What Is It?
The Mazda3 is Mazda’s sport compact offered in 4-door sedan and 5-door hatchback versions. The redesigned fourth generation Mazda3 debuted as a 2019 model, adopting the latest evolution of Mazda’s KODO design and — for the first time — offering all-wheel drive for the sporty compact. And now Mazda’s hot hatch returns as the 2021 Mazda Mazda3 2.5 Turbo, with the optional 2.5-liter SYACTIV-G turbocharged engine combined with i-ACTIV AWD.
Powerful Turbo Engine
Mazda originally developed the SKYACTIV-G 2.5 engine for the larger CX-9 crossover, engineered for more low-end torque over peak high-rpm horsepower to improve everyday drivability. The engine has since been offered in the CX-5 compact SUV and Mazda6 midsize sedan before its exciting debut in the Mazda3 — the smallest of the four models.
Premium Not Required
The SKYACTIV-G 2.5 Turbo engine produces 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque when using 93 octane gasoline, but premium fuel is not required. With 89 octane gasoline, the Mazda3 2.5 Turbo is rated at 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque at 2000 rpm. The 2.5 Turbo gets combined with a 6-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode and Sport mode. The U.S. EPA fuel-economy ratings are 23 mpg city / 31 mpg highway / 26 mpg combined.
Mazda provided the opportunity to test a new Mazda3 2.5 Turbo hatchback in the automaker’s signature color of Soul Red Crystal Metallic, also equipped with a black interior and a Premium Plus Package. Starting MSRP is $33,750, and with an additional Appearance Package, stainless rear bumper guard and delivery fee, total MSRP is $36,490. Standard equipment includes a gloss black grille, gloss black mirrors, LED headlights with an adaptive front lighting system, LED daytime running lights and 18-inch black aluminum wheels.
Premium Plus Package
The Premium Plus Package for the 2021 Mazda Mazda3 2.5 Turbo adds a gloss black rear roof spoiler, front air dam, leather seats, navigation, parking sensors, rear cross-traffic braking, traffic jam assist, traffic-sign recognition, a 360-degree view monitor and auto-dimming mirrors.
The fourth-generation Mazda3 design embodies the latest iteration of Mazda’s design theme known as KODO, which evokes the beautiful lines of the Kai Concept that debuted at the 2018 Tokyo Motor Show. In this latest generation, Mazda chose to differentiate the looks of the hatchback and sedan, with the goal of a sporty, more aggressive design for the hatchback and a more elegant impression for the sedan.
The Mazda3 2.5 Turbo offers a sporty interior with top-level equipment including a 7-inch digital gauge cluster display, an 8.8-inch large center display, Bose Premium Audio and Mazda Connected Services. Standard equipment includes an 8-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar, heated seats, a heated steering wheel, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters, a leather-wrapped shift knob, dual-zone automatic climate control, active driving display, and a powered sliding glass sunroof. Standard seating is leatherette, with leather seats included in the Premium Plus Package.
The infotainment system found in Mazda products continues to be the source of an ongoing frustration. Listeners have no way to select the channel list and move from station to station. Each time a station is selected, the interface moves back to another screen, forcing an additional step to return to the channel list. This simple task becomes annoying for listeners who want to review what’s currently playing on multiple stations. With more time in the vehicle, owners could ultimately mitigate this annoyance by selecting station favorites, but this issue will continue for those who like to surf between many stations. Surely a software engineer could devise a solution.
Standard safety equipment for the 2021 Mazda3 2.5 Turbo includes driver attention alert, lane departure warning, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert, and Mazda Radar Cruise Control with stop and go that operates in the range from 0 to 90 mph.
Spirit of Miata
In the U.S. Mazda is best known for the 2-seat MX-5 Miata roadster — the best-selling convertible of all time. In keeping with the adventurous spirit of the little sports car, Mazda engineers have attempted to integrate as much fun-to-drive character of Miata into its other models. Throughout its four generations, the Mazda3 three has lived up to the goal as a driver-focused, engaging ride — and the 2021 Mazda3 2.5 Turbo continues that legacy.
Mazda’s Hot Hatch
In the past Mazda offered a hot version of the Mazda3 hatchback in the MAZDASPEED3, and that Mazda hot hatch returns within the Mazda3 2.5 Turbo. For the first two generations of Mazda3, the MAZDASPEED3 drew power from a 2.3-liter turbocharged engine producing 263 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, delivered to the front wheels through a 6-speed manual gearbox. The new Mazda3 2.5 Turbo has the advantage of a significant increase in low-end torque and i-ACTIV all-wheel drive.
When the current-generation Mazda3 debuted at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show, the rear-end design of the hatchback seemed a little awkward when compared with the previous model. However, seeing it finished in Soul Red Crystal Metallic with the black 2.5 Turbo wheels and the Appearance Package, the Mazda3 hatchback has decidedly good looks and the overall design is more balanced than first impressions gave.
On the Road
Every Mazda3 we have ever driven has been a fun, engaging car, and the new Mazda3 2.5 Turbo is the best Mazda3 yet. The additional torque is immediate — for normal acceleration and everyday driving, little throttle input is needed in most situations. And the torque is always available at any speed — often with no need for a transmission downshift unless aggressive acceleration is required.
Not surprisingly, the Mazda3 2.5 Turbo shines during spirited driving on twisty back roads. In Sport mode the transmission holds the lower gear longer; the driver can also shift manually with paddle shifters. The chassis and steering feel responsive and balanced, and the advantage provided by all-wheel drive is immediate, delivering torque to the rear wheels to maintain balance through corners. In Sport mode, G-Vectoring Control Plus automatically downshifts under braking and avoids unnecessary shifts in corners.
A practical, compact hatchback at its core, the 2021 Mazda Mazda3 2.5 Turbo is the best Mazda3 ever, and one of the best hot hatches as well. The original MAZDASPEED3 was a great car, but the addition of all-wheel drive and more low-end torque addresses two of the main critiques and creates a better all-around car for today’s sporty driver.
The 2021 Mazda Mazda3 2.5 Turbo truly allows drivers to experience the best of both worlds, offering a practical, efficient compact for everyday driving while also being a car that driving enthusiasts can thoroughly enjoy. The addition of the powerful turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive move the Mazda3 to an entirely new level of sporty compact car, making it a must-drive for car shoppers in that class.