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MSRP: $18,095 - 24,945

2018 Mazda Mazda3 Review

The 2018 Mazda3 boasts fantastic handling and a high-quality interior. However, in this very competitive class, the Mazda3 earns a midpack ranking due to its terrible predicted reliability score.

Pros & Cons

  • Athletic handling
  • Good fuel economy
  • Upscale interior
  • Easy-to-use infotainment system
  • Below-average trunk space in sedan models
  • Bottom-of-the-barrel predicted reliability rating

New for 2018

  • Touring models now feature 2.5-liter engine
  • Smart City Brake Support system now standard in Sport model

Is the Mazda3 a Good Car?

The Mazda3 is an OK choice in the compact car class. It delivers superb handling while maintaining a smooth ride, and its engine lineup is powerful for a compact car. Furthermore, it has one of the nicest interiors and infotainment systems in the class. The Mazda3 is available in sedan and hatchback body styles, the latter of which provides more utility. Trunk space is subpar in the sedan, but above average in the hatch.

Should I Buy the Mazda3?

There's no denying the Mazda3's appeal, but this is a class full of great cars that are also worth considering. The Volkswagen Golf has more cargo space than the Mazda 3, as well as solid overall performance. The Honda Civic sits near the top of the compact car class, thanks to its quality interior and fun driving dynamics. Both of these cars cost slightly more than the Mazda, but they boast better predicted reliability ratings.

Compare the Mazda3, Civic, and Golf »

Should I Buy a New or Used Mazda3?

Changes to the Mazda3 for the 2018 model year include the addition of Smart City Brake Support (a low-speed automatic braking system) as standard equipment. On top of that, the midrange Touring trim now comes standard with a 184-horsepower 2.5-liter engine. These updates don't really change the car, though. If you're open to driving a used car, consider a similarly equipped older model for the chance to save thousands of dollars. Both Smart City Brake Support and the 2.5-liter engine were available in certain 2017 Mazda3s, so you may want to hunt around for those features. If you're considering other used Mazda3s in this generation (which goes back to 2014), you'll want to focus on at least a 2016 model. Cruise control, a rearview camera, and a touch-screen infotainment system were made standard for that year. It will likely be harder to find these features in models that are older than that. 

To research some other models in this generation, check out our reviews of the 2015, 2016, and 2017 Mazda3. If you decide an older model is right for you, head over to our Used Car Deals page to learn about savings and discounts on used vehicles.

Compare the 2016, 2017, and 2018 Mazda3 »

We Did the Research for You: 39 Reviews Analyzed

We write car reviews that combine the opinions of professional test drivers with hard data such as reliability and safety ratings and fuel economy estimates. For our analysis of the 2018 Mazda3, we looked at 39 professional reviews. This 2018 Mazda3 review incorporates applicable research for all model years in this generation, which spans the 2014 through 2018 model years.

Why You Can Trust Us

U.S. News & World Report has been ranking cars, trucks, and SUVs since 2007, and our team has more than 75 years of combined experience in the automotive industry. To maintain objectivity, our editorial staff is prohibited from accepting expensive gifts or trips from automakers, and a third party handles all advertising on our site.

How Much Does the Mazda3 Cost?

The Mazda3 starts at just over $18,000 for sedan models and around $19,300 for hatchback models. There are many compact cars with lower base prices than the Mazda3, but the price difference is less than $1,500 in nearly every case. The Mazda3 Grand Touring (the highest trim) comes well-equipped and has a starting price of around $23,100 for sedan models and nearly $23,900 for Grand Touring hatchback models, which is still lower than some compact cars’ starting price.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Mazda dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Mazda deals page.

Mazda3 Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: Mazda3 or Honda Civic?

The Honda Civic and the Mazda3 are very similar in most categories, like safety and interior quality. Both cars also come in sedan and hatchback models. If you favor a comfortable cruiser with good gas mileage, choose the Civic. It's also the better car overall. However, if you're looking for more of a bargain or sportier handling, go with the Mazda3.

Which Is Better: Mazda3 or Volkswagen Golf?

Just like the Mazda3, the Volkswagen Golf's nimble handling makes it fun to drive. That said, the performance-oriented Golf R and the separately reviewed Volkswagen GTI have better performance than any Mazda3 model. The Golf's base engine has more power, though the Mazda3 is more fuel-efficient. Additionally, the Golf outclasses the Mazda3 and almost every other competitor in cargo capacity. The Golf's low liftover height makes loading bulky items easy. The Mazda3 hatchback offers a respectable amount of trunk space and a lower retail price, as well as better crash test results than the Golf. However, the Mazda has a worse predicted reliability rating. The Golf is probably a better choice in general.

Compare the Mazda3, Civic, and Golf »

Mazda3 Interior

How Many People Does the Mazda3 Seat?

The Mazda3 seats five in both body styles. The front seats are supportive and comfortable. The rear seats have adequate room for most adults, but some competitors have more rear-seat space.

Mazda3 and Car Seats

There are two full sets of LATCH car-seat connectors in the Mazda3. The system is good, but the lower anchors are set too deep in the seat, making them hard to reach. The tether anchors are easily found, and there’s no other hardware to mistake for them.

Mazda3 Interior Quality

The Mazda3’s cabin is awash in high-quality materials, and the layout and styling give it an inviting look. Quite simply, this is one of the nicest cabins in the class.

Mazda3 Cargo Space

The Mazda3 sedan has 12.4 cubic feet of trunk space. Though that’s enough for some golf clubs, it’s still a smaller trunk than many competitors provide. Hatchback models, however, have above-average cargo space. They provide just over 20 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats (enough for a cooler and some beach chairs) and just over 47 cubic feet with the rear seats folded (enough for larger sporting items like a snowboard or bicycle).

Mazda3 Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

Standard features in the Mazda3 include two USB ports, Bluetooth, a six-speaker audio system, HD Radio, and the Mazda Connect infotainment system with a 7-inch touch screen. Available features include navigation, a moonroof, a nine-speaker Bose sound system, and satellite radio.

The Mazda Connect infotainment system is one of the best in the class. The menus are intuitive, and the controls are easy to master. The touch screen is responsive, though you can also use a console-mounted control knob – something normally only found in luxury vehicles.

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto? Then, see the Best Cars With Apple CarPlay and Best Cars With Android Auto.

Read more about interior »

Mazda3 Performance

Mazda3 Engine: It Won’t Hold You Back

The Mazda3 comes standard with a 155-horsepower four-cylinder engine that provides plenty of power for daily driving, though it is a bit loud at higher speeds. An available 184-horsepower four-cylinder delivers better acceleration and really lets you unlock the Mazda3’s potential for driving enjoyment.

Mazda3 Gas Mileage: Fun and Economical

Road trips in this Mazda mean more stops for snacks than gas because it gets good gas mileage. The Mazda3 earns 28 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. The Mazda3 will save you about $100 per year in gas money compared to the VW Golf. However, it’ll cost you around $100 more than the Honda Civic.

Mazda3 Ride and Handling: The Best of Both Worlds

This compact car is nimble and quick. The Mazda3 is buttoned-down around turns, and its accurate steering and sturdy brakes let you attack corners. Other cars with terrific handling often have stiff rides, but not this Mazda. The 3 delivers its handling prowess while also soaking up road imperfections.

Read more about performance »

Mazda3 Reliability

Is the Mazda3 Reliable?

The 2018 Mazda3 has a predicted reliability rating of two out of five from J.D. Power. That's the lowest score that J.D. Power gives – and the lowest score in the compact car class. Three is considered average for the industry.

Mazda3 Warranty

The Mazda3 comes with a three-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. Those are typical warranty terms for a compact car.

Read more about reliability »

Mazda3 Safety

Mazda3 Crash Test Results

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awards the 2018 Mazda3 with the highest rating of Good in five crash safety tests and named it a Top Safety Pick. Likewise, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the Mazda3 four stars in rollover tests and five stars in side and frontal crash tests for a five-star overall crash test rating.

Mazda3 Safety Features

Standard driver assistance features in the Mazda3 include a rearview camera and the Smart City Brake Support system, which can automatically apply the brakes if the vehicle senses that you’re about to hit something. Available features include a head-up display, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, rear parking sensors, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, forward collision warning, adaptive headlights, and traffic sign recognition.

Read more about safety »

Which Mazda3 Model Is Right for Me?

The Mazda3 is available in three trims (Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring) and two body styles (sedan and hatchback). The sedan is the default body style, while the hatchback costs an additional $750-$1,250, depending on trim level. Upgrading from the standard manual transmission to an automatic costs $1,050.

Even the base Mazda3 features nimble handling and an upscale interior, so nobody would blame you for sticking with it. However, the higher trims include more features and a more powerful engine, so they’re probably better options. The Touring is the middle trim, and the available option package lets you equip it with almost all of the best tech features the Mazda3 offers. But the best of the bunch is the highest trim, the Grand Touring. Sure, it costs the most, but it’s also the most upscale, and it’s available with many active safety features not offered in the lower trims.

Mazda3 Sport

The Mazda3 Sport has a starting price of $18,095. It comes with a 155-horsepower four-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive. Beyond the standard features, the Sport trim offers the Preferred Equipment package for $1,000. It adds some styling upgrades, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert.

Mazda3 Touring

The Mazda3 Touring starts at $20,090. The Touring (and the higher Grand Touring) features a 184-horsepower four-cylinder engine. In addition to the Sport’s features, the Touring comes with dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, rain-sensing windshield wipers, leatherette upholstery, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert. You can add the Bose/Moonroof/Satellite Radio package for $1,500. It includes a moonroof, a nine-speaker Bose audio system, and – as the name implies – satellite radio.

Mazda3 Grand Touring

The Mazda3 Grand Touring has a starting price of $23,145. On top of the Touring’s features, the Grand Touring adds leather upholstery, a Bose audio system, satellite radio, and a moonroof. The Premium Equipment package is available for $1,600 and includes navigation, a heated steering wheel, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and traffic sign recognition.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Mazda dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Mazda deals page.

See 2018 Mazda3 specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2018 Mazda3 is a dynamic compact car. It’s more fun to drive than most of its classmates, and it has an upscale interior. There are many reasons to like this car, which is why it does well in our rankings. It’s not the only car in the class worth considering, but if you want a sporty vehicle you can drive comfortably every day, it’s hard to beat.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "The … Mazda3 compact sedan is the kind of car that satisfies many needs. It can be a frugal economy car, yet still satisfy the most demanding enthusiast. A sleek exterior is matched by a handsome interior, with plenty of cutting-edge safety and convenience features from which to choose." -- Kelley Blue Book (2017)
  • "… the new Mazda3 sedan makes a compelling case for best-in-class honors." -- Left Lane News (2017)
  • "Purposeful styling, fuel-efficient engines and an ideal ride and handling balance keep the 2015 Mazda 3 among our favorites in the compact car class." -- Edmunds (2015)


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