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Owner Review: Is this car really the poor man's BMW? - My story of my 2016 Mazda 3 BM

Owner Review · Jan 6, 2021 06:22 PM

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Owner Review: Is this car really the poor man's BMW? - My story of my 2016 Mazda 3 BM 01

Basic information

2016 Mazda3 BM

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Reason why I bought this car

For daily driven use.

Car selection process

  • I had a budget of: RM130,000
  • Models that I have considered include: Honda Civic, 2nd Gen Mazda6 GH, Ford Mondeo Mk4. (Both the Mazda6 GH & Ford Mondeo were 2nd hand options)

I very much enjoy the driving process and desire a daily drive car that is engaging & enjoyable but easy to live with. I had strict parameters of choosing my first car, only wanting a car that is Naturally Aspirated (NA), a minimum of 2.0L capacity, and carries a conventional Torque Converter transmission (absolutely no CVT!). Was initially interested in the Ford Mondeo Mk4 and Mazda6 GH as 2nd hand options but a family member spoke some sense into me to get a brand new as first car to have a peace of mind in terms of reliability. Anyways, used Ford Mondeos were selling like hot cakes at the time and was securing a good unit was difficult. The Civic 1.5Turbo was torquey but the CVT was dreadful and doesn’t pull well into the higher engine speeds, plus the interior didn’t look & feel best in class. When I learned about the Mazda3, it ticked all the boxes on paper and one showroom visit was all it took to know this is made for me.

Owner Review: Is this car really the poor man's BMW? - My story of my 2016 Mazda 3 BM 01

Owner Review: Is this car really the poor man's BMW? - My story of my 2016 Mazda 3 BM 02

User experience

  • I have already done 135,000 km.

I can confidently say that this is not a car that is made for everybody. I think this is made for keen passionate drivers who focus on the essence of the car rather than fancy kits & features. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I do think this has elegant curves that will age gracefully and somewhat packs an aggressive expression at the front and rear. I guess Mazda took on a path of being artistic here and avoided the easy way out by making a car look simply fancy with fake vents and elaborate bumpers. Personally I think the interior was best in class, continental looking and contemporary despite its age. The material quality at the interior is a notch above its competitors too with well thought out soft touch materials, leather, and minimal usage of flimsy plastics at areas that are not too visible. The MazdaConnect infotainment system’s is just magical with its intuitiveness and crisp display for a car at this price point. Huge plus point for control buttons & knob at the center console (similar to BMW’s iDrive system) rather than using touch screen, as its way more ergonomic to use on the drive and somehow makes the interior look more sophisticated.

Owner Review: Is this car really the poor man's BMW? - My story of my 2016 Mazda 3 BM 03

But people buy Mazda for its driving experience, after all it’s the poor man’s BMW. And that’s exactly where this car shines the most. Mazda used the Jinba Ittai philosophy (which roughly means oneness between man & machine) in developing this generation of models. This is apparent firstly by the fact that the driver’s seating, steering & pedals are all aligned to be parallel & natural. This is a small detail but if you notice it you cannot forget it, and most cars don’t have this arrangement to be perfect. Thus the seating position feels completely natural and while driving the car feels like its an extension of the driver. On the move, its immediately noticeable that the transmission is not as smooth as other auto torque converter cars. This is because Mazda’s Skyactiv transmission uses a Direct Range Lock-Up Clutch to mimic the feel of driving a manual gearbox. This makes the drive very engaging and at lower gears you even feel the pullback sensation that is similar to manual cars when you leave the throttle. It feels slightly uncomfortable to have this sensation that appears jerk-like whilst stuck in traffic but I see it as a trade-off to an engaging drive. The Skyactiv 2.0 engine generates 160hp with 210NM torque, I don’t think it sprints incredibly quick off the line as its not a Turbo engine but higher speeds are attained easily. It feels most natural cruising between 130-150kmh but yours truly have pushed it to 215kmh when it was still new. The car seems to have a dual personality, it truly is gentle and comfortable when we go light on the throttle (suspension a bit stiff though) but it becomes a different animal when we go heavy on the right foot. Matching the NA engine with the torque converter gearbox provides an addictive linear acceleration and it doesn’t lose its breath till way beyond legal highway speeds. Its got good grip and despite having body roll, confidence is not lost easily to push it more on long sweeping corners. However, I am sure the full potential of the handling will come out after upgrading to aftermarket suspension. The ride on original suspension has good damping and does not feel unsettling on irregular roads but it is on a stiffer side, well balanced in my opinion. 

Owner Review: Is this car really the poor man's BMW? - My story of my 2016 Mazda 3 BM 04

Pros & Cons


  • Minimalist sophisticated looking interior with good quality, build, and adequate tech features. Very ergonomic too.
  • That 160 horse and 210 NM torque is well utilized and spread with the torque converted gearbox.
  • Overall reliability is good, 4 years old with no breakdowns and seems like a solidly built machine.
  • Reasonable maintenance cost, not much different than Honda & Toyota prices for service and wear/tear parts. I am sure being a CKD helped in this aspect.
  • Skyavtiv Frugal fuel consumption, the current average is 6.3L/100km with about 70% highway drive.


  • The infamous Mazda3’s lower arm bush issue. Changed it twice already yet the sound comes back. I am living with it now.
  • Though fun to drive, the direct lock-up range clutch does make the ride a bit uncomfortable in stop-go and traffic jams.
  • Though having a well thought out and relatively good quality interior, it’s a shame that there are some interior panels that rattles and irritates such as the rear panel plastic and side pillar covers. Cost cutting happened there?
  • Overall NVH is good and more refined than Civic, but noise intrusion is obvious and needs aftermarket insulation to rectify.
  • Tight interior especially the backseats. This car is definitely made for the driver more than for passengers.


Total Score: 4
Performance: 4
Quality & Features: 4
Space: 3
Ride Comfort: 3
Fuel Economy: 5
Price & Cost: 4


Firstly, the Mazda3 is not a car made for everybody. Keen drivers, rejoice. Though with good looks and brilliant ride & drive, it may not be perfect for a family due to the joke of a space at the rear and there may be more comfortable options. Secondly, Mazda is nailing it to have made a lovable machine yet with solid build and general reliability. If you are a lover of cars with genuine traits instead of fancy looks, this is it.

Owner Review: Is this car really the poor man's BMW? - My story of my 2016 Mazda 3 BM 05

Lastly, any interesting events?

Few months ago got into an accident when a huge tire piece from a truck blasted and hit my right side front end at high speed on the highway. Fortunately, my frame, wiring and engine components was not affected but front bumper, hood and headlights needed to be replaced with partial front repainting. The guys at Bermaz Body Works did an excellent job and there are no signs whatsoever of such repairs done. There was also once I accidentally drove into a small flooded section at KL, water was quite deep probably about the tire height but luckily water did not get into my engine and electrical parts, will talk to my insurance agent for such risk mitigation.



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Owner Review: Is this car really the poor man's BMW? - My story of my 2016 Mazda 3 BM 06

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Owner Review


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