What Is It?
The Mazda3 is Mazda’s sport compact offered in 4-door sedan and 5-door hatchback versions. Last year the big news for Mazda3 was the availability of a new, powerful Skyactiv-G 2.5 Turbo engine combined with the i-Activ all-wheel drive. The current 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. Recently we drove the Mazda3 2.5 Turbo AWD, and this review covers that car in detail.
Powerful Turbo Engine
The Mazda3 has always been a sporty, fun-to-drive car, but the addition of the 2.5-liter Turbo with i-Active all-wheel drive gives the compact sedan a significant performance boost. Mazda engineers originally developed the 2.5 Turbo for the larger CX-9 crossover to develop more low-end torque over peak high-rpm horsepower to improve everyday drivability. The engine has since been offered in CX-5 and Mazda6 before being fitted to the Mazda3, the smallest of the four models.
Premium Fuel Not Required
The Skyactiv-G 2.5 Turbo produces 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque with 93 octane gasoline, although premium fuel is not required. When running gas with an 89 octane rating, the Mazda3 2.5 Turbo makes 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 estimated fuel economy ratings are 23 mpg city / 32 mpg highway / 27 mpg combined.
Mazda provided the opportunity to test the new Mazda3 2.5 Turbo AWD sedan in the brand’s signature color of Soul Red Crystal Metallic. The car arrived with a black interior and a Premium Plus Package. Starting MSRP for the Mazda3 2.5 Turbo Sedan is $30,900, and with the Soul Red Crystal Metallic and Premium Plus package the MSRP as tested came in at $35,060 including a delivery, processing and handling fee of $1,015.
Premium Plus Package
The Premium Plus Package at a cost of $2,550 includes a gloss black rear lip spoiler, leather seats, a Mazda Navigation system with a three-year traffic and travel link trial, 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 is the latest iteration of Mazda’s design theme known as KODO, and the design closely follows the beautiful Kai Concept that Mazda debuted at the 2018 Tokyo Motor Show. With the new generation, Mazda chose to differentiate between the hatchback and sedan via distinctive looks, 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 n 8-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar, heated seats, a heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters, a leather-wrapped shift knob, dual-zone automatic climate control, active driving display and a power sliding glass sunroof. The standard seating material is leatherette with leather seats included in the Premium Plus Package.
A continuing frustration with Mazda products continues to be the infotainment system interface. 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 that begins at the top of the list, not the current station selected. This simple task becomes increasingly annoying for listeners who want to review what’s currently playing on multiple stations. With more time in the vehicle, frequent users could mitigate this annoyance by selecting favorites, although eliminating the extra step seems like a logical fix for increased ease of use.
Standard safety equipment for the 2022 Mazda3 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 zero to 90 mph.
Spirit of Miata
Mazda is best known for creating the two-seat Miata MX-5 roadster — the best-selling convertible of all time. For years the brand’s focus has been integrating as much of Miata’s fun-driving characteristics into its other models. Throughout four generations, the Mazda3 has lived up to that goal as a driver-focused, fun-driving car and this current model continues that path.
Mazda’s Hot Hatch
In the past Mazda offered a hot-hatch version of the Mazda3 hatchback called the MAZDASPEED3; the Mazda3 2.5 Turbo offers even more performance in both sedan and hatchback variants. 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 possesses a significant increase in low-end torque and i-Active all-wheel drive.
On the Road
Every Mazda3 we’ve driven has been a fun, engaging car that lives up to the spirit of Miata, and the new Mazda3 2.5 Turbo is the best Mazda3 yet. The additional torque can be felt immediately — during normal acceleration and everyday driving, little throttle input is needed in most situations. And torque is available at any speed — often with no need for the transmission to downshift unless aggressive acceleration is demanded.
Not surprisingly, spirited driving on winding back roads is where the Mazda3 2.5 Turbo AWD really shines. In sport mode the transmission holds the lower gear longer and the driver can also shift manually via paddle shifters. The chassis and steering feel responsive and balanced, but the all-wheel drive really becomes an advantage, delivering rear-wheel torque that maintains balance through corners. In Sport mode, G-Vectoring Control Plus automatically downshifts under braking and avoids unnecessary shifts in corners.
At its core a practical compact, the standard Mazda3 sedan is a sporty car and a lot of fun, but the new Skyactiv-G 2.5 Turbo combined with i-Activ all-wheel drive creates the best Mazda3 ever — and one of the hottest compact cars currently offered. While the styling of the Mazda3 2.5 Turbo Sedan is a bit more subtle than the hatchback and other competitors, it still delivers the same level of performance. The original MAZDASPEED3 was a great car, but the all-wheel drive and more low-end torque of the turbo addresses two main critiques and creates a better all-around car.
The Mazda3 2.5 Turbo offers drivers the best of both worlds with a practical, efficient compact for everyday driving while also being a car that an enthusiast can thoroughly enjoy. The powerful turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive move the Mazda3 to a new level that all drivers can appreciate.