2004-2009 Mazda 3: problems, engine, fuel economy

Updated: July 1, 2016
2009 Mazda 3
2009 Mazda 3 sedan. Click for a larger photo

This fun-to-drive peppy compact is available as a sedan or hatchback. Mazda 3 has front-wheel drive and sport-tuned independent suspension at all four corners.

The 3 is comes with a five-speed manual and four- or five-speed automatic transmission. Rear brakes are discs only.
Inside, the Mazda 3 is exciting and comfortable. Front seats are supportive. Fit and finish is good. The steering tilts and telescopes. The glove box is big enough to hold a laptop computer. The available Bose audio system sounds great. Maintenance costs are reasonable. What are the common problems? What to look for in a used Mazda 3? Let's start with the engine.

Engines: Mazda 3 comes with the 2.0-liter "LF" or 2.3-liter "L3" 4-cylinder engine. Both are solid reliable DOHC engines. Both have a timing chain instead of a timing belt. With good maintenance you won't have too many problems with the engine.

Advertisement - Continue reading below

Fuel economy The EPA rates the 2006 Mazda 3 with a 2.0-liter engine and automatic transmission at 23/31 mpg (10.2/7.6 L/100 km) city/highway.

2009 Mazda 3 interior

2009 Mazda 3 sedan interior.

2009 Mazda 3 sedan

2009 Mazda 3 sedan.

2006 Mazda 3 engine

Mazda 3 engine

With this fuel consumption, the 2.0L Mazda 3 is expected to go up to 405 miles or 651 kilometers on one 14.5-gallon (55 liter) tank. The 2.3-liter Mazda 3 automatic gets 22/28 mpg (10.7/8.4 L/100 km).

Handling and ride: Thanks to its sporty suspension, Mazda 3 feels lively on twisty roads and solid on the highway. The ride is firm but compliant. The steering is precise and responsive; the turning radius is small. Even the base 2.0L engine has plenty of power. On the downside, some road and tire noise is noticeable.

Mechanical: Mazda 3 has an independent suspension and disc brakes on all four wheels. The steering rack is hydraulic, but the steering pump is driven by an electric motor. Anti-lock brakes are available. Dynamic stability control (DSC), traction control, side and side curtain airbags are available on late models.

Safety: In the NHTSA frontal crash tests, the 2004 Mazda 3 received four stars for the driver (no passenger score available). The 2005-2008 Mazda 3 scored four stars for both the driver and the front passenger. In the side-impact crash tests, the 2004-2008 models without side airbags received three stars for both the front and the rear seat. The models with side airbags were not tested.

Pros: Fun to drive, sporty styling, practical interior, peppy engine, tight turning radius, available Bose audio system, large glove box.

Cons: Road noise, models without side airbags scored poorly in side impact crash tests, no trunk release on the remote, some interior materials are not of top quality (e.g. carpet), early models were prone to rust.

Overall: Mazda 3 is a sporty compact car. It handles well and has a good reliable engine. Fuel economy is average for the class; if you want something more efficient, look for Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla. The Corolla is also more reliable.

Similar cars:

What to look for when buying a used Mazda 3: Avoid the car if there is blue smoke coming from the exhaust or if the engine is too noisy.


Rust around the rear wheel wells is common. A small rust spot can be repaired, but major rust should be avoided. See if the struts and shock absorbers look dry. A leaking strut or shock absorber needs to be replaced.

Check the air conditioner. During the test drive, see if the car drives straight and doesn't drift. See if the transmission shifts smoothly. Avoid the car if the "AT" or "Check Engine" light stays on, as some problems could be expensive to repair. A failed TCM (Transmission Control Module) can cause a transmission to jerk and the "AT" and "Check Engine" light to come on. The part is expensive.

Watch out for tire noise; if not rotated regularly, rear tires tend to wear unevenly, which may result in a noisy ride. If the engine vibration is felt with the shifter in Drive, the top engine mount is could be bad, although it's not very expensive.

Mazda 3 Common problems:
'Bouncy' ride: Rear shock absorbers can leak causing the rear end of the car to feel 'loose' and bouncy on bumps. Replacing rear shock absorbers is easy and not very expensive ($130-$170 per side). Front struts can leak too.

Mazda 3 leaking rear shock absorber
Leaking rear shock absorber
Mazda 3 leaking rear shock absorber
Top engine mount

Replacing front struts is a bit more expensive: $250-400 per side. The wheel alignment must be performed after a front strut is replaced.

Vibration in 'Drive': Vibration from the engine that is more noticeable at idle with the transmission in Drive could be caused by a bad top engine mount. This part is very common to fail. Replacing the top engine mount could cost $160-$230.

Car doesn't start in Park but starts in Neutral: This issue could be caused by rust at the lever where the shifter cable connects to the transmission (front lower part of the transmission). The repair is very simple and inexpensive. The connection point needs to be lubricated or the lever needs to be replaced.

Car won't start, the engine won't turn over: Check the battery first. If the battery is OK, a corroded connection at the starter control terminal could cause this condition. If the control wire connector is corroded, the terminal needs to be cleaned and the wire connector needs to be replaced.

Check Engine light with the codes P0131 / P2251 : The Technical Service Bulletin 01-015/10 recommends checking the front air/fuel ratio harness where it rubs against the bracket. This photo shows where. If the harness is damaged, the TSB recommends replacing the A/F sensor. The bracket needs to be bent away from the harness.

Mazda 3 Maintenance tips:
Some high-mileage Mazda 3 engines are known to consume oil. Check the oil level regularly. Change transmission fluid when it becomes dirty. If you don't know when transmission fluid was changed last time, you can check it on the dipstick (see the photo).

Mazda 3 transmission fluid dipstick
2004-2009 Mazda 3 dipstick location

If it looks red and clean, it's OK; if it's dark, it's better to change it. Mazda 3 has an independent rear suspension for better handling, however with this design, the rear tires wear more on the inside. If you want your tires to last longer, rotate them often. The owner's manual for 2007 Mazda 3 recommends rotating tires every 7,500 miles (12,000 km) for normal driving conditions. Tires are rotated front to back, on the same side. Without regular rotation, rear tires often become cupped, which will result in noisy ride.

Price for common maintenance items:
Oil change, tire rotation: $45-60. Transmission fluid flush: $150-200. Drive belt replacement: $120-160. Front brakes replacement (pads and rotors): $310-430. Wheel alignment: $90-130.

You might also be interested:

2007 Mazda 3 specifications (US model)

Overall length:   
4-door i:
4-door s:
5-door s:

Overall height:
Overall width:

177.4 in (4,505 mm)
177.6 in (4,510 mm)
176.8 in (4,490 mm)

57.7 in (1,465 mm)
69.1 in (1,755 mm)
103.9 in (2,640 mm)

2.0L engine

2.3L engine

DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder with VVT
148 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 135 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm

DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder with VVT
and balance shafts
156 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 150 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm

Estimated EPA Fuel Economy:

2.0L 4-cylinder, manual:

2.0L 4-cylinder, automatic:

2.3L 4-cylinder, manual:

2.3L 4-cylinder, automatic:

city: 24 mpg (9.8 L/100 km)
hwy: 32 mpg (7.4 L/100 km)

city: 23 mpg (10.2 L/100 km)
hwy: 31 mpg (7.6 L/100 km)

city: 22 mpg (10.7 L/100 km)
hwy: 30 mpg (7.8 L/100 km)

city: 22 mpg (10.7 L/100 km)
hwy: 29 mpg (8.1 L/100 km)

Recommended Fuel:

Regular unleaded

Fuel Tank Capacity:

14.5 US gallons (55 liters)

Engine oil capacity:
With oil filter replacement:
4.5 US qt. (4.3L)
By Samarins.com Staff