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The Worst Mazda3 Model You Should Never Buy

Japanese automaker Mazda is known for its zippy, sporty, efficient, and relatively affordable cars. The Mazda3 is one of its flagship vehicles, offering best-selling fuel economy and performance. But nothing is ever perfect, even with the Mazda3.

The worst Mazda3 model year of them all

2018 Mazda3 5-Door is on display at the 110th Annual Chicago Auto Show
The Mazda3 | Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

After collecting owner-reported problems for all Mazda3 model years (2004-2010), CarComplaints.com helps show where the popular car has its issues. In fact, looking at Car Complaints’ model year comparison of the Mazda3, there’s one clear winner for the worst model year of them all. The 2010 Mazda3 receives substantially more complaints than any other model year – substantially more. The 2010 Mazda3 currently has 173 owner-reported complaints, with the next-closest number of complaints being the 2014 Mazda3 with 57 total complaints.

This model year doesn’t just receive the most complaints. The 2010 Mazda3 is also ranked by Car Complaints as the “Worst Model Year,” the year with the worst-ranked problem, and the model year with the most-reported problem.

The most common Mazda3 complaints

There are clear and distinct problems with the 2010 Mazda3 as seen by Car Complaints’ breakdown of the model year. Receiving more complaints than any other category, there are 65 owner-reported problems with the 2010 Mazda3’s clutch failing. A failed clutch is the most-reported problem, as well as the worst-rated problem of all model years. Car Complaints finds that this occurs at an average of 37,650 miles and costs an average of more than $1,200 to repair. It also receives a Severity Rating of 9.3 (out of 10).

But a bad clutch isn’t the only thing to worry about. The 2010 Mazda3 also has 55 complaints in the interior accessories category, ranked by Car Complaints as the “worst problem category” overall. Just for the 2010 model year alone, 28 owners report their dashboard melting and 17 report broken seat brackets. Car Complaints finds that for all model years, the “most common Mazda3 interior accessories problems cost $400 to fix and occur at 55,000 miles.” Other interior accessories problems related to the vehicle across various model years include infotainment system complications and leather seat deterioration issues.

According to Mazda Problems, some owners also complain about issues related to the transmission. Around 10 percent of owner-reported complaints fall in the transmission category, including problems with gears grinding or whining at an average of anywhere between 20,000-55,000 miles.

Is it a reliable investment?

Though the 2010 Mazda3 certainly receives a lot of complaints, the car is an overall impressive symbol of the reliability behind the Mazda brand. Most other model years receive minimal owner-reported complaints, with many of those complaints being less than severe. In fact, all model years from 2015 to current have received 25 or fewer complaints on CarComplaints.com.

Overall, Mazda produces dependable vehicles. RepairPal gives the Mazda3 (all model years) an overall, above-average reliability rating of four (out of five). Out of 36 compact car models, its reliability ranks it ninth-best. According to RepairPal, the sporty vehicle generally has “excellent ownership costs.”

Experts found that the average annual repair cost for Mazda3 owners is $433, nearly $100 less than the average for compact cars. Owners also typically bring their models in less frequently than other owners – around 0.3 times per year – with a lower probability of severe problems than with other compact cars.

Consumer Reports gives the 2010-2018 Mazda3 model years an impressive reliability rating of either four or five (out of five), while the newest 2019 and 2020 models receive a more surprising rating of three. Nearly every model year receives Consumer Reports’ seal of recommendation.