2006 Mazda 3 Review

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Pros & Cons

  • Superbly refined suspension, steering and brakes, sharp styling inside and out, smooth engines, excellent build and materials quality, hatchback utility.
  • Ride might be a tad stiff for some, tight rear legroom, so-so fuel economy with 2.3-liter engine.
List Price
$2,700

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Edmunds' Expert Review

Entertaining yet sophisticated in demeanor, the 2006 Mazda 3 doesn't look, feel or drive like an economy car. If you're shopping for a small, inexpensive sedan or hatchback, this Mazda car should be at the top of your list.

Vehicle overview

Following in a long line of zippy compact cars from Mazda, the Mazda 3 replaced the Protege as the entry-level car in Mazda's lineup. It's available in both four-door sedan and five-door hatchback body styles. Mazda backs up the 3's sporty image with a pair of strong, refined engines. All i trims use a 150-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, while all s models use a 2.3-liter four-cylinder that bumps the horsepower number to 160 while offering significantly more torque.

Both engines are equipped with variable valve timing to improve response and efficiency. The Protege had a well-deserved reputation for superior ride and handling compared to most economy cars, and the Mazda 3 builds upon that tradition with the help of a few parts from the more expensive Mazda 6 midsize sedan. Spot-on chassis tuning results in quick turn-in, hardly any body roll and lots of grip on twisty blacktop. At the same time, the highway ride is smooth enough to please most commuters.

While most economy cars serve up generic interior designs with little or no concern for aesthetics, the 3's cabin has a cohesive layout that injects some style into the equation. From the individually recessed gauges to the symmetry of the center stack controls, the attention to detail is evident. Satellite steering wheel controls are a nice touch for a car in this price range, as is the tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. Build and materials quality is outstanding for this class. There's plenty of room for taller drivers to get comfortable up front, and the rear seats are acceptably spacious for a car in this class. With all the personality of its predecessors along with more powerful engines and a sharp new interior, the 2006 Mazda 3 is an economy car that puts the "zoom-zoom" back into driving.

2006 Mazda 3 models

The Mazda 3 is available as a sedan in i, i Touring, s, s Touring and s Grand Touring trims. The four-door hatchback model comes in s, s Touring and s Grand Touring trims. All i sedans have a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat and a CD stereo. The i Touring adds 16-inch wheels, cruise control, an upgraded stereo and power windows, mirrors and locks. Air conditioning is optional on i models. The s models come with all of the above, plus alloy wheels, a height-adjustable driver seat and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with satellite audio controls. The s Touring adds 17-inch alloys to the mix, while the top-line s Grand Touring provides heated leather seats, auto climate control, rain-sensing wipers and a trip computer. Options include an in-dash CD changer, satellite radio and a moonroof.

2006 Highlights

For 2006, the Mazda 3 benefits from the addition of variable valve timing to the 2.0-liter engine and the availability of a five-speed automatic transmission on models with the 2.3-liter engine. Additionally, the 2.3-liter engine is now PZEV-certified in California, Maine, Massachusetts, New York and Vermont. Models with air conditioning get a pollen filter and outside temperature display on the center console. ABS and variable-intermittent front wipers become part of the standard features list for all 2.3-liter models. Also, a couple of new Touring trims are added to the lineup.

Performance & mpg

The i sedans use a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine rated to produce 150 horsepower, while the s models use a 2.3-liter four-cylinder that bumps the horsepower number to 160. Both engines come standard with a five-speed manual transmission. A four-speed automatic transmission with an automanual mode is optional on i models, while s models upgrade to a five-speed automatic.

Safety

All Mazda 3 models come with four-wheel disc brakes. Antilock brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) are standard on s models and optional on i trims. Front-seat side-impact airbags and full-length side curtain airbags are optional on all models. The 3 earned four out of five stars in NHTSA frontal-impact crash tests and was named a "Best Pick" for its performance in the IIHS frontal-offset test. In side impacts, the Mazda earned just three stars from NHTSA and a "Poor" rating (the lowest) from the IIHS, but neither agency has yet to test a 3 with side airbags.

Driving

The 2006 Mazda 3 has refined road manners that will likely surprise shoppers expecting the typically flabby ride and handling of many economy cars. The Mazda car feels nimble and tightly controlled during cornering and its steering provides rewarding feedback. For everyday driving, both of the available engines are suitable, though the larger 2.3-liter offers stronger low- and midrange pull.

Interior

Unlike most economy cars, the Mazda 3 offers a distinctive and upscale interior design. The sharp-looking gauges are housed in individual binnacles, while beautifully choreographed textures, nicely damped controls and tight-fitting panels give the cabin a top-quality feel. There's enough room for taller drivers to get comfortable up front. The rear seats are also comfy and supportive, though legroom is a little tight for 6-footers. Sedans offer 11.4 cubic feet of trunk space; the hatchback offers 17.1 cubes behind its rear seat and 31 when it's folded.


Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 2006 Mazda 3.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

The little Mazda that could
Ray Guarino,04/02/2016
i 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 5M)
I'm leaving my original review below (followed by the stars) as I still believe and stand by everything I've written about this car in the past. Now, in 2020 with 101,000 miles on the clock I've changed the upper motor mount and had the rusted exhaust hanger rods replaced and the car has been trouble free as always. I'm a little remiss in saying that I recently committed to buying a Toyota FJ and will be selling the Mazda. Finding a buyer who wants a car with a 5 speed transmission is getting harder these days, but whoever scoops it up is going to get themselves one hellova great used car. The source of the PO171 lean code was found to be one of the plastic EVAP lines that's at the front of the engine. A new replacement couldn't be found, so a judicious application of sealant was applied to the outer sealing edge to prevent air from being ingested and the code hasn't returned in over a year. The engine is still running like new, with no oil consumption or other issues causing a loss of confidence in this fine powerplant. Two years ago I changed all of the cooling hoses and thermostat as a matter of routine maintenance, but to get at the PCV valve the plastic intake manifold needed to be removed since the valve is mounted to the engine block and can't be accessed any other way-I think that's a pretty poor design that came from the Ford camp. ***I'm not quite sure if I would have been as happy with a lower level of trim, but since my concern was having a dedicated onboard GPS system as opposed to an add-on unit I found myself having to purchase my Mazda 3 with the Grand Touring option package. I thought leather seats (heated) were a waste of money until I used them for a while, then i found the material quality and heat feature to be worth the cost. The upgraded Bose audio system is superb, out performing sound systems in many costlier cars I've been in. The four cylinder engine performs flawlessly and although it isn't the most powerful plant on the market it is adequate for the size of the Mazda 3, only being taxed when climbing long inclines. My car is equipped with the standard 5 speed manual transmission so I can't speak to how the 2.3L engine performs when backed by an automatic transmission. My only complaint about the powertrain is that the hydraulic clutch is too soft for my taste. Having other manual transmission cars with conventional and cable actuated clutches presents no problems for me, but after having owned my 3 since new in 2006 I STILL occasionally stall the car when coming off the clutch from a dead stop, making me feel like a newbie (which I certainly am not). Above all, the BEST feature of this car, and another one I thought would be insignificant, are the rain sensing windshield wipers. A friend had told me that this feature on his BMW seems to think faster than he does, actuating the wipers when a truck splashed him in traffic. I didn't quite believe this until it happened to me, and I'll be damned, those wipers really DO come on at high speed just as your brain tells you to hit the switch. Having this feature in an economy classed car is fantastic, and needless to say I've been spoiled now and want these wipers in every car I own from here on. I've driven 85,000 event free miles in my Mazda 3 with only oil changes, front struts and tire replacements in those miles. The front struts needed replacement around 50k along with the lower control arms, which I thought were worn out way too early. Shortly following those repairs the car needed rear brakes, and I changed the fine wire spark plugs at that time also because I feel weird letting them go to 100,000 miles. Recently the car needed lower control arms again, and something in the rear of the car is making a clunking noise over bumps that was traced to a worn sway bar mount. The car has developed a nasty habit of randomly setting a P0171 (lean fuel trim) code that I haven't been able to track down, but the car drives and performs well otherwise. Overall this car is a solid performer, handling and braking very nicely, and returning great gas mileage when driven on the highway. As with the other Asian cars in my household I'm dismayed to find the rubber products like engine mounts and suspension components wearing too quickly, but guess this is how money is saved in the long run by car companies. Buy a Mazda 3 and enjoy ease of parking, a decent hauling capacity, and the Zoom Zoom thrill of driving excitement while your money stays in your pocket as you avoid expensive repair costs.
Best Car Out There
gegpdx,07/03/2012
I bought my 2006 Mazda3 Grand Touring Hatchback new when it first came out in '05 and drove it for about 78,000 miles before a guy lost control of his car on a highway, hit the driver side of my car causing the airbags to deploy and spinning us into a ditch. Because of the high safety standards, we were all able to walk away from the accident with minor injuries, when looking at my car, we should have been on stretchers. My car saved our lives. I loved this car and will be buying a new one just as soon as I can find one. They are so great that no one wants to part with theirs. I recommend this car to everyone. Fun to drive, safe, and reliable.
Awesome Sedan, Great Value
pepsizen,01/25/2012
I have had this car for a year and a half now and I really like it a lot. It feels like I'm driving a sports car because of the pep and the great handling. It has 90k miles on it and in the time I've had it I haven't had to do anything other than regular maintenance. It is very reliable and I don't mind that it doesn't get great gas mileage (I average 25 - 28 mpg with a mix of city/highway) because it is so fun to drive. The sporty/luxury mix is perfect. In the snow and ice, one must be careful of the pep and be easy on the gas pedal when accelerating after stopping, but other than that, I've had no problems driving it in the snow.
Very impressed!!
David Bechtol,03/08/2016
i 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 5M)
This is my first Mazda that I have ever owned, and words cannot express how pleased I have been with it. I bought the car with 52,000 miles on it, and now have 180,000 miles. I have only had to put on one set of tires, 1 set of front rotors and 2 sets of front brake pads. Outside of that, just oil changes. This car has been very reliable in every aspect. I can honestly say that I don't have any complaints about it at all. I drive 120 miles round trip to work, and this car has been a joy. I avg 31-32 mpg with winter gas and 33-35 mpg with summer gas. I have been doing some early searching for my next car, and a newer Mazda 3 will definitely be on my list of vehicles to consider.

Features & Specs

See all Used 2006 Mazda 3 features & specs 

Safety

NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver4 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver3 / 5
    Passenger3 / 5
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    Rollover4 / 5
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Poor
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Marginal
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test
    Good

More about the 2006 Mazda 3

Used 2006 Mazda 3 Overview

The Used 2006 Mazda 3 is offered in the following submodels: 3 Hatchback, 3 Sedan. Available styles include i 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 5M), s 4dr Sedan (2.3L 4cyl 5M), s 4dr Hatchback (2.3L 4cyl 5M), i Touring 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 5M), s Touring 4dr Sedan (2.3L 4cyl 5M), s Touring 4dr Hatchback (2.3L 4cyl 5M), s Grand Touring 4dr Sedan (2.3L 4cyl 5M), and s Grand Touring 4dr Hatchback (2.3L 4cyl 5M).

What's a good price on a Used 2006 Mazda 3?

Price comparisons for Used 2006 Mazda 3 trim styles:

  • The Used 2006 Mazda 3 s is priced between $2,700 and$6,972 with odometer readings between 76836 and183680 miles.

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Which used 2006 Mazda 3s are available in my area?

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Can't find a used 2006 Mazda 3s you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Mazda 3 for sale - 10 great deals out of 23 listings starting at $12,903.

Find a used Mazda for sale - 6 great deals out of 22 listings starting at $7,640.

Find a used certified pre-owned Mazda 3 for sale - 3 great deals out of 7 listings starting at $8,797.

Find a used certified pre-owned Mazda for sale - 11 great deals out of 18 listings starting at $21,354.

Should I lease or buy a 2006 Mazda 3?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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