Is Mazda a Good First Car? (Mazda 2, Mazda 3, RX7, RX8, etc)

Mazda produces competitively-priced vehicles that are equally feature-rich, safe, and dependable.

Many Mazda models would make excellent cars for first-time owners.

is mazda a good first car

Generally: Are Mazdas Good First Cars?

The Mazda brand has been climbing the vehicle reliability rankings in recent years.

Consumer Reports ranked Mazda #2 out of 28 automotive brands in its 2021 report, behind only Lexus.

It is a remarkable achievement as it competes in the crowded car segments dominated by traditional Japanese giants – Toyota and Honda.

Mazdas’ traditional strengths have been their everyday practicality, class-leading interior refinements, yet maintaining a fun-to-drive nature, making them excellent first cars.

Mazda compact and midsize cars are smart choices for a teenager’s first car.

However, their older and higher-performing vehicles are less suitable.

Specific Mazda Models:

Some are better candidates for your first car than others.

#1 Is a Mazda 2 a Good First Car?

The Mazda 2 is a subcompact hatchback with a relatively short run in the American market.

It ceased production in 2014, so used ones are your only choice.

As with any subcompact, the Mazda 2 is a good first car and a reasonable choice for first-time shoppers on a small budget:

  • Perfect size for a city car – easy to maneuver, nimble little vehicle.
  • Cheap to buy – if you want minimal spending on your first daily driver, the Mazda 2 is as inexpensive as it gets.
  • Middling gas mileage – 30 mpg is average for a subcompact; typically not as high as compacts as the smaller engines need to work harder to haul the weight.
  • Average reliability – it’s not the most reliable car Mazda produced, but it’s relatively dependable for the money.
  • Moderate safety ratings – subcompacts typically do not perform as well as compact and midsize sedans.

Its discontinued status and mediocre fuel economy compared to rivals hinder the Mazda 2 from becoming a standout choice for a first car.

Consider the direct competitors to the Mazda 2 below.

Mazda 2 Compared with Similar Vehicles

There are several exciting alternatives to the Mazda 2 in the subcompact segment.

Let’s see how the Mazda 2 stacks up against the competition when shopping for your first car.

Table Guide:

  • Fuel Economy: mpg city/highway/combined (base model).
  • Reliability: /100; higher = fewer problems; 5yr avg. (JD Power).
  • Maintenance Costs: per year avg. (RepairPal).
  • Safety (IIHS): 1 (poor) to 4 (good); IIHS tests average.
  • Safety (NHTSA): 1 (poor) to 5 (safest); NHTSA overall.
  • Visibility: excellent, good, average, poor.
 Fuel Econ.ReliabilityMaint. CostsSafety (IIHS)Safety (NHTSA)Visibility
Mazda Mazda228/33/3079/100$4493.5/4NAExcellent
Ford Fiesta27/37/3171/100$5523.6/44/5Good
Honda Fit33/40/3679/100$3904.0/45/5Excellent
Toyota Yaris32/40/3580/100$3334.0/45/5Good
Mazda 2 comparison with similar vehicles.

The average annual maintenance cost for subcompact cars is $456.

So, all of them, except for the Fiesta, are relatively inexpensive to maintain.

If you want a subcompact with the highest gas mileage for a first car, opt for a used Toyota Yaris or Honda Fit.

Unfortunately, all these models are no longer in production.

The once-bustling segment is now barely alive.

#2 Is a Mazda 3 a Good First Car?

The Mazda 3 is the brand’s entrant in the compact car segment known for its premium-quality interior, capable handling, and stylish exterior.

The Mazda 3 is competitively-priced and feature-rich for the money and is an all-around excellent first car for teenagers:

  • Excellent fuel economy – 31 to 34 mpg combined is plenty thrifty for daily commutes without hurting your wallet.
  • Sporty handling – the driving dynamics make the daily driver an even sweater ride.
  • Strong reliability – there’s a reason why Mazda came in #2 only to the Lexus in Consumer Reports 2021 reliability ranking.
  • Topnotch safety – IIHS and NHTSA gave full marks in their crash tests.
  • Class-leading interior – not a crucial factor in choosing a first car, but it’s a bonus.
  • Stylish exterior – it doesn’t hurt that your first car isn’t a dull-looking sedan.
  • Affordable insurance – not the cheapest, though; approximately $400 a month for a 16-year-old.

It’s hard to get a better deal for the money than the Mazda 3.

The Mazda 3 First Car post contains more details, as well as the model years comparison and how it contends against compact car rivals.

#3 Is a Mazda 6 a Good First Car?

The Mazda 6 competes in the midsize car segment filled with giants like the Accord and Camry.

Fortunately for you, the Mazda 6 is class-competitive and, in some aspects, the leader.

The Mazda 6 is a smart choice for a first car with many plus points and few drawbacks:

  • Above-average fuel economy – it may not beat the Accord or Camry, but it’s fuel-thrifty enough for a midsize car.
  • Sharp handling – beats the competition with an entertaining drive behind the wheel.
  • Sleek design – not crucial for a first car, it’s probably the most attractive-looking in its class.
  • Superb reliability – Mazda made the runner-up spot in the 2021 Consumer Reports reliability ranking. It consistently achieves above-average reliability scores on JD Power.
  • Inexpensive maintenance – an average of $481 per year to repair and maintain. $526 is the average for midsize cars.
  • Solid safety ratings – NHTSA rated it 5 stars from 2014 model year onwards.
  • Quality interior – it maintains the upper hand over its competitors in this department.
  • Affordable insurance – a little over $400/month for a 16-year-old, and approx. $360/month for an 18-year-old.

If you want a sporty midsize sedan, you cannot go wrong with the Mazda 6 as your first car.

Mazda 6 Compared with Similar Vehicles

The Mazda 6 is a competitive choice as a first car, but can its rivals do better?

Table Guide:

  • Fuel Economy: mpg city/highway/combined (base model).
  • Reliability: /100; higher = fewer problems (JD Power).
  • Maintenance Costs: per year avg. (RepairPal).
  • Safety (IIHS): 1 (poor) to 4 (good); IIHS tests average.
  • Safety (NHTSA): 1 (poor) to 5 (safest); NHTSA overall.
  • Visibility: excellent, good, average, poor.
 Fuel Econ.ReliabilityMaint. CostsSafety (IIHS)Safety (NHTSA)Visibility
Mazda Mazda 626/35/2982/100$4814/45/5Good
Honda Accord30/38/3382/100$4004/45/5Excellent
Toyota Camry28/39/3282/100$3884/45/5Excellent
Hyundai Sonata28/38/3281/100$4584/45/5Good
Nissan Altima28/39/3282/100$4834/45/5Excellent
Mazda 6 comparison with similar vehicles.

The average yearly maintenance cost for midsize cars is $526.

The midsize models above are super-competitive, and any of them – the Mazda6, Accord, Camry, Sonata, and Altima – can make an excellent first car.

Your choice will be design-dependent.

#4 Is a Mazda CX-5 a Good First Car?

The CX-5 is a small crossover SUV with a distinctive style and an unmatchable price for the fun and features it delivers.

It may be pricey for a teenager’s first vehicle, but if your budget allows, the Mazda CX-5 is an excellent first car:

  • Sporty handling – great fun when you’re in the driver’s seat.
  • AWD option – all-wheel-drive gives you enhanced traction when conditions demand it. AWD is standard in 2022 CX-5 and newer.
  • Solidly reliable – the consistent 80/100 scores on JD Power underline its dependability.
  • Impeccable safety ratings – full marks in the IIHS and NHTSA crash tests.
  • Upscale interior – a well-appointed cabin that makes for a pleasant drive.
  • High seating position – an SUV advantage that works well for beginner drivers with excellent outward visibility.
  • Good visibility out the front – although less so towards the rearview. However, the blind spot and rear cross traffic warnings are handy standards.
  • Comfortable seats – the driver and passengers benefit from the comfort in long drives.
  • Quiet interior – excellent for short and long commutes.

The base FWD is plenty capable in warm climates and within city limits.

But the added expense of the AWD drivetrain is excellent for first-time owners living in regions with snow or inclement weather.

The optional turbo engine is an exciting performance boost but unnecessary for a first car.

See how the CX-5 compares with the other Mazda models towards the end of this post.

#5 Is a Mazda RX7 a Good First Car?

The RX7 roared into the US market in 1986 and ceased sales in 1995.

Your only available options will be used RX7s nearing three decades old (at least).

The Mazda RX7’s rear-wheel-drive and coupe form were exciting back in the day but are poor credentials for a teenager’s first car:

  • Rotary engine – difficult to find parts.
  • RWD drivetrain – hard to handle for beginners, especially in sketchy weather conditions.
  • Too powerful for new drivers – the more-than-250-hp from the twin-turbo engine is unnecessary for young drivers.
  • Expensive repair and maintenance bills – a decades-old vehicle will be costly to fix.
  • Impractical rear passenger seat space – too tight to give the RX7 any usefulness.
  • Limited trunk space – the lack of space for personal effects will be a pain when you need it.
  • Low gas mileage – 18mpg combined will leave you screaming each time gas prices rise.
  • Costly insurance – a young driver in an out-of-production powerful car will be prohibitively expensive to insure.

The RX8 is comparatively cheaper and less powerful, but is it anywhere near suitable as a first car?

Mazda RX7 Compared with Other Vehicles

The RX7 is an RWD car, so let’s see how another vehicle with a similar drivetrain stacks up or if it is any better for first-time owners?

Table Guide:

  • Fuel Economy: mpg city/highway/combined (base model – manual).
  • Safety (NHTSA): 1 (poor) to 5 (safest); NHTSA overall.
  • Visibility: excellent, good, average, poor.
 HorsepowerFuel Econ.Safety (NHTSA)Visibility
Mazda RX7255 hp15/23/18NAAverage
Mazda RX8232 hp16/22/184/5Average
Subaru BRZ205-228 hp21/29/245/5Good
Mazda RX7 comparison with other vehicles.

The horsepower output depends on the engine capacity, but the Subaru gives better gas mileage for a daily driver.

Still, they are RWD cars and not ideal for most young drivers.

#6 Is a Mazda RX8 a Good First Car?

The RX8 succeeded the RX7, although its less-than-a-decade production run for the American market ended in 2011.

It carries the same 1.3L two-rotor engine as the RX7 but is naturally aspirated.

The RX8 fairs marginally better than the RX7 but is still a near-average first car at best, considering the many similarities it shares with the latter:

  • Rotary engine – parts will be expensive and become increasingly difficult to find.
  • Middling acceleration – the 232-hp engine with the manual transmission accelerates zero to sixty in 7 seconds, which is a muted-enough delivery in performance terms for beginners. Still, it isn’t the best measure for a first car.
  • RWD drivetrain – not the ideal platform for beginner drivers. RWDs are difficult to handle in slippery conditions.
  • Expensive to repair and maintain – decade-old vehicles are costly to fix as parts are no longer in production.
  • Poor fuel economy – 18 mpg is a miserable figure by today’s standards.
  • Low seating position – the low dash gives reasonably good outward visibility, but you’re sitting fairly low in the RX8; not ideal for new drivers needing excellent visibility.
  • Improved practicality over the RX7 – comparatively bigger room for rear passengers; adequate for two adults.

The RX8’s low-level seat is not ideal for new drivers needing excellent visibility to drive safely.

Further, low-slung vehicles aren’t the most comfortable for daily driving.

It is a disadvantage in accidents, and the constant beams of light in your eyes from other vehicles’ headlights can be dangerous.

That said, the ride comfort in the RX8 is commendable and suitable for short trips around town.

You can get a used RX8 at a bargain price below $5,000.

But, be prepared to pay at the pump.

Which Mazda RX8 Year Is Best as First Cars?

The RX8 is far from ideal as a teenager’s first car, but let’s see if there’s a particular model year you should stay away from.

Table Guide:

  • Safety (NHTSA): 1 (poor) to 5 (safest); NHTSA overall.
  • Fuel Economy: mpg city/highway/combined (base model – manual).
  • Recalls: as provided by NHTSA.
Model YearSafety (NHTSA)Fuel Econ.Recalls
Mazda RX8 model years comparison.

Over its eight-year existence, the RX8 did not undergo any redesign, and its fuel economy is consistently abysmal for a daily driver.

If you have to spot a problematic year for the RX8, avoid the 2004 model.

Mazda RX8 Compared with Vehicles

As the RX8 is a rear-wheel-drive car, how would another sporty option with a similar RWD drivetrain compare as first cars?

Table Guide:

  • Fuel Economy: mpg city/highway/combined (base model).
  • Safety (NHTSA): 1 (poor) to 5 (safest); NHTSA overall.
  • Visibility: excellent, good, average, poor.
 HorsepowerFuel Econ.Safety (NHTSA)Visibility
Mazda RX8232 hp16/22/184/5Average
Mazda RX7255 hp15/23/18NAAverage
Subaru BRZ205-228 hp21/29/245/5Good
Mazda RX8 comparison with other vehicles.

The hp output will depend on the engine you choose, but overall, the BRZ makes a better daily driver due to its lower fuel consumption.

Still, opting for an FWD vehicle would suit most teenagers.

#7 Is a Mazda MX-5 Miata a Good First Car?

The Miata is a sports car but an entry-level one with manageable power.

While the RX7 and RX8 are not ideal as first cars – partly because they’re old – the Miata’s less than 200-horsepower engine is a better deal for the younger crowd.

The MX-5 Miata is an excellent first car for car enthusiasts with many positives.

The engine horsepower is nowhere near excessive, and it is fun to drive with plenty of up-to-date safety features.

Visit the Mazda Miata First Car post as it contains significantly greater detail.

Comparison: Best Mazda for a First Car

See the table below on how the various Mazda models compare in the areas that matter for a first vehicle.

Table Guide:

  • Safety (IIHS): 1 (poor) to 4 (good); IIHS tests average.
  • Safety (NHTSA): 1 (poor) to 5 (safest); NHTSA overall.
  • Visibility: excellent, good, average, poor.
  • Fuel Economy: mpg city/highway/combined (base model).
  • Reliability: /100; higher = fewer problems (JD Power).
  • Maintenance Costs: per year avg. (RepairPal).
Safety (IIHS)Safety (NHTSA)VisibilityFuel Econ.ReliabilityMaint. Costs
Mazda 23.5/4NAExcellent28/33/3079/100$449
Mazda 34/45/5Average28/36/3180/100$433
Mazda 64/45/5Good26/35/2982/100$481
MX-5 MiataNANAAverage26/34/29NA$429
Mazda models comparison.

If you want a Mazda SUV but one that’s cheaper than the CX-5, the Mazda CX-30 is the ideal first car for you.

The CX-30 has all the advantages of the CX-5 for first vehicles but is more affordable and slightly smaller.

Except for the discontinued Mazda 2 – which is an average choice – the Mazda 3, Mazda 6, CX-30, CX-5, and MX-5 Miata are worthwhile first cars, depending on your budget and the type of vehicle you prefer.

Alternative Makes to Mazda for a Teenager’s First Car

Based on the Mazda vehicles that make good first cars – notably the Mazda 2, Mazda 3, Mazda 6, and CX-5 – other choices are aplenty:

  1. Honda – Fit, Civic, Accord.
  2. Toyota – Yaris, Corolla, Camry.
  3. Hyundai – Elentra, Sonata.
  4. Kia – Forte.
  5. Nissan – Altima

Always do your research, inspect, and test drive before buying.