Used Car Reviews

Used Vehicle Reviews: 2010-2013 Mazda3 Review

Vehicle Type: Compact sedan or 5-door


At a Glance
Competing with the Kia Forte, Honda Civic and Ford Focus with an eye for above-average reflexes, styling and  cabin appointments, the second-generation Mazda3 advanced the popular Japanese compact on all fronts and maintained both the sedan and hatchback offerings from the generation before it.

Buying a used 3? Decide whether you need a sedan or a hatchback, then start thinking options. Options like rain-sensing wipers, automatic lights, leather-wrapped accents and heated leather seats were all available. Navigation, Bluetooth and blind-spot monitoring were also possible for high-tech flare. A sunroof, satellite radio and premium audio systems could be specified, and your buddies will love the pointy-steery adaptive xenon lights that direct their output into corners in sync with the steering. Xenon lights are fantastic for travelers who frequently spend time on the road after dark, by the way.

Key competitors included the Ford Focus, Kia Forte and Honda Civic.


Pick One
Trim levels, including the popular GS and the top-line GT models offered mid and top-line levels of feature content, while the Mazda3’s GX grade was reserved for base models.

Engine choices included 2.0L and 2.5L gas four-cylinder units. Basic models will have a five-speed manual or automatic, and six-speed transmissions in manual or automatic were found elsewhere on higher-end GS or GT models. All units were front-wheel drive. From 2012 and on, the debut of Mazda’s fuel-saving Skyactiv technology fitted a high-efficiency 2.0L engine option as well. Note that some owners say that expensive oil changes on Skyactiv powerplants tend to eat away at some of the fuel savings.


Thumbs Up
Upscale styling, sporty handling dynamics, an upscale cabin and a pleasant, easy-to-drive character were highly rated by owners of this generation 3. Fuel mileage, especially on models with the ‘Skyactiv’ engine, was highly rated, as was versatility on hatchback models.


Thumbs Down
The grinning front bumper fascia, a teensy navigation system screen and limited rear-seat space are common complaints. Others include tire noise, blind spots and some easily-scratched interior panels.


Check 1: The Clutch
Numerous owners have reported premature clutch wear, which isn’t covered by warranty –though this issue looks most prevalent in 2010 models. This issue may stem from a faulty clutch master cylinder, and it can lead to transmission problems. Shifting your own gears is strongly advised if you’re buying a used Mazda3 – but use your hands and ears to scrutinize the transmission for any weird sensations or sounds that could indicate trouble. Have a mechanic drive the car you’re considering if you suspect any issues. Slippage, grinding and biting back are common signs of clutch wear or transmission problems.


Check 2: The Finish
A full inspection of the 3’s body and paint is also advised, in light of several reports of finishes and panels that are easily dented and paint that’s easily chipped. Pay special attention to the front edges of the rocker panels and front bumper. If the model you’re considering shows above-average paint wear, call it into pricing negotiations.


Check 3: The Gadgets
Check for proper operation of all remote keyfobs, remote trunk and hatch release and all power windows. In particular, check that the AUTO function of the power windows hasn’t decided to stop working, possibly because of a loss of power to some of the 3’s computer systems. Further, be aware that some owners have reported failure of the Bluetooth module used to link their cellular phones, so be sure that it’s in good working order, too.


Check 4: Brakes
Some owners note issues with their brakes, particularly relating to a loud squealing sound heard when reversing. This annoyance could be caused by use of a non-Mazda brake pad, though used models affected by this issue should be checked by a mechanic to be safe since squealing sounds from the braking system are typically a sign that some attention is needed.


Check 5: Modifications
As a bit of a popular tuner car, some used Mazda3 models will have aftermarket parts installed, including wheels, intakes, lowering springs, exhausts, lights, body add-ons and the like. Remember that these upgrades could be illegal, could adversely affect long-term durability of the car you’re considering, and might make you an annoying ricer.


The Verdict
The last-generation Mazda3 was enjoyed for its looks, handling and fuel-efficient performance-- but test drive your used Mazda3 candidate with an eye for potential clutch and transmission trouble. Other issues reported commonly should prove easy and inexpensive to diagnose and fix. Review Quotes and Links:
2010 Mazda3: “Even more fun to drive than the previous model, the sporty 2010 Mazda3 Sport GT hatchback offers improved driving dynamics, more power, and a slick new six-speed manual transmission. But fuel consumption has increased slightly.”

- Greg Wilson/

Web Link:

2010 Mazda3: “While it is difficult to discover the handling characteristics of the Mazda3 Sport while driving on slippery, bumpy, snow-filled roads, it did handle these poor driving conditions very well. Winter tires undoubtedly helped with both traction and stopping but the car still responded to steering, throttle and brake inputs almost intuitively. It may be small but it inspires confidence”

- Jim Kerr/

Web Link:  

Owner Reviews:
2010, 2011, 2012, 2013