Steve takes a look at the first generation Mazda 3 to see if it makes a good used car purchase.
Before we start I must apologise for the pictures on this article as they are not up to my usual standard.
The first generation Mazda 3 was launched in 2003 as a brand new model for the marque and shared the front wheel drive underpinnings from the Mk1 Ford Focus. Designed by Hasip Girgin and known as the BK, the Mazda 3 looked crisp and modern from the outset thanks to sharp lines and was available in either five door hatchback or four door saloon.
Buyers are also treated to various spec levels which should cater for most buyer’s budgets or preferences. The spec levels include:
S is the entry level model and only available in hatchback form, but benefits from central locking, CD player, front electric windows, ABS, electric heated door mirrors, front and side airbags, 15” alloy wheels on petrol models and Emergency Brake Assist.
TS spec added both luxuries such as manual air conditioning, lumbar support, 15” alloy wheels and added safety of curtain airbags.
TS2 added further safety and driver conveniences over the TS spec by having a 6 CD player, multi-function leather steering wheel, climate air conditioning, 16” alloys, Traction Control, Dynamic Stability Control and all round electric windows.
Sport is the top spec and owners are treated to further features over the TS2 model such as rain sensing wipers, Bose sound system, xenon headlights and 17” alloy wheels. The Sport also gained an appearance pack which included a rear spoiler, side skirts and front fog lights.
There were also various optional extras available for the Mazda 3 range which included heated leather seats, reversing sensors, Sat Nav and electric sunroof to name but a few.
In addition various special additions were available during the Mazda 3’s production run and include:
Katano spec was available with a 1.6 petrol engine and benefited from having satnav as standard as well as 15” alloys, chrome exhaust tip, black with red interior but was only offered with either grey or silver metallic paint.
Sakata spec was launched in 2005 and was in affect an S spec model, but only available with the 1.6 petrol engine, Strato blue metallic paint plus15” alloy wheels and rear spoiler.
Tamura spec was released in 2007 and was effectively a Sport model with added seatbelt reminder function and different alloy wheels to that of the Sport spec.
Besides the good choice of specifications for buyers, they were further spoilt with a reasonable selection of naturally aspirated four cylinder petrol and diesel engines as listed below:
1.4 with 84ps
1.6 with 105ps and combined MPG of 39.2.
2.0 with 150ps (147bhp).
1.6 turbo common Rail Diesel with 109ps.
2.0 with 141bhp.
For all the 1.4 and 1.6 engine variants a 5 speed manual gearbox was offered but for the 2.0 litre engines gained 6 speed manuals as standard. Not surprisingly there was also a 5 speed automatic.
(Please note: these details are relevant for UK vehicles. Oher countries benefitted from different engines such as 2.3 petrols and other gearboxes such as 4 speed automatics)
It’s not all style over substance with the Mazda 3, as it received a good level of safety features such as front, side and curtain airbags as well as an anti-lock braking system, Electronic Stability Program and even child proof seatbelt clasps. All of which gave the Mazda 3, a 4* Euro NCAP safety rating.
Driving the Mazda 3
The model I have on test is a 2006 sport saloon which is fitted with the 2.0 four cylinder petrol engine which produces 147bhp/187Nm torque and is mated to a 6 speed manual gearbox. This particular car has covered 71,000 miles and benefits from having the optional extra leather seats.
Climbing into the cabin I found it very easy to get a good driving position, thanks to rake and reach function on the steering wheel as well as lumbar support on the comfortable driver’s seat. I also found the dials easy to read and felt the dash was well laid out, with all switches in easy reach. There was also ample space for both front and rear passengers for height and width, and would carry four adults in comfort. The boot was a reasonable size too. To top it all off the interior certainly wasn’t convenience over style, as I found the interior very smart and easily as impressive to some of the current Mazda products. In my opinion it was better than the current Mazda 2 interior, a car I test drove some months ago.
Out on the open road the 2.0 litre petrol is punchy and has more than enough oomph for either town driving or B road blasts. This is combined with suspension which provides both stability through the bends and good ride comfort. Moreover the steering is precise and nicely weighted, allowing the driver to accurately feel where the wheels are in relation to the road. This is important as some cars within the sector can be void of decent feel through the steering wheel.
As with a lot of Ford and Mazda products of this era, potential buyers need to keep an eye out for rust and common rust areas include the boot, primarily around the central brake light on saloon models as well as on the rear arches of both hatchback and saloon body styles. It’s also worth taking note of any warning lights on the dash, as an ABS warning light combined with a traction control warning light can often be traced back to a faulty ABS sensor which appears to be a common fault.
However as a worst case scenario the ABS warning light combined with the traction control light can potentially linked to ABS pump failure. As you’d expect this is not necessarily a cheap fix as the pump alone can be around £600 from Mazda but there is a very good second hand market where a similar reconditioned part can be bought for around £140.
Besides these faults, build quality is very good and the Mazda 3 feels very well put together. I honestly preferred it over the Ford Focus of which the Mazda 3 is based; now I know that’s a bold statement!
The Motorists Guide View
The youngest Mazda 3 models are now 11 years old but the styling has definitely kept them looking fresh and modern. Not only that, thanks to a great level of equipment fitted to the various models, this has allowed the BK Mazda 3 to remain relevant in the very competitive medium sized car sector. Overall I found the Mazda 3 a nice car to look at, but more importantly a nice car to drive and definitely worth considering if you are in the market for a sub £2,000 medium sized family car.
Curb weight: 1340kg