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Mazda 3 Review – Sport Nav 2-litre 165ps

A great family hatchback that's fun to drive and packed full of tech


The Mazda 3 has one of the best and most sophisticated multimedia systems we’ve used, but we still prefer Renault’s R-Link system, as seen in the Renault Zoe
and Renault Clio RS 200 EDC Lux. You can use the R-Link system when driving at speed, unlike the Mazda 3’s multimedia system, and we think it presents options and maps more clearly. We also found it easier to view in bright sunlight.


Our car was fitted with a nine-speaker Bose audio system that produced clear high-end and mid-range audio. Low-end sounds also possessed a great deal of clarity, but tended to boom with such ferocity that we had to reduce the bass setting on the audio system’s 3-band equaliser, which is something we’ve never done before. If you’re into your music, especially bass-heavy tunes, this is the audio system for you.

The car has a built-in CD player, but many drivers will prefer to stream audio from a phone or tablet via Bluetooth. You can also connect USB flash drives and mobile devices to one of the Mazda 3’s two USB ports and play music from them while they charge. We’re really impressed with Mazda’s decision to include two USB ports in addition to a 12V auxiliary input, as not only does it give you more music sources, it also means you charge multiple devices on long journeys.

Aha App Screenshot
The Mazda 3 can use the Aha app to play stream music from internet radio stations, and even use Facebook

If you have the Aha or Stitcher apps installed on your mobile device you’ll be able to use them with the Mazda 3’s audio system, giving you access to tens of thousands of internet radio stations. We tested the audio system with the Aha app. Although Aha lets you listen to many internet radio stations, you can only view presets on the Mazda 3’s screen; you can’t use the Mazda 3’s screen to find stations and add more presets. You can also search for restaurants, hotels and check the weather with Aha, which is great if you’re driving through an unknown area and need to eat or rest. The restaurant search was pretty good, and it gave the best restaurant at our location first, along with a rating.

There’s very little to complain about with the Mazda 3’s Bose audio system, other than tremendously heavy bass. We certainly recommend it as an option.


The Mazda 3 has a very smart interior that’s comfortable, practical and more spacious than you’d expect. The driver’s seat in our car was electrically adjustable, a standard feature in 165ps Sport Nav models such as ours and a £1,000 option on other Sport Nav models. We much prefer electrically adjustable seats because they let you find exactly the right driving position for you, although at £1,000 it might be a luxury too far. Sadly, the front passenger’s seat must be adjusted mechanically.

Mazda3 Cockpit

The seats in our car were also covered in “light stone” leather, a £200 option on the 165ps model and £1,200 on other Sport Nav models. Although it’ll add to the cost of your car, we think the light stone leather seats are a worthwhile upgrade because they brighten an otherwise dark interior and break up the monotony of the black and silver trim.

Mazda has a gift for installing comfortable seats, and the Mazda 3 is no exception. There are three rear seats, but if the middle seat is unoccupied the rear passengers can make use of a wide arm rest that also provides them with cupholders. We could sit behind the driver’s seat and have enough room for our legs to stretch out a little.

Mazda3 Rear Seats

Heated seats are fitted to all Mazda 3 SE-L and Sport Nav models. They proved their worth in the depths of a particularly harsh British winter, and although it’s better to have heated seats than not we still think it’s a feature better suited to countries with colder climates than ours.

A great and indispensable feature that is common on even the most basic Mazda car is a multifunction steering wheel. The Mazda 3’s steering wheel has controls for altering volume, changing tracks, issuing voice commands, operating the phone, activating cruise control and triggering the speed limiter. Curiously, we found ourselves using the volume control by the media commander rather than the steering wheel’s controls, which is odd given the amount of whinging we do if a car doesn’t have volume controls on the wheel. Thanks to this comprehensive selection of controls you can keep your eyes on the road rather than the centre console.

Mazda3 MF Steering Wheel


As you’d expect from a family hatchback, the Mazda 3 has ample storage space, including a storage bin in the driver’s arm rest, a large glove box and multiple drinks holders. There’s even a ledge in front of the gear stick that’s a handy location for your glasses or phone.

However, one of the most impressive and, for us, surprising aspects of the Mazda 3 hatchback is the amount of boot space you get. With the rear seats upright, the Mazda 3’s boot has a 364-litre capacity, which sounds like nothing, yet because of the slanted rear seats you get enough room for a couple of cases and possibly a few extra bags. You’ll certainly have no trouble getting the family shopping in there.

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