The first C-class cars appeared in the Mazda lineup back in 1963, and for a long time they (under the names Mazda 323, Familia, Protege and Astina) provided the company with the bulk of sales. In 2003, the designers of the company (which by that time had entered the orbit of the concern Ford) developed a new car on the worldwide platform Ford C1 (the same on which Ford Focus and Volvo S40 were built). The model the name of which was written off unnecessary figures became known simply as Mazda 3 (however, for the home market it received the name Axela) and was very successful, thanks to which it safely inherited the proud title of a bestseller from its predecessor (the model 323/Familia) and sold over 2 million copies.
In 2009, the planned change of generations took place – and again the same success. But we are interested in 2013, when the world public was presented Mazda 3 with the factory code BM. By that time, the brand’s engineers had developed their own platform and refused to use the Ford “bogie”, focusing entirely on the embodiment of proprietary SkyActiv technologies. Strangely enough, it was not Europe, Japan or the U.S. that was chosen for the premiere of the model, but far away Australia… And again, the model was quite successful, at least in the major markets.
But in our country it was a little less lucky: the start of sales came at the beginning of the crisis in 2014 with all the ensuing consequences, and the range of engines was significantly narrower. In Russia, there were versions equipped with three types of gasoline four-cylinder engines: 1.6-liter atmospheric MZR ZM-DE with 104 hp. (this engine is inherited from the previous generation model), the 120-horsepower 1.5-liter SkyActiv-G F-P5 and the 150-horsepower 2.0-liter SkyActiv-G PE-VPS. While the European range also had good diesel engines, and the U.S. range had 2.5-liter SkyActiv gasoline fours with 184 hp.
The situation was exacerbated by the fact that the cars were supplied to the Russian market exclusively from Japanese plants, so the prices depended directly on the growth of the foreign currency exchange rate against the ruble. As a result, the price range of Mazda 3 was close to that of Mazda 6. As a result, the secondary market offers of the Mazda 3 III generation was not so great, but the prices of this model are quite high. They fall within the range from 700,000 to 1,300,000 rubles, with the vast majority of sold cars are equipped with automatic transmissions (4-speed or 6-speed SkyActiv). Cars with manual are extremely rare. It is noteworthy that the two-liter versions are located somewhere in the middle of this range: their prices range from 880,000 to 1,080,000 rubles. Well now let’s see what the owners write about the Mazda 3 generation BM. Perhaps it will help to make the right decision…
Hate #5: set of options and price
Ah, there was a time of gold, before the crisis… In those bygone days the “Matryoshka”, despite the fact that this model was 100% imported from Japan, really could be considered as one of the most attractive offers within the class and price category, first of all – in saturation with options. To tell the truth, there were questions even here: to pick up a suitable complete set even then was not at all easy. This set has that, but not this, the other one – on the contrary, and some necessary things are not foreseen at all…
For example, one of the owners of Mazda 3, who used to drive a Citroen С4, compares these two cars and comes to the conclusion that the cars are equipped with absolutely different equipment for the same money. For example, the C4 has a rain and light sensor, and the Mazda 3 has a tire pressure and washer fluid level sensor. The C4 has cruise control, and the “3” – hands-free. The Mazda has a start-stop button, and the C4 has seat massage. The three has a headlight washer, and the C4 has a parktronic. It turns out that even then the owner had to equip the car to suit his needs, and after the purchase in the secondary market something will be missing.
As a result, the owners write: “After the first kilometers it was necessary to install metal protection of the engine and automatic, parktronic in a circle, additional pads on the radiator grille and hood shock absorber, to tighten the headlights, hood, sills and rear bumper in armored film… And it all turned out to be vital later on!”.
But there’s also the price situation! Immediately after a jump in the value of the dollar the company was forced to sharply inflate the price, so much so that even quite loyal to the brand owners decided that for such money they would not buy the model a second time. Price of the Mazda 3 came very close to the value of its elder sister Mazda 6, and people wondered: why should one take the 3 for a million, when one can already take the 6 for a million? As a result, the Mazda 3 just quietly left the Russian market. But even at the secondary market the model is rather expensive! It is amazing, but a car which was once bought for 850-900 thousand, 6 years later it can be sold practically for the same money. Yes, a different rate, inflation, but nevertheless…
Love #5: design
It is possible to speak about design of the Mazda 3 for a long time and not to discuss it at all. Japanese designers have perfectly turned out the body, so to say… The real embodiment of philosophy “KODO – soul of movement”, formulated once by Yasushi Nakamuta and realized by leading designer of the model Koichi Tabata. The sculptural forms of the Mazda 3 feel the thirst for speed, tension and beauty of an animal ready to leap. Everything works for this impression – the elegant curves of the main lines, the plastic of the sides, the aggressive shape of the radiator shell in combination with the menacingly swooping headlights.
But that’s not what’s important. This is all unnecessary, all arguments about KODO, the soul of movement and all that. The design of the Mazda 3 simply captures, at once and from any angle, at times falling in love at first sight: “I saw a red “3” at the airport and immediately decided that exactly such should become mine”. All this design magnificence has only one problem: aggressive impudent and dynamic appearance not corresponds to real dynamic capabilities in all versions. But we will talk about it a little later…
Hate #4: visibility
For now we should note that you always have to pay something for beauty. In this case, visibility has suffered a little, first of all – back, through mirrors. Side mirrors are not too big and informative, besides they are fixed in such place that one should turn his/her head slightly to see what happens behind. In a saloon mirror, by confession of many owners, it is better not to look: you can not see a damn thing in it. The trunk is high enough, the angle of a back window is big… But the lateral front struts do not practically obstruct a view.
The Matryoshka also turned out to be a bit of a muddler. In bad weather, the rear window instantly becomes opaque, and there is no wiper! However, show me a sedan, which rear window is equipped with a “wiper”… But not only the front, but also side windows get dirty quickly. This situation can be improved, having installed plastic aerodynamic elements. The owners blame the regular headlights, to be exact, its budget version with halogen: they say, these headlights shine badly, the light is weak and nasty, dull-yellow. But there are no complaints to the LED headlights, on the contrary, all the raves. So it is not surprising that many owners have changed the usual “halogen” to LED sources on their own.
Love #4: multimedia and comfort
The interior of the Mazda 3 is praised by almost all owners. First of all, it has enough space on both the first and second rows: neither the driver nor the passengers have anything resting against anything. Behind a steering wheel it is convenient even for a person of 185-195 cm. In fact, by interior space Matryoshka has caught up with Mazda 6 of the first generation. The plastic is qualitative, soft, the steering wheel is covered with leather with color stitching. Somebody may think the interior is too austere, but many people like it with laconism and presence of some German spirit.
Very comfortable seats: the owners claim that behind the wheel of Mazda 3 can go 300-400 km in one sitting, without stopping, and without discomfort. The body doesn’t get bogged down, the back doesn’t crack… Moreover, the seats have well-developed lateral support and are perfect for those, who doesn’t like to brake on the turns. However, those who are used to put an elbow on the window sill of a door will be disappointed by Mazda. The “window sill” in it is rather narrow and not adapted for these purposes. Probably, Japanese have made it so on purpose: there is nothing, so to say, to relax while driving and to put your hands everywhere! You have got into the driving car – be ready to keep both hands on a steering wheel!
In reviews a lot of compliments to the climate: in winter the interior is warmed up quickly, in summer it is not hot in it, the temperature setting works correctly. The trunk of 430 liters is capacious enough. The only thing is that its form is not too conducive to transportation of bulky subjects, and someone complains about absence of sockets, nets and boxes.
In the vast majority of reviews, owners praise the media system – and for decent sound (and not only in the case of the top BOSE speakers), and for the ability to play music from your phone via Bluetooth, and for the perfectly working hands free feature (in one of the reviews the author wrote that his friend, the owner of a 2009 Mercedes ML, was very surprised by the quality and came to the conclusion that the hands-free in his car looks like a total crap compared to the way the system works in the Mazda 3). Well, everyone likes the opportunity to control the media system not through the touchscreen (also, by the way, quite qualitative and informative), but with a rotary selector, located near the box lever.
Hate #3: small tank and ground clearance.
Only for a person who has “races on long distances” in his plans it is necessary to buy at least one canister for fuel at once. It is not because the “Matryoshka” is especially voracious – no, the appetite of the automobile is quite moderate. Only the volume of a fuel tank is only 45 liters, and this figure is a little sly: the owners write that if you go to the filling station with a pointer of a fuel level “lying” and fill up to the full, the tank will hold 38-40 liters. Let’s say straightforwardly – it will not run out. And in fact, many classmates tank capacity is 60-65 liters… So even fans of the model believe that the best of all Mazda 3 is suitable for the city and travel a relatively short distance, no more than 500 km.
Another operational problem is related to the small ground clearance. “The only thing that upset me about the car was its low ground clearance, it was easy to get stuck in the mud”, “it was used in 90% of summer, because the ground clearance did not allow to pamper it on winter roads of our city”, “the front bumper combed everything, like an excavator. Of all the cars that I had, the lowest. In winter with snowdrifts and ruts is very uncomfortable”, “Not enough ground clearance, to add at least 5 cm, maybe I would not sell it”… There are a lot of such statements in reviews.
As a result, experienced owners categorically assert, that the automobile needs obligatory installation of additional protection of the underbody. The climate-control compressor is in the lowest place, and though it is equipped with standard cover, it is better not to risk. By the way, there can be next problem during installation of protection: you suddenly will start to hear the sound, similar to rattle of punctured muffler. To cope with this trouble, it is enough just to bend an edge of a protection adjoining a compressor with pliers or a crowbar.
Love #3: Japanese assembly, quality and reliability
The fact that the Mazda 3 sold in the Russian market came to us exclusively from the company’s plant in the city of Hofu (Yamaguchi prefecture), is in the eyes of the Russians an undeniable advantage (although this circumstance has caused a fairly high price). Many explicitly say: the main reason for which the choice has fallen on this model, was the Japanese assembly. And, it is necessary to tell, that in the overwhelming majority of cases “Matryoshka” has not disappointed the owners. Here, perhaps, again it is time to give them the word: “Yes, to some people the engine 1,6 will seem weak, but it does not eat oil and runs for 400 000 km”, “For almost 6 years of owning this car there were no problems with any unit. From replacements – only brake pads”, “For 4 years, nothing has broken even once”, “For more than five years of operation, I do not remember that something was changed outside the service maintenance”, “Many details of a suspension are still native”…
No, of course, there are certain complaints, first of all – about the thin metal of the body and the weakness of the paint coating: “The metal is as thick as paper, and the layer of paint is the same. They say that everyone in this class is like that”, “Only the paint coat caused negative emotions. Very small layer, and very soft lacquer…. Even a small contact with a small twig leaves traces on the varnish. It is especially visible on a dark background.”
Many people were surprised to find out that “Made in Japan” means “assembled” and many assemblies and units are made in Eastern Europe or even in China. However, it has not influenced real reliability; it means that we can safely continue believing that Mazda 3 is “Japanese”, so it will show miracles of samurai firmness and fidelity further.
Hate #2: lack of dynamics
The worst disappointment befalls the owner of “Matryoshka” when he realizes, that the appearance of the car does not correspond to its character. After all, he looked at aggressive front end, at impetuous lines and imagined that he buys a rocket on wheels. But if the question is about the most widespread in Russia motors with capacity 1,5 and 1,6 liters, he quickly gets convinced that in a city at the speed up to 60-70 km/hour everything is generally normal. And it is necessary to drive on a freeway…
“In the city, if you do not go out on wide avenues, it is quite possible to live. Up to 60 km/h somewhere. But after that: gas to the floor – and nothing happens! And it is 1,5 SkyActiv engine – not the weakest in the model. In general, 2-liter 155 hp engine would be the best. Or here is such a testimony: “There are questions to how it picks up speed from 70 up to 100. It is necessary to overtake very carefully, the volume of the engine is a little bit insufficient for a full-fledged maneuver! However, such car is irreplaceable for city driving. Its dynamics is not bad (up to 80), but then it lacks traction. I really lacked horses and overtaking reserve. The “Matryoshka” needs 2,5 liters engine and 200 horses”.
Some people have rather sharp statement that the car is not for a boy, it does not go anywhere, such good-quality “city vegetable” – it is the best to buy for a girl – and she will not run into anything unnecessarily, and will be glad about a beautiful car. The most offensive is that opportunities of steering and suspension are quite promoting active driving! Certainly, the question is about mass (and the most accessible) motors with power of 104 and 120 hp.
All their owners dream about “the same horse, but with wings”, that is the same three BM, but with 150 hp two-liter SkyActiv or 2,5 liter engine with 184 hp capacity. Alas, the last has not been on sale neither in our country, nor in Europe, and it is necessary to go to America for them; also 2-liter “Matryoshka” is a big rarity on the secondary market.
Love #2: Consumption
There is not a complete unity in estimate of economy of the Mazda 3. The owners of the versions with hydromechanics (especially four-speed) do not resent much, but also do not express enthusiasm. According to their estimates, the average consumption is from 9,5 up to 10,5 l/100 km, and, try as we may, it does not fall below these figures even in the summer. But those who have chosen a gearbox, do not hesitate to express their delight: “The average expense is 7-8 liters. Minimum on a freeway at the speed of 90 km/h – 4,2 liters per 100 km! It is on the verge of a fantasy! Telling the truth, in winter, during heating up and driving short distances, the consumption also grows up to 10 liters. Anyway, in the overwhelming majority of responses, efficiency is named among the main advantages of the model.
Hate #1: Noise isolation
Mazda cars always differed not the best sound insulation, and this problem was characteristic not only for relatively budget, but also for flagship models. The brand dealt with it more or less only with updating of the last generation of the crossover CX-5, but the criticism towards sound insulation and acoustic comfort of “Matryoshka” sounded in almost every review: “Everybody was talking about noise insulation, but I did not think that it was so bad”, “The guys did not bother to make the interior more or less quiet. At the speed of 100 km we had to turn the music more than 60 %, to raise the voice strongly when speaking”, “After the first trip to the M5 I had to decide about the noise insulation – it was simply not there”, “Noise insulation? There is none at all!
It is clear that this problem is not unsolvable. If you install the triple thermo-noise-vibration isolation of the hood, arches, wings, trunk and trunk lid itself, the car adds 100-120 kg in weight, but you get a totally different car, in which at speed of 130 km/h you can half-speak and not hear the noise of the road. It is possible to do without much effort: additional underwings are bought for regular ones, wrapped with noise isolation, and as a result we receive essential improvement of a situation at not big expenses. Anyway, one should do something…
Love #1: drivability
“It was one summer night. I decided then to test its acceleration. I was alone… Narrow two-lane country road of dubious quality, night, 120 on the speedometer, and I happened not to notice this unfortunate corner. Stupid, reckless, thoughtless, as if a schoolboy got a hold of his father’s car … Turning at 90 degrees, even the warning red signs were standing, a meter of gravel on each side, and then the slopes of a meter and a half and the trees on both sides. I saw him for a few meters … I had time – slowed down, the car sharply cut into the road, turned on everything you can – abs, directional control and a hell of a lot more. I nearly backed into it, I thought – it’s going to roll over! It went over a narrow strip of gravel. The last thought: that was it, the cat had played the violin, another dozen centimeters – and then into the ravine, and further into the tree. I don’t know how it could be done at that speed, but even in gravel it was not blown over! She didn’t lose control, she wasn’t swept away, overturned – nothing! Yes, that was her limit, I felt it in that moment with every cell of my body… I stopped about 10 meters after the turn, on the gravel. I crawled out of the car in a cold sweat with shaking limbs, furious at my own idiocy…”. I have not started with this story by accident, because there are almost more raptures about drivability in reviews than criticism about noise.
Mazda 3 really differs from the majority of classmates of its price category by the presence of a multilever rear suspension. Exactly it makes driving of “Matryoshka” so “tasty”. Well, yes, the suspension is perceived as rigid enough, but – neither rolls, nor yaw, nor drifts. The car goes like on rails at any speed and allows passing even rather abrupt bends at speed under a hundred. This is what the Mazda 3 gives to its owners, making them confess in love: “I speak about my sensations, which this car gives me. This is exactly the reason why it never gets boring. And every time you see it, drive it, you get pleasure.