Best & Worst Mazda 3 Years

I've taken a closer look at every Mazda 3 from 2004 until the latest models and categorized the best & worst years in this guide.

In this guide, I’ll break down all Mazda 3 generations, revealing Mazda 3’s best years to buy and the worst Mazda 3 years to avoid.

With a robust analysis backed by data from reputable automotive platforms such as NHTSA, JD Power, and Consumer Reports, I’ll provide detailed information about the most and least reliable Mazda 3 years across all generations.

Throughout the guide, you’ll uncover insights into the Mazda 3’s everyday problems, recalls, owner complaints, and resale values year by year.

Let’s dive right in.

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Table of ContentsShow

Mazda 3 Generations

The Mazda 3, initially introduced in 2003 as a 2004 model, quickly garnered admiration for its captivating design, robust performance, and compelling features, even in its entry-level variant.

Available in both sedan and hatchback forms, the first iteration of the Mazda 3 provided versatility to a broad spectrum of drivers.

Let’s provide a structured overview by exploring a table that encapsulates the generations of the Mazda 3 from 2004 to the present day.

GenerationsYears
1st generation (BK)2004-2009
2nd generation (BL)2010-2013
3rd generation (BM/BN)2014-2018
4th generation (BP)2019-Present

Understanding these stages is crucial as it will help you make a well-informed decision, especially considering that variations, upgrades, and improvements were integrated with each subsequent model year.

Mazda 3 Best, Neutral, and Worst Years

Our ranking and categorization of Mazda 3’s best, neutral, and worst years is comprehensive, considering an array of factors, including:

  • Owner-reported reliability (surveys)
  • Annual maintenance costs
  • Safety ratings
  • Consumer Reports reliability scores
  • Consumer Reports owner satisfaction scores
  • NHTSA recalls, investigations, and complaints
  • Edmunds owner ratings
  • JD Power owner ratings
  • Kelley’s Blue Book (KBB) owner ratings
  • VehicleHistory owner ratings
  • Cars.com owner ratings

The ensuing graph will provide a visual representation that combines all the ratings from the sources above.

Mazda 3 Car Smite Score Combined Overall Score

Following that, based on the collective data, a comprehensive table categorizes each Mazda 3 model year into ‘superlative,’ ‘neutral,’ and ‘worst’ Mazda 3 years.

GenerationBest YearsNeutral YearsWorst Years
1st generation (BK)2008
2009
20072004
2005
2006
2nd generation (BL)2012
2013
N/A2010
2011
3rd generation (BM/BN)2017
2018
20162014
2015
4th generation (BP)2021
2022
2023
20202019

When we refer to “Neutral Years,” we imply those model years that neither excelled remarkably nor faltered significantly across our examined metrics.

Some factors, like NHTSA recalls, adversely impact a car’s reliability score. A higher incidence of complaints, recalls, and safety-related investigations inherently indicate potential issues, diminishing reliability and consumer confidence.

Let’s dive into the best, neutral, and worst Mazda 3 model years.

Best & Worst Years for Mazda 3 1st Generation (2004-2009)

Mazda 3 (1st generation and 2004 model)
The 2004 Mazda 3

In 2003, Mazda introduced the world to the first generation of the Mazda 3, a compact car line that would soon garner acclaim for its blend of aesthetically pleasing design, engaging driving dynamics, and commendable fuel efficiency.

The post-facelift years of the generation – 2008 and 2009 are Mazda 3’s best years, while 2004, 2005, and 2006 are the Mazda 3 years to avoid in this generation.

The Best Years: 2008, 2009

With relatively higher Consumer Reports reliability and owner satisfaction scores, 2008 and 2009 are the best Mazda 3 years of the generation.

Specifically, the 2008 Mazda 3 introduced a “s” Sport trim, fitted with a 2.3L MZR L engine that delivered 156 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque.

This engine could be mated to either a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission, providing an average fuel economy of 17 city / 35 highway mpg.

Some owners cited issues with the tire pressure monitoring system and valve stem leaks, potentially resulting in a flat tire.

Despite this, the expanded features, including an advanced audio system and safety features like front-side and side-curtain airbags, made these model years stand out regarding driver satisfaction and overall reliability.

The Neutral Years: 2007

The 2007 Mazda 3 offered noteworthy features and powertrain options while battling persistent issues.

Available with both a 2.0L MZR LF-VD  engine, which produced 148 horsepower and 135 lb-ft of torque, and a 2.3L engine with 156 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque, the 2007 Mazda 3 offered commendable performance for a compact car.

Various trims like the “i” and “s” versions were introduced, presenting options like a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission, especially in the “i” trim.

However, a tangible issue with the 2007 Mazda 3 was tied to the power steering, where a notable recall was issued due to a risk of loss in the power steering assist.

The Worst Years: 2004, 2005, 2006

With the lowest ratings on VehicleHistory, the pre-facelift years of the generation – 2004 and 2005 – are undoubtedly the least reliable Mazda 3 years you should avoid.

The inception of the Mazda 3 in 2004 brought with it a suite of issues that lingered through to 2006, making these years less favorable among owners.

The 2004 Mazda 3 was notorious for problems related to the airbag system, which sometimes failed to deploy during collisions.

There were also significant engine issues, notably stalling and oil leakage from the engine filter housing, which posed a mechanical problem and a potential safety hazard.

The 2005 and 2006 Mazda 3 models did little to resolve these challenges, with the latter year being specifically problematic regarding power steering loss and suspension issues, which significantly hampered the driving experience.

See NHTSA 2004, 2005, 2006 Mazda 3 recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Mazda 3 2nd Generation (2010-2013)

Mazda 3 2nd generation and 2010 model
The 2010 Mazda 3

The second generation of the Mazda 3 (2010-2013) heralded an era where the automaker sought to refine the design and enhance this beloved compact car’s technological and mechanical aspects.

2012 and 2013 are undeniably the Mazda 3 years of the generation, whereas 2010 and 2011 are the Mazda 3 years that should be avoided due to melting dashboard issues.

The Best Years: 2012, 2013

With the introduction of SkyActiv technology, outstanding gas mileage, and good Consumer Reports reliability and owner satisfaction scores, 2012 and 2013 are Mazda 3’s best years in the second generation.

Mazda introduced a 2.0L SkyActiv-G engine, which provided 155 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque in these years.

It promised and delivered better fuel efficiency (up to 28 mpg city and 40 mpg highway) without compromising the driving dynamics the Mazda 3 was known for.

These years offered two transmissions: a 6-speed manual and a 6-speed automatic, both under the SkyActiv technology, ensuring responsive and fluid shifting.

Inside, both model years were available with an enhanced tech interface and a more intuitive navigation system, and in the 2013 model, a USB port became standard across all trims.

Improved material quality and introducing a 265-watt Bose Centerpoint surround-sound system in certain trims elevated the cabin experience.

Some owners reported the clutch failing prematurely and minor electrical glitches in the infotainment system.

The Worst Years: 2010, 2011

However, 2010 and 2011 are Mazda 3 years to avoid due to the common dashboard and tire inflation valve stem issues.

The 2010 Mazda 3 was notably plagued by a melting dashboard issue, whereby the dash material would degrade and develop a shiny, sticky residue, notably affecting visibility and overall driving experience.

This issue was persistent enough that it spurred a class-action lawsuit.

Additionally, a common issue with motor mounts and problematic seats, which were later recalled, plagued this model year.

In the 2011 Mazda 3, while maintaining a semblance of the design and feature introductions from 2010, some of the issues above lingered.

Mainly complaints about unreliable tire inflation valve stems, which fail and cause tire deflation, and the dashboard was still present in certain instances.

See NHTSA 2010, 2011 Mazda 3 recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Mazda 3 3rd Generation (2014-2018)

Mazda 3 3rd generation and 2014 model
The 2014 Mazda 3

Navigating through the journey of the Mazda 3, the third generation emerged with a notable evolution in design and technological advancements.

2017 and 2018 are Mazda 3’s some of the best and most reliable years ever, whereas 2014 and 2015 are the Mazda 3 years you should avoid in this generation.

The Best Years: 2017, 2018

What is the best year of used Mazda 3 to buy? With exceptional VehicleHistory, Cars.com, and Consumer Reports reliability and owner satisfaction scores, and substantially few owner complaints, 2017 and 2018 are the best Mazda 3 years of the generation.

The available powertrains during these years comprised the 2.0L and 2.5L SkyActiv-G petrol engines, with the latter delivering a zestier 184 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque, paired with either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission.

The 2.0L engine, with its 155 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque, offered commendable fuel efficiency, attaining up to 28 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway.

Incorporating the Smart City Brake Support system, designed to assist drivers in avoiding frontal collisions while driving at slow speeds, became standard.

Moreover, the G-Vectoring Control technology, designed to improve steering response through subtle engine torque adjustments, was introduced to offer a smoother ride.

A few glitches, such as reports of uncomfortable seats during long rides and some noise intrusion into the cabin, were noted by owners.

The Neutral Years: 2016

The 2016 Mazda 3 provides a balanced perspective, where commendations and criticisms are distributed relatively evenly.

While continuing to offer the same powertrains as the 2017 and 2018 models, it didn’t quite harness the same level of technological and safety refinements.

However, it did make strides in integrating more standard features across all trim levels, such as a rearview camera and a touchscreen interface.

Some recalls did impact this model year, with issues such as fuel leakages from a potentially defective Inlet Check Valve (ICV) and concerns about parking brake actuator corrosion.

The Worst Years: 2014, 2015

With relatively lower Edmunds and J.D. Power scores and owner-reported brake problems, 2014 and 2015 are the Mazda 3 years to avoid in the third generation.

Owners reported fuel leakage due to potential corrosion and several brake-related problems.

Recalls were issued for models equipped with the 2.5L engine and regenerative engine braking system, addressing concerns over unexpected engine stalling and potential power steering assist loss.

Noteworthy recalls, especially regarding the fuel tank’s ICV, which may fail and allow fuel to leak, parking brake actuators that may corrode, and braking issues, framed a narrative of mechanical concerns that potential buyers and owners needed to navigate.

See NHTSA 2014, 2015, 2016 Mazda 3 recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Mazda 3 4th Generation (2019-Present)

Mazda 3 4th generation and 2019 model
The 2019 Mazda 3

Embarking on a new era, the fourth generation of the Mazda 3 took significant strides toward luxury with a more premium aesthetic.

Only 2019 is the Mazda 3 year you should avoid in this generation, whereas 2021, 2022, and 2023 are the best and most reliable Mazda 3 years of the generation.

The Best Years: 2021, 2022, 2023

2021, 2022, and 2023 are the top years for Mazda 3 with robust performance, aesthetically pleasing design, and an enhanced suite of technology and safety features

The powertrain options have expanded in these years, offering the standard 2.0L 4-cylinder engine, a 2.5L Skyactiv-G PY-VPS 4-cylinder, and the introduction of the 2.5L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, which provides a lively 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque, while mated with a 6-speed automatic transmission.

The average fuel efficiency was up to 28 city / 37 highway mpg.

The i-Activsense safety suite offered many driver-assistance features, including adaptive cruise control, automated emergency braking, and lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist.

The 2022 Mazda3 was tested by the IIHS and received a Top Safety Pick+ award:

However, even these peak years were not devoid of challenges. Some owners reported issues with excessive oil consumption in the 2021 Mazda 3.

The Neutral Years: 2020

The 2020 Mazda 3, while showcasing a continued adherence to the brand’s commitment toward performance and aesthetic sophistication, landed in a somewhat neutral spot in the automotive landscape.

This model continued to proffer the 2.5L 4-cylinder engine, offering ample performance and fuel efficiency, yet was not without its issues.

Recalls were notably prevalent in this model year, with one on the front brake caliper bolts that may loosen and fall off and another addressing intermittent activation of emergency brakes.

The Worst Years: 2019

With the lowest Consumer Reports reliability and owner satisfaction scores and many NHTSA recalls, 2019 is undoubtedly the Mazda 3 year that is wise to avoid.

Consumers reported concerns ranging from issues with the power train to braking system malfunctions and even problems with the airbag and seatbelt indicators.

A series of recalls marked this year, tackling issues like a software error potentially causing the engine to stall, unexpected activations of the emergency braking system, and problems with rearview mirrors and wheel lug nuts, which could loosen and fall off.

Though the vehicle was not devoid of its merits, offering commendable driving dynamics and a sleek design, the multitude of concerns and recalls rendered it a notably challenging year for the model.

See NHTSA 2019, 2020 Mazda 3 recalls and complaints.

Mazda 3 Average Resale Values

Explore the upcoming graph that meticulously showcases the evolution of Mazda 3’s average resale values.

Mazda 3 Average List Price

Conclusion

Now that we’ve gone through the Mazda 3’s journey, we’ve uncovered varied experiences across its generations, pinpointing Mazda 3’s best years. It’s clear that 2013, 2017, 2018, and 2021-2023 models are the best years due to their balanced performance and reliability.

Which factor most influences your decision when choosing a model year: reliability, resale value, or technological advancements?

Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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Jonathan Eckert

Jonathan is an ASE-certified mechanic with over 22 years of hands-on experience in the automotive industry. His expertise spans a wide range of vehicles, but he specializes in diagnosing and repairing Japanese cars. His previous workplace highly commended his meticulous attention to detail, and that's exaclty what he uses at Car Smite to craft the best guides for each purpose.