Used Vehicle Review: Mazda3, 2014-2017

Vehicle Type

Compact sedan / five-door

History/Description

With top-shelf styling, efficiency, feature content, and technology on board, the 2014 Mazda3 arrived on the scene back in 2013 with a promise to shake things up in the compact car segment. Key competitors included the Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, and Toyota Corolla.

For this generation, the 3 rode Mazda’s light and strong SkyActiv chassis, featured a SkyActiv engine range, and a range of SkyActiv transmissions. Mazda had effectively gone SkyActiv on all of the things, other than the styling, since that’s called Kodo.

Feature content included a BOSE CenterPoint stereo system, automatic high beams, an human-machine interface (HMI) controller that allows manipulation of dozens of functions via a central command knob, and the i-Activesense suite of safety technologies. Steerable headlights and a projection-style head-up display were also on offer.

Owners tend to love the blend of sportiness and comfort, the Mazda3’s upscale cabin and tech, a solid and robust ride on rougher roads, and the high-end stereo and other features.

The Mazda3 was available in sedan or five-door hatch variants, the latter dubbed Mazda3 Sport.

Key reasons to consider one? The interior is a Wards 10 Best Interior winner, which is fancy, the fuel-saving SkyActiv engine lineup is standard on all units, the 3 is brimming with high-end tech, and safety scores are top-notch.

Engines/Trim

Power came from one of two SkyActiv four-cylinder engines. The 2.0L unit generated 155 hp, while the up-level 2.5L powerplant generated 185. Rated fuel mileage figures dipped under 5.0 L/100 km, and transmission choices included a six-speed unit in the driver’s choice of manual or automatic. Importantly, drivers who love a manual transmission can find a used Mazda3 with a six-speed stick, and even on some high-grade models

What Owners Like

Owners tend to love the blend of sportiness and comfort, the Mazda3’s upscale cabin and tech, a solid and robust ride on rougher roads, and the high-end stereo and other features. Athletic handling and decent fuel mileage help round out the package.

What Owners Dislike

Owners of models with larger wheels tend to wish for a slightly more comfortable ride, and many wish for more at-hand storage to keep smaller items organized within the cabin. Taller occupants may find headroom at a premium, and the front inner arm rest is only accessible to the driver.

Here’s a look at some Mazda3 owner reviews

The Test Drive

As a relatively new used model, finding a low-mileage Mazda3 from this generation that’s still got a hearty portion of its warranty remaining should be easy-peasy.

Note, as well, that 2015 and newer units are covered by Mazda’s unlimited mileage warranty, which covers drivers for three years of new vehicle warranty and roadside assistance with no mileage limit. It also includes five years of powertrain coverage and seven years of anti-perforation corrosion coverage, also with no mileage limit. Note that this warranty applies only to 2015 and newer units, and that the 2014 Mazda3 is not covered.

A few tips and checks are advised to help shoppers ensure they wind up in a first-class copy of a second-hand Mazda3.

First up, make sure that all available keyfobs are in proper working order. Be sure each fob locks and unlocks all doors, pops the trunk / tailgate, and starts the engine, if equipped with push-button start. While you move through all keyfobs and doors confirming proper operation, check the windows, too. In particular, make sure that the auto function on each works as expected, and that all windows run at the same speed, and that none seems weak compared to the rest.

Problems with fussy keyfobs and windows as outlined above can be caused by numerous factors, including disconnection of the vehicle battery, which can interfere with computer programming. This is yet another reason why unplugging the battery in a modern vehicle is best left to a professional.

Next, note that while the lifespan of a clutch is highly subject to many factors, used car shoppers should always assume the clutch in the model they’re considering has been nuked by a lousy driver, until they confirm otherwise. Shifting your own gears is classy, but not when the clutch looks like two dogs just got finished fighting over it. Coax slippage from a worn clutch by applying lots of load at low revs – perhaps, full throttle up a steep hill at 2,000 rpm or so. This has a way of coaxing slippage from a clutch, which could reveal a pricey clutch replacement in your near future.

Here’s a thread in a popular discussion forum that outlines, in part, a “problem” with the Mazda3’s manual transmission. Some owners report difficulty shifting, or a stiff, heavy shifter feel. A combination of factors is at play, including the natural tendency of a manual transmission to be stiffer to shift until warmed up, the need to fully press the clutch pedal when shifting, and the need for some drivers to re-learn how to use a manual transmission. The problems reported here aren’t even problems at all – they’re driver-related issues. The point? For maximum peace of mind, buy a used Mazda3 with manual transmission from a seller eho knows how to drive a manual transmission. Ask them to take you for a ride, to see how they work the gearbox, just to be sure.

Note, further, that the manual transmission (and all other fluid-filled components) should always be filled with factory-specified fluid, and nothing else.

If you hear a whining metal-on-metal sound over about 40 km/h from the vehicle’s front end during a test drive, be sure to have it investigated. This problem seems very rare, but could be caused by a bad axle or CV joint. Some owners have remedied it by having axle seals inspected and lubricated, but reports are largely inconclusive.

If you detect a grinding or clicking sound or sensation from the vehicle’s steering wheel when turning, the culprit may be a broken clockspring, which is a component that facilitates an electrical connection for the controls on the vehicle’s steering wheel. This sound may or may not be accompanied by non-functionality of various steering-wheel mounted controls, like the horn, volume button, or cruise control.

Other checks should include a professional assessment of the vehicle’s braking system (some owners have reported premature brake wear), and a full electronics system scan, which can reveal numerous sensor and electronics-related issues, whether or not there’s a check engine light illuminated.

One final note. Do not underestimate the importance of regular, on-time maintenance and care of the engine in your new-to-you Mazda3. As a high-compression, high-efficiency, and direct-injected powerplant, careful attention to maintenance is absolutely vital to long-term reliability. Familiarize yourself with the service section in the owner’s manual, and be sure to tackle all maintenance items (especially spark plugs and oil changes) at or before the mileage set out under the severe service schedule. Also, be sure to fuel the Mazda3 only with top-tier fuel from a reputable fuel station at all times. Note that top tier is a quality rating for gasoline, and doesn’t mean high-octane.

Here’s a list of recalls.

The Verdict

Find a healthy used Mazda3 with a technician’s thumbs-up, and a good portion of remaining warranty, and you’re well on your way to enjoying an efficient, entertaining, and upscale compact car. Go with a 2015 or newer model where possible, to maximize peace of mind with the unlimited-mileage warranty.

Crash Test Ratings

IIHS: Top Safety Pick +
NHTSA: 5/5 Stars

Buy a 2015 or newer. 12/7/2017 6:28:00 AM