- buying guide
Used Mazda 3 buying guide
Updated 21 Dec 2020
Mazda has a history of producing quality vehicles for the everyday driver and the 3 has, since its introduction in 2003, always been at the top of the list for many as a definite test drive recipient whether you are driving near or far and regardless of how often.
I've put together a brief rundown on what to look out for when buying a used Mazda 3 across all the different generations.
What I cover in this article:
- The different generations of Mazda 3's
- How much does a used Mazda 3 cost?
- What are some common problems with Mazda 3's?
BK (2003 - 2009)
Image credit: Brenden Ashton - 2006 BK1032 Mazda 3 SP23, CC BY 2.0
Starting with the first generation BK, which replaced the previous 323 model in the small hatch/sedan range from the Mazda plant, we were presented with a plethora of variants.
When launched in Australia, the BK Mazda 3 had four trim levels, the entry-level Neo, Maxx, Maxx Sport - all with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine - and the SP23 which had a 2.3-litre four-cylinder.
You could have these in either a five-speed manual or a four-speed auto.
In 2006 the MPS, with a 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, and the MZR-CD with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel arrived. A six-speed manual was the only gearbox offered with these two models.
The former became a go-to for boy racers and tuners alike, which essentially meant the Mazda 3 had a spec for anyone.
The automotive fraternity had almost only positive reviews of the first generation. It was stylish, had a combination of good performance and handling and was extremely practical.
The only blemish was that of a 4-star NCAP safety rating which Mazda later rectified by introducing 6 airbags as standard.
According to AutoGuru's servicing and repair data, the average service cost for a BK Mazda 3 is approximately $250.
After the BK, Mazda came up with the smiley-faced BL. This was launched at the end of 2008 and was in production right through to 2013.
BL (2009 - 2013)
Similar to the BK, in Australia the BL entry-level model is the Neo.
Next in-line is the Maxx, which adds things like cruise control over the Neo, and then the Maxx Sport.
These all share the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, but the Maxx Sport enjoys some nice tech features as standard, like an 11 speaker surround sound system and Bluetooth.
The SP25 is next, which gets a 2.5-litre four-cylinder and some sportier styling, as well as additional creature comforts inside.
The BL also received MPS treatment, which has a turbocharged 2.3-litre engine boasting 190kw.
For the diesel fans, you can grab an MZR-CR which gets a 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel.
Similar to the BK, the average service cost across the BL range is approximately $250.
In 2012 Mazda introduced the SkyActiv powertrain, which brings me to..
BM/BN (2013 - 2019)
The third-generation Mazda 3 (BM/BN).
Another major facelift was introduced and the SkyActiv technology became permanent within the range (apart from one 1.6L option which was only available in certain regions).
In Australia, the options are a 2.0-litre petrol, 2.5-litre petrol or 2.2-litre diesel engines.
Trim levels for the BM included Neo, Maxx, Touring, SP25 and XD Astina.
The notable exclusion here is the turbocharged MPS offering.
In the middle of 2017, the diesel went out of production and the BN facelift took place which provided minor upgrades to the exterior styling and a new dash layout.
Little known fact, the BM was actually launched in Australia in June, 2013.
The average service cost across the BM/BN range rises slightly to $260.
Image credit: CEFICEFI - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
And finally, the 2019 released fourth-generation BP.
Unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show and touted by many as the best design to come from Mazda for a very long time, it’s available in Australia with either a 2.5-litre petrol or a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol in SkyActiv-G variants.
You can also get a 2.0-litre Supercharged petrol with the new SkyActiv-X (compression ignition) tech.
The fourth-generation was officially the first generation of Mazda 3 to be globally recognised under one model name - all previous models were known as the Axela in certain markets - this was in line with Mazda’s global naming structure changes to help make the ‘3’ model better known.
The exciting news ahead for this generation is the pending reintroduction of a sportier MPS-like, 2.5-litre, four-wheel drive, turbo hatch.
Boy racers and enthusiasts can rejoice once again.
Having owned a BK, BL (currently) and BN myself, I can personally vouch for the quality of each variant from 2003 to 2018.
Whilst build quality might not be top of the list when purchasing a $30,000~ hatchback, it is surprising just how well built the Mazda 3 was and continues to be, up until this day.
Fuel economy has also seen a dramatic shift from around the 10L per 100km mark in the earlier models, to just under 6L per 100km in the newest, but with a definite increase in power, performance, handling and overall quality of driver enjoyment - not to mention the technology which genuinely competes with hatches from Europe which can be 2-3 times the price.
More impressive than that is the resale factor (which I will get into shortly).
Whilst most makes and models see a steep depreciation off the yard, the Mazda 3 seems to buck that trend by holding onto a large proportion of that value.
Add to this the ongoing maintenance costs being overall very low, you can’t really belittle the Mazda 3 in any way, unless you have a family of 7 and like to camp most weekends.
With this in mind, here is a breakdown of what you can expect to pay for a Mazda 3 looking at 2012, 2015 and 2018 along with brand new, based on current online prices.
How much does a used Mazda 3 cost?
All prices current as of December 2020 and based on information sourced online.
Low end - $7,000 will get you a 2.0-litre petrol Neo with around the 180,000km mark with none of the bells and whistles.
High end - $18,000 will get you a 2.5-litre SP25 in great condition with around the 70,000km mark on the clock
If you’re looking at an MPS, one of those will set you back somewhere in between $18,000 and $26,000 with somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 kilometres.
Low end - $11,000 will get you a 2.0-litre petrol Neo with a pretty high odometer and moderate to good condition overall - just be sure to check service history.
High end - $24,990 will get you a 2.5-litre SP25 with well under 100,000km and in great to immaculate condition overall.
Having said that, shop around because there are deals out there and the odd low kilometre option pops up in this price bracket from time to time.
Low end - $18,000 will get you a 2.0-litre stock standard, most likely in Neo trim. With relatively low kilometres. I searched and found ‘Touring’ with 24,000km on the clock with a complete (albeit brief) service history.
High end - $33,000 for a SP25 with under 10,000km in brand new condition and manufacturer warranty left (3 years in Australia - which is a bit of a rip off being that across the ditch they give you 5 years unlimited kilometres).
Brand New (BP):
Low End - $25,000 will get you a dealer demo. Which is cool, if you don’t mind buying the car that everyone test drove for 6 months and likely took to the limits on every given occasion.
High End - $46,000 will get you the top of the 2.5L ‘G25’ model, or for the same price, you can get the 2.0L X20 which is the hybrid offering.
Both great options and, at the same price point, it comes down to potential hybrid system issues, but better fuel economy - or - petrol engine only and slightly higher fuel bill
What are some common problems with Mazda 3's?
Like with all things automotive, there are some common issues to look out for.
But when it comes to Mazda 3, that list is quite small.
I have trawled the internet (having never had one issue with any Mazda I have owned since my first back in 2002) and here is what I can find from internet customer complaints:
BL (2009-2013) clutch failure: this was supposedly quite common in some parts of the world, not others. This makes me think areas of higher population density may have been as much to blame as the clutch.
BL (2009-2013) dashboard melt: Like above, it requires a certain amount of sunlight for this to occur. So I doubt this would be a problem for people in places where they don’t really have a hot summer or regular sunlight.
BM/BN (2013 - 2019) brake wear: Like my first point, I would suggest this could be very much country/region specific. Personally, I have never had this issue and my right foot is quite heavy, which means my left foot does require use frequently as well.
BM/BN (2013 - 2019) TPMS failure: Only a few models came with tyre pressure sensors, so I would suggest this wasn’t actually all that common.
According to the same research, I can see that the majority of the issues ever-present with any variant of the Mazda 3 appear to be interior (meaning they are unlikely mechanical), clutch and a distant third, transmission.
As for the years in question; 2010, 2014 and 2004 seem to be the most common for faults (in that order) - once again, the term common is used loosely because they appear to be faults that occur less regularly than a lot of models available on the market.
My humble opinion is, test drive one. Whether you are looking for new, newish or old, you can’t really go wrong with a Mazda 3.
Disclaimer: All pricing is based on information sourced from online resources. All prices are approximates, averages or estimates and are provided purely as examples only.
Average service costs are based on AutoGuru internal data.
James is a car blogger and runs Car Edition, his own auto news and review site. He has an extensive history of car ownership, having owned approximately 65 different cars, and has a genuine passion for all things automotive.
James has been surrounded by cars from a young age and was brought up in a car-mad household. He's well-experienced in driving, fixing and making good and bad car purchasing decisions.