added new equipment to the Mazda 3 Neo, Maxx and Touring.

The Neo and Maxx were renamed the Neo Sport and Maxx Sport, with the Neo Sport finally gaining an infotainment screen with reversing camera, digital radio and two extra audio speakers. The Maxx Sport gained rain-sensing windscreen wipers, dusk-sensing headlights, dual-zone climate control and an electric parking brake, and the Touring advanced keyless entry.

The new-generation Mazda3 arrived in April 2019 with the same choice of powertrains as the third-generation model. However, Mazda’s new ground-breaking Skyactiv-X compression ignition engine will be available by the end of 2019.

We’ll have Range Review for the all-new 2019 Mazda 3 soon.