The fourth-generation Mazda3 arrived in 2019 featuring an improved look based on Mazda’s bold “KODO” design language. At a glance, the 2021 Mazda3 2.5 Turbo Hatchback looks like a successor to the old Mazdaspeed 3. But look deeper, and it becomes obvious this is a very different machine, it packs performance, but it delivers it in a more mature and polished way. With the redesign, the new Mazda3 Hatchback has matured into one of the best-looking mass-market cars sold in America.
Mazda‘s new 2.5-liter version of the Skyactiv-G turbo engine outputs 250hp at 5,000rpm and up to 320 lb-ft of torque at 2,500rpm. This is a big improvement over the 186 hp and 186 lb-ft you get from the standard naturally aspirated 2.5-liter. This means it will do 0 to 60 in just 5.6 seconds and continue on to a top speed of 134 mph. This new turbo engine is available in the sedan or the hatchback and is paired exclusively with a six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. Neither front-wheel-drive nor the manual gearbox is offered with the turbo. Power delivery off of the line is linear and satisfyingly smooth whether you’re in a hurry or taking things easy. The engine note is nice and deep under wide-open throttle, though the speakers play a little part in enhancing what you hear.
While this is a powerful hatchback, it isn’t a competitor to the Volkswagen GTI or Hyundai Veloster N. Mazda wants this to be more of an entry-luxury model, perhaps a more affordable alternative to the likes of the Audi A3 or Mercedes A-class. The new turbo engine is tuned for low-end and midrange torque, of which there is plenty. The newfound power makes this a much nicer car to live with day-to-day, with an on tap supply of power to close a gap in traffic or make a quick merge on the highway. To counter the added weight in the car Mazda increased the front spring rate by 15 percent, stiffened the dampers and strengthened its steering arms.
It also gets some updates to G-Vectoring Control, the system that reduces engine torque in corners to help shift load to the front tires. The goal of the system is to mimic the way a driver would breathe off the throttle mid-corner to adjust balance, and in the Turbo, it’s set up for a slightly more aggressive forward weight shift. The steering and pedals are perfectly weighted, set up for smooth driving. It’s clear the 3 was developed by enthusiasts who care about the nuances that make a car great.
The exterior styling is very appealing and includes a new front splitter and rooftop spoiler. This is the kind of vehicle that looks great but doesn’t want to show off. This means 18-inch BBS forged black-aluminum wheels, gloss-black grille and power mirrors, LED headlamps and daytime running lights, rain-sensing windshield wipers and more.
The interior is really quite something. The red-leather interior of our loaded Premium Plus loaner (price $34,695) is beautiful, with quality materials throughout and a clever minimalist design. The driver is treated to a fantastic 8-way power-adjustable leather seat with a heated seating with lumbar support and memory function. The interior has chrome finishes, a glass moonroof, several USB ports and the Mazda Connect infotainment system is compatible with Apple CarPlay / Android Auto and pumped out through a Bose sound system. However the rear passenger area is a little tight, nevertheless this is pretty impressive for a list price of just under $35,000.
The Mazda3 Hatchback 2.5 Turbo is also one of the safest hatchbacks out there, especially when you add in optional features such as a 360-degree view camera, traffic sign recognition, front and rear parking sensors, rear cross-traffic braking and smart city brake support. The Mazda3 even earned the Top Safety Pick+ award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Another feature we enjoyed was Traffic Jam Assist which did most of the steering below 40 mph.
The 2021 Mazda3 Turbo is a convincing competitor to the entry-level German luxury makes like the Audi A3, Mercedes-Benz A-Class, and BMW 2 Series, all of which also feature turbos. Although the 2021 Mazda3 turbo may not be the car enthusiasts expected, it is packed with luxuries that might convince you otherwise.