The third generation Mazda 3 features a suspension that is firm, yet still handles the bumps and potholes well – with the sedan version providing a softer ride than the hatchback.
The transmission is excellent and you barely feel it shift. The engine accelerates smoothly, though it does lack power in the lower RPM range.
I am very pleased with the projection display controls. They are incredibly useful, and their design kept me from being distracted by trying to read the screen while driving. When using the navigation, there is no need to look down at the display – all of the information is displayed at eye level, allowing you to concentrate on driving.
As for storage, the glove compartment is very small. There is not much in the way of other storage locations either, except for the center armrest which has a special shelf clearly intended for your phone. The problem is however, that there is no outlet for a cable in the armrest, and therefore, no way to connect your phone for charging. There is no way to reach the armrest with a cable, so I just ended up tossing my phone in the cup holder.
One problem I experienced was that the infotainment display would freeze up and turn itself off. This could be remedied temporarily by unplugging the terminal for a few minutes, but the permanent fix is a firmware upgrade. The car is a bit noisy, too. A thud can be heard from the struts when going over bumps and the intake manifold makes a clicking noise. After 4000-5000 km of driving, I began to hear squeaks and creaks throughout the cabin.
There is also poor insulation and the car could definitely benefit from some soundproofing. Each stone that hits the undercarriage produces an audible noise. The tyres also make a lot of noise, as in previous generations. You will definitely want to bring some music along to drown out all of the noise.
The windshield also seemed to be of poor quality. Any little chip quickly grows into a large crack. While driving at a speed of 90 km/h flew small stone and left a 55cm length crack.
It’s a good idea to apply protective film to the front of the car, since the bumper has a large open space. It is designed to cool the radiator but stones can easily fly through the opening – or a cat could even climb in. Installation of the protective film only takes about 15 minutes.
Another problem is that the headlights fog frequently. This can be solved by simply using the main beams. In the brochure, Mazda advertises a slot for an SD card but there is none. There are two USB inputs however, so the lack of an SD card reader is not that big of a deal.
Some of the drawbacks of the Mazda 3 include:
- Unnecessary cabin noise
- The rear view camera doesn’t work well
- Door sills have poor insulation
- The engine compartment has poor insulation
- Lack of leg room for both the driver and passengers
- The void in the front bumper leaves the engine compartment vulnerable
- The wheels are unattractive and small
- The power windows are troublesome
- The fin on the roof is ugly
- The second exhaust pipe is unnecessary
Beyond user manual
Suspension behaves relatively good on uneven surfaces, car doesn’t bounce, no pulling of steering wheel, car goes straight. Suspension is hard enough, has a lot of potential travel, damper adjustment is perfect. Sedan is softer and dumper works better than hatchback’s.
New gearbox delivers seamless shifting, has a very smooth acceleration and it doesn’t get stuck in fourth gear like on previous models.
After first 2000km dynamic qualities of the car become remarkably better.
Projection display above the instrument panel is a very good addition. It is a very useful tool indeed, you don’t have to take your eyes off the road to check your speed or look at the navigator, all that info is right in front of you at the exact level of your eyesight so you can concentrate on the road like never before.
In summary, the 3rd generation Mazda 3 is a very accomplished car. Clever engines, beautiful design and a wonderfully simple interior all help make up for the slightly cheap feeling trim, lack of proper storage and intruding road noise. Embrace the driving dynamics of the 3 and those niggles move even further to the back of your mind. It is clear to see why this cars been such a hit with the buying public in Australia and I don’t see any signs that things are going to change.