Mazda 3 (BL)
(2009 - 2013)

  • Excellent reputation for reliability and longevity
  • One of our “go to” choices in this category of car
  • Good range of standard equipment and features for the price
  • Retains value quite well
  • Diesel models can suffer from expensive turbo failures
  • Cabin, road and tyre noise can be excessive
  • Not the most affordable option in this category of car
  • SP25 can become thirsty if driven enthusiastically
Overview

By the time the second-generation Mazda 3 launched in Australia in April 2009, its predecessor had sold over two million examples global and sat as Mazda’s biggest-ever seller. So there’s little surprise that the new ‘BL’ model range didn’t break the existing and successful mould.

The gen-II ‘3’ was a larger yet generally a little more lightweight range, built from essentially a carryover ‘C1’ platform codeveloped with Ford, Mazda and Volvo and available in sedan or hatchback forms.

The staple engine was a 2.0-litre petrol four producing 108kW and 182Nm, part of the MZR family use widely in first half of the lifecycle. New was a larger 2.5-litre 122kW and 227Nm unit for the sporty SP25 – supplanting the old 2.3 SP23 – with a turbocharged 2.3 four good for the reboot of the manual-only performance MPS version. To round things out, a 2.2-litre 110kW/360Nm turbo-diesel was also offered.

Six-speed manual and five-speed autos (around $2k up) were offered across the mainline variants that included the entry Neo ($22k-$24k), the mid-range Maxx ($25k-$27k) and high-grade Maxx Sport ($27k-$29k). The SP25 would top the tree at $31k-$33k, just above the sedan-only manual Diesel ($30k), until the hatch-only MPS arrived later in 2009 (from $39k).

The Neo was basic but good value: air-con, power windows, a CD player and steel wheels, its two-airbag fit-out upgradable to six (later standard) with a $500 Safety Pack. The Maxx added niceties such as cruise control, 16-inch alloys, a six-CD stacker, while stepping up to Maxx Sport brought goodies such as touchscreen multimedia, satnav and Bluetooth.

Then Mazda got bullish with pricing, as low as $22k driveaway for Neo, and its Mazda 3 soon became the biggest selling car in Australia, sporadically, in 2011 and 2012.

The face-lifted Series II appeared in late 2011, with sharper pricing and introduction of Mazda’s confusing Skyactiv technical concept in the ($28k) SP20 Skyactiv, claiming diesel- or hybrid-like fuel economy (6.2L/100km claimed), paired to an optional six-speed automatic. The buck-banging Neo was just north of $20k (manual).

The BL offered few surprises in Series II, the range forging along with its penchant for strong value and an enticing blend of practicality, spaciousness (430L boot for sedan, 340L for the hatch) and a solid if workmanlike drive in regular variants, plus enough spice in SP25 and the feisty MPS to interest the gearheads and bring a nice halo to the nameplate.

It would remain on sale until the ‘Kodo’ design third-gen replacement arrived in 2013, complete with a bigger and broader push for Mazda’s still-vague Skyactiv application.

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What goes wrong

Exterior:

  • There are reports that the boot release can have some sporadic issues, stopping it from opening or closing properly. However it is a pretty easy fix.
  • Make sure any electrical equipment fitted works properly like the power windows as they can simply stop working. However, a bit of an inside trick, just hold the window button down for about 30 seconds. That should reset the car’s body computer which controls the windows.
  • There are reports that some owners are finding their headlights can fog up from inside.

Interior:

  • There are a few reports that certain cars are known to be affected by sticky dashboards when they are exposed to the the sun for an excessive time and they might even give off a chemical or plastic smell. This issue is mainly seen in cars built before the 2012 facelift.
  • There have also been a few reports of a rattling coming from the rear end of the car, which is most commonly down to a faulty or poorly installed brake light mounting for the top tail light on the hatchback models.

Mechanically:

  • In terms of reliability, the Mazda 3 is right up there. However, they’re not perfect.
  • The diesels engined 3’s most serious problem is turbo failure. They have a twin turbo set up and they are prone to failure and they cost thousands to replace.
  • They also have a few EGR and DPF complications like all diesels, but you can mitigate the risk of those issues by servicing it on time and with the right oil. This means every 10,000kms without fail and the right oil is a synthetic 5w30 that is suitable for DPF applications.
  • Fun fact, here in Australia, the diesels only represent around 5% of all the Mazda 3 sold.
  • The petrol engine versions are a far more reliable option with no one major problem that costs thousands.
  • The most common repair reported is replacing the front engine mount. It is a hydraulically cushioned mount that when it fails, you’ll feel a horrible harshness though the car especially at idle. It only costs a few hundred dollars to replace.
  • Some of the earlier examples had randomly self-destructing camshaft drive gears but this was far from common.
  • Other than that, it’s just the occasional coil pack or water pump which is common for all cars.
Model range, pricing & features

Neo

  • Price when new: $20,330 - $23,330
  • Price used: $4,500 - $20,500

Continuing with the BK model naming convention, the BL introduced the Neo as the base model of the Mazda3 range sporting a variety of comfort, safety and practical features.

The Neo model did lack critical safety features such as front side airbags and full-length curtain airbags (which were only available as part of an optional safety pack), thus the Neo only received a 4-star ANCAP safety rating. This was eventually upgraded to 5-stars in September 2011, when the BL Series II model fitted front side and full-length curtain airbags as standard on the model.

Several updates throughout the generation brought more standard features like: cruise control, steering mounted audio controls, bluetooth audio streaming and USB connectivity.

Standard Features:

15-inch steel wheels
Body coloured bumper bars
Body coloured side mirrors
Chrome exhaust tips
Hydraulic steering system
4-star ANCAP safety rating (tested 2009)
2 airbags: driver and front passenger airbags
3-point (lap sash) seatbelt for all occupants
Seat pretensioners and load limiters for for driver and front passenger
Child seat anchor points
Seatbelt reminder for driver and front passenger’s seat
Headrests for all occupants
Active head restraints for driver and front passenger
Anti-lock braking system (ABS)
Electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD)
Brake assist
Dynamic stability control (DSC)
Traction control
Electric side mirrors
Electric windows – front and rear with driver’s auto up/down function
Halogen headlights
Interior lights – dome lights, map lights, boot
Intermittent wipers
Rear intermittent wiper
Remote central locking
Engine immobiliser
Tachometer
Fuel gauge
Trip computer with: ambient temperature gauge, average fuel consumption, average speed
Power steering
Steering wheel – tilt (up/down) and telescopic (reach) adjust
Manual air conditioning
Pollen filter
Cloth upholstery
Manually adjustable driver’s and front passenger’s seat
6-speaker sound system
AM/FM radio
CD player
AUX (3.5mm) input
12V power outlet
Cup holders
Centre console storage
Glovebox
Vanity mirror for driver and front passenger
60:40 rear folding seats

April 2010 update:
Cruise control
Steering mounted audio controls

September 2011 (BL.II) update:
15-inch alloy wheels
5-star ANCAP safety rating (tested 2009)
6 airbags: driver and front passenger, front side impact and front curtain airbags,
Cruise control

September 2012 update:
Bluetooth audio streaming
USB connectivity

Maxx

  • Price when new: $23,755 - $26,240
  • Price used: $4,800 - $19,000

The Maxx was the next model up from the Neo in the BL Mazda3 range, and added alloy wheels, 6 airbags, cruise control, steering wheel audio controls and a 6-disc in-dash CD player. An April 2010 update also added front fog lamps, multi-functional leather wrapped steering wheel, leather handbrake and gear knob.

The Maxx model was discontinued in 2011 with the introduction of the BL Series II range, with the additional features available on the Maxx trickling down to the base model Neo.

In addition to the Neo:

15-inch alloy wheels
5-star ANCAP safety rating (tested 2009)
6 airbags: driver and front passenger, front side impact and front curtain airbags,
Cruise control
Steering wheel audio controls
6-disc in-dash CD player

April 2010 update:
Front fog lamps
Multi-functional leather sterring wheel
Leather gear knob and handbrake

Maxx Sport

  • Price when new: $24,490 - $28,845
  • Price used: $6,000 - $21,000

The Maxx Sport added additional sports and luxury features to the mid-tier Maxx, which included larger alloy wheels, side skirts, front fog lamps and satellite navigation.

An April 2010 update added dual-zone climate control, and with the Series II updates discontinuing the lower Maxx model, the Maxx Sport became effectively the mid-luxury model adding automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers and USB connectivity (from September 2012).

The Maxx Sport was fitted with a 6-disc in-dash CD player when launched, however the Series II update winded this back to a single CD unit.

In addition to the Maxx:

16-inch alloy wheels
Side skirts
Front fog lamps
Multi-functional leather sterring wheel
Leather gear knob and handbrake
4.1-inch infotainment screen
Bluetooth connectivity – phone and audio streaming
Satellite navigation

April 2010 update:
Dual-zone climate control

September 2011 (BL.II) update:
Automatic headlights
Rain sensing wipers
Single-disc CD player (from 6-disc in dash CD player)

September 2012 update:
USB connectivity

Diesel

  • Price when new: $27,360 - $29,715
  • Price used: $5,000 - $16,000

The Diesel model of the Mazda3 range added the 2.2 litre 4-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine, mated to a 5-speed manual transmission.

The Diesel model largely offered the same features as the Maxx Sport.

In addition to the Maxx:

16-inch alloy wheels
Side skirts
Front fog lamps
Multi-functional leather sterring wheel
Leather gear knob and handbrake
4.1-inch infotainment screen
Bluetooth connectivity – phone and audio streaming
Satellite navigation

April 2010 update:
Dual-zone climate control

September 2011 (BL.II) update:
Automatic headlights
Rain sensing wipers
Single-disc CD player (from 6-disc in dash CD player)

September 2012 update:
USB connectivity

SP20 SkyActiv

  • Price when new: $27,990
  • Price used: $6,500 - $19,000

The SP20 SkyActiv was introduced in September 2011 as part of the Series II update, and with it introduced a 2.0 litre 4-cylinder petrol engine, with slightly more power over the Neo and Maxx Sport, however the SP20 SkyActiv also featured “i-Stop”, a stop/start system for fuel saving.

Beyond this, the SP20 SkyActiv added a sports grille, larger brake package, blue cosmetic highlights both outside and inside and lumbar seat adjustment for the driver.

In addition to the Maxx Sport:
Sports grille
Larger brake package
“i-stop” function
Cosmetic highlights: blue-ringed headlight lenses, scuff plates
Blue instrument backlighting
Silver interior highlights
Manual lumbar support adjustment for driver

SP25

  • Price when new: $29,255 - $33,670
  • Price used: $6,000 - $22,000

The SP25 was the sports-orientated model of the Mazda3 range, sporting a larger 2.5 litre 4 cylinder engine, available with either a 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic.

In addition to the Maxx Sport (from Series II: SP20 SkyActiv) model, the SP25 added 17-inch alloy wheels, sports body kit, LED tail lamps and dual-zone climate control.

An electrically operated sunroof, auto headlights, rain sensing wipers, leather upholstery and a 10-speaker sound system was also made available from September 2011 (Series II update).

In addition to the Maxx Sport/SP20 SkyActiv (Series II):

17-inch alloy wheels
Sports body kit
LED tail lamps
Dual-zone climate control
Manual lumbar support adjustment for driver

September 2011 (BL.II) update:
Electrically operated sunroof
Automatic headlights
Rain sensing wipers
Leather upholstery
Single-disc CD player (from 6-disc in dash CD player)
10-speaker sound system

MPS

  • Price when new: $38,435 - $39,490
  • Price used: $9,500 - $31,000

The MPS was the hot-hatch variant of the Mazda3 range, featuring a 2.3 litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, mated to a 6-speed manual transmission.

Main feature highlights were the sports suspension and steering upgrades, larger brake package, limited slip differential, 18-inch alloy wheels, electric driver’s seat and driver’s seat memory.

The Series II update released in September 2011 brought bi-directional Xenon headlights, automatic headlights, rain sensing wipers, an electrochromatic rear view mirror and a 10-speaker 242-watt BOSE sound system.

In addition to the SP25:

Sports suspension and steering comprising of: wider stabiliser mounting spans, stronger cross-member tower, optimised cross-member bushings and revised centre member for rear suspension
Larger brake package
Limited slip differential
18-inch alloy wheels
Tinted windows
Proximity key
Front sports bucket seats
8-way electrically adjustable driver’s seat
Driver’s seat memory

September 2011 (BL.II) update:
Directional bi-xenon headlights
Automatic headlights
Rain-sensing wipers
Electrochromatic rear view mirror
10-speaker 242-watt BOSE sound system

September 2012 update:
Dark metallic alloy wheels
Shark-fin antenna
Black Mica paint finishes for door mirrors, rear lower bumper and part of rear spoiler
USB connectivity

MPS Luxury

  • Price when new: $41,915
  • Price used: $17,000 - $25,000

The MPS Luxury was an additional model essentially with a luxury pack over the MPS model, which added bi-directional Xenon headlights, automatic headlights, rain sensing wipers, an electrochromatic rear view mirror and a 10-speaker 242-watt BOSE sound system.

With these features being incorporated into the Series II MPS model, the MPS Luxury was discontinued in September 2011.

In addition to the MPS Luxury:

Directional bi-xenon headlights
Automatic headlights
Rain-sensing wipers
Electrochromatic rear view mirror
10-speaker 242-watt BOSE sound system

Should you buy it?

When it comes to this category of car, the Mazda 3 along with the Toyota Corolla, Hyundai i30 and Honda Civic are our go to picks.

But while the Mazda 3 certainly isn’t perfect, it offers an arguably more enjoyable driving experience over these other three and when they’re all so closely matched, if you enjoy driving, it’s this aspect that sets the Mazda 3 apart.

Our sweet spot of the range is the SP25. Yes it’s a little bit thirstier than the 2.0-litre Mazda 3’s but the extra power and torque just make for a more enjoyable experience.
But it is critical that it has an excellent service history, has been cared for like and has been given the tick of approval from a thorough pre purchase inspection.

If this all checks out, it’s a yes from us, the Mazda 3 is bloody great.

Warranty & servicing

Warranty:

3 years/100,000kms

Servicing:

6 months/10,000kms

Tech specs

Body style:

4-door sedan (Neo, Maxx, Maxx Sport, Diesel, SP20 SkyActiv, SP25)
5-door hatchback (Neo, Maxx, Maxx Sport, Diesel, SP20 SkyActiv, SP25, MPS, MPS Luxury)

Engines:

2.0 litre 4-cylinder petrol (Neo, Maxx, Maxx Sport, SP20 SkyActiv)
2.2 litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel (Diesel)
2.5 litre 4-cylinder petrol (SP25)
2.3 litre 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol (MPS, MPS Luxury)

Power:

108kW – 2.0 litre 4-cylinder petrol
113kW – 2.0 litre 4-cylinder petrol (SP20 SkyActiv)
110kW – 2.2 litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel
122kW – 2.5 litre 4-cylinder petrol
190kW – 2.3 litre 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol

Torque:

182Nm – 2.0 litre 4-cylinder petrol
194Nm – 2.0 litre 4-cylinder petrol (SP20 SkyActiv)
360Nm – 2.2 litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel
227Nm – 2.5 litre 4-cylinder petrol
380Nm – 2.3 litre 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol

Transmission & drivetrains:

6 speed manual, front-wheel drive (FWD) – Neo, Maxx, Maxx Sport, Diesel, SP25, MPS, MPS Sport
5 speed automatic, front-wheel drive (FWD) – Neo, Maxx, Maxx Sport, SP25
6 speed automatic, front wheel drive (FWD) – SP20 SkyActiv

Fuel consumption:

5.7 – 9.9L/100km

Length:

4580mm (sedan)
4460 – 4490mm (hatchback)

Width:

1755 – 1770mm

Height:

1460 – 1470mm

Kerb weight:

1265 – 1470kg

Disclaimer

Information correct as of August 12, 2022.

The advice provided on this website is general advice only. It has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on this advice, you should consider the appropriateness of the advice, having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs.

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