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Small and economical sedans and hatchbacks aren’t the miserable lumps of efficiency they once were. Near the top of the pack is Mazda’s smallest offering in the U.S., the four or five-door Mazda3. Upscale interiors, competent handling, and robust engines make Mazda’s compact a compelling choice for all. While it may have a slightly higher-than-average MSRP, the amenities included make it worthwhile.

Nevertheless, every vehicle has its issues, and the Mazda3 is no different. RepairPal pulled together thousands of consumer complaints spanning a decade and a half of the compact’s production. According to them, the following are the top three problems plaguing owners.

Problem #1: Constant airbag warning light illumination

Mazda3 Sedan and Hatchback | Mazda

Although it isn’t the most significant danger, Mazda3 owners assert the airbag warning light stays illuminated. Even when the passenger side seatbelt is buckled, the indicator remains on. The issue is germane to 2004-2009, 2011, and 2013 vehicles with at least 40,000 miles.

The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) first issued a recall on the 2004 model year Mazda3. They explain a crack in the “airbag crash zone sensor housing” may allow water inside, short-circuiting the system. Given the problem was recalled by the government agency, the repair is free for consumers.

Problem #2: Prematurely worn motor mounts

Mazda3 owners report vibrations and excessive noise from the front of their cars. Mechanics directed many to align the tires, replace wheels, and change the compact sedan’s shocks. However, problems still needed to be solved on 2005-2011, 2013, and 2015 Mazda3s, typically on those above 50,000 miles.

The issue lies in the car’s motor mounts, which wear prematurely. The NHTSA never issued a recall, and owners paid the bill. CarComplaints says one owner of a 2005 Mazda3 spent $400 at a dealership replacing the motor mounts.

Problem #3: Loose stabilizer bar linkages

Mazda3 Suspension | Mazda

Mazda3s with as little as 9,000 miles on the clock may give drivers a loud rattling noise from the car’s rear. RepairPal says issues occur on every model year Mazda3 from 2004 to 2015, except for the 2013 model year Mazda3. Yet, for the 2010-2012 vehicles, Mazda issued a technical service bulletin (TSB). Mazda also did the same with 2014-2016 models, all under warranty.

The TSB asserted that the rear stabilizer control link nut torque must be below the 31.8-44.8 pounds-feet threshold. If the linkage is excessively worn, it must be replaced to ensure driver safety. Fortunately, the repair is low-cost, around $100.  

Is the Mazda3 a reliable car?

Most Mazda3 model years between 2004 and the present don’t present serious issues. CarComplaints gives the 2004, 2005, and 2007 Mazda3 its “Seal of Pretty Good.” Only the 2006 model gets their coveted “Seal of Awesome.” However, the consumer complaint site does advise staying away from the 2010 Mazda3.

J.D. Power rates the 2023 Mazda3 in the middle of its pack of competition in terms of quality and reliability. Such is true of Mazda3s dating back to 2004. Comparable offerings from Honda, Toyota, and Kia typically score higher. Yet, the Mazda is rated higher than Volkswagen’s compact cars.


How Reliable Is the Mazda3?