Mazda has always impressed with the reliability of its vehicles, a fact that stands them in good stead when there are so many choices available compared with the days when the 323 was one of a few good cars around.
WHICH MAZDA3 MODEL?
You have a choice between five-door hatch or four-door saloon, while engine options are between a 1,6-litre with 77 kW and 146 N.m, 2,0-litre with 104 kW and 182 N.m of torque and also the 2,3-litre duo: the normally aspirated Sport Individual with 115 kW and 203 N.m and the MPS with its turbocharged engine producing 190 kW and 380 N.m. The latter duo was introduced along with a mild cosmetic facelift in the second half of 2007. There were no diesels or automatics in the range.
The saloon offers packing space of 360 dm3 or 1 000 dm3, if you drop the rear seats. The hatch's boot swallows 256 dm3, with 1 048 dm3 of utility space being on offer. These figures compare favourably with most rivals.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR
The engines use timing chains (thankfully and very sensibly) and it was difficult to find any noteworthy problems. One owner found that his engine fan wouldn’t turn off, eventually running the battery flat. Once the battery was removed and recharged, the problem disappeared.
No reported issues.
Suspension, brakes and wheels
Excessive brake dust from the rear discs upset some owners. But, worse than this is the number of owners who have had to replace their rear discs long before the fronts, between 50 000 and 100 000 km. A few rear shock absorbers needed replacing (due to oil loss) at around 70 000 to 80 000 km. This tended to happen on the driver’s side, whereas it’s usually the kerb side that goes first, on account of the road being bumpier there (ask any cyclist) and causing more rapid wear.
There were some issues with rust in the hydraulic steering pipes resulting in reduced turning force if these particles block the flow. The steering assistance on these cars comes courtesy of an oil pump driven by an electric motor instead of a crank-driven pulley.
As per usual there were worries about airbag warning lamps staying on – first thing to check is the wiring loom under the seat. These can disconnect or break leading to a break in continuity. A windscreen wiper that only worked intermittently (i.e. sometimes nonoperational) was a result of a connector that wasn’t properly fitted.
A few owners said that their driver seats squeaked. Another common complaint on most makes, and mentioned by some Mazda3 owners, is scuffing of the plastic facia surfaces. Some have tried to cover the facia with a thin vinyl, while others have experimented with polish or a mild abrasive to smooth over the marks.
A few owners complained about rusting in the rear wheel arches. Some windows not working correctly turned out to only need resetting after the battery was disconnected. This is done by lowering the window a bit, raising it till closed and keeping the button in the “closed” position for about five seconds. The system then stores this as the “closed” position.
One 2,0-litre model caught fire while parked and, fortunately, was spotted in time to disconnect the battery. The fault was traced to a short circuit in the engine fan wiring, apparently a freak occurrence.
The Mazda3 looks like a no-nonsense, reliable choice as a used buy. If your brakes are in good order, you shouldn’t be disappointed.