Skip to content
Motorpoint logo
  • All Cars
  • By Make
  • By Model
  • By Body Style
  • By Budget
  • Electric Cars
  • Hybrid cars
  • Vans
  • Reviews
  • Aftercare
  • Stock Number Search

Mazda 3 engines, driving and performance

How does the Mazda 3 drive?

Along with the Ford Focus and SEAT Leon, the Mazda 3 is one of the class leaders when it comes to the driving experience. While so many cars are happy just being modes of transport, the Mazda 3 appeals to the keen driver. The steering is quick and well-weighted, and the car feels happy to respond to fast changes of direction.

The gearshift in manual cars is a particular highlight, as it’s short, snicky and accurate. The engines, meanwhile, aren’t that fast off the line but provide plenty of performance if you don’t change up too early.

But the 3 also excels as a plain mode of transport. It’s comfortable and grown-up feeling, able to dispatch long motorway journeys with a second thought. As a sidenote, Mazda’s petrol engines have a fantastic reputation for reliability, so you shouldn’t have any worries about repeated long journeys.

The ride is slightly firm at higher speeds – that’s part of the reason why the handling is so on point – but we also found the 3 to have a beautiful flow at high speeds. It doesn’t crash around, nor get distracted by tramlines and rutted Tarmac, instead smoothing out most bumps in a joined-up, sophisticated fashion.

Is the Mazda 3 comfortable?

While the ride can be a little firm, the Mazda 3 is still pretty comfortable on the whole. If comfort is a priority, we’d choose one of the SE-L trims – they have the smallest 16-inch wheels and lots of tyre sidewall, so they offer slightly more cushioning than the sportier trims on their 18-inch alloys.

Some tyre noise makes its way through to the cabin at higher speeds, although this shouldn’t be intrusive to most people.

What’s the best engine to get?

The Volkswagen Golf's engine range starts off with a 1.0-litre petrol engine, assisted by a turbocharger. In comparison, the Mazda 3’s entry-level engine is double the size, but isn’t turbocharged. Performance is similar on paper, but the 110hp VW feels more willing than the 122hp Mazda because more of the power is available sooner. You have to hold onto gears longer and work the engine harder to make swift progress in the Mazda.

The other 2.0-litre petrol engine available is more appealing. Called Skyactiv-X, this version is supercharged and produces 186hp, which makes the difference in what’s meant to be a sporty car. What’s more, thanks to innovative ignition technology, the more powerful engine is actually more economical than the entry-level one, as well. The 186hp engine returns 54mpg to the lesser engine’s 51mpg.

Both return up to 47mpg with an automatic gearbox, which we’d avoid. It’s not awful by any means, but the manual is so good that we’d only recommend an auto if you need one or if you’re going to be stuck in traffic a lot.

The higher-powered engine is the only one available in the saloon. However, the hatchback is available with the higher-powered engine on four of the five trim levels, so you could have the extra power and the comfort provided by the small wheels of the SE-L Lux/Centre-Line trim, if you wish.

Mazda 3 performance

As we’ve mentioned, the 3 needs a bit more revving out than you might be used to. That means the car doesn’t feel quite as quick as its on-paper figures suggest – which are 0-62mph times of 10.4 seconds and 8.1 seconds for the 122hp and 186hp engines respectively.

You may also be interested in

Review for Ford Focus


8 / 10

The Ford Focus is an excellent, do-it-all family transporter

Review for Mercedes-Benz A Class

Mercedes-BenzA Class

8 / 10

The A-Class packs quality into a compact, city-friendly body

Review for Audi A3


8 / 10

The Audi A3 makes you feel special – it’s expensive, but it’s worth it