2021 Mazda Mazda3 2.5 Turbo Hatchback new car reviews

Photography by David S. Wallens

For many cars on the market, a new model year often brings minor changes, things like the addition of a proper volume knob or a recalibrated sensor of some sort.

That’s not the case for the 2021 Mazda3, however, as the big change for new model was the availability of a turbo.

Compared to the previous version, the Mazda3 Turbo is good for 250 horsepower and 310 lb.-ft. of torque (when filled up with 93 octane) over the 186 horsepower and 186 lb.-ft. of torque from naturally aspirated version–a healthy increase of 64 horses and 124 torques.

As well, all Turbo models come equipped from the factory with all-wheel drive.

So, does at that mean the Mazda3 Turbo is the spiritual successor to the Mazdaspeed3? You’ll have to read our driving impressions below to find out.

Other staff views

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

This one ticks so many of the boxes:

  • Turbo power.
  • All-wheel drive.
  • It looks cool.
  • It’s a hatchback.

And the interior feels upmarket–like, seriously upmarket. All of the interior surfaces feel luxurious: dash, console, door panels, seats, steering wheel. It doesn’t feel like the smallest car in someone’s lineup.

Things continue to feel upmarket once rolling along as it’s very quiet on the highway. Good power. Great manners. No torque steer. Not buzzy. Again, it feels way upmarket.

But that all comes at a price: Our stickered at $36,290 with a base MSRP of $33,750.

Price check: A new Subaru WRX starts at $27,495.

[2019 Subaru WRX Premium | New car review]

The Mazda3 makes power torque, you say. Yes, but this engine’s only available with a two-pedal setup.

Sigh.

But there’s a manual mode, right?

Yes, but I couldn’t get the thing to reach redline. And I tried. In fact, even the auto mode felt just lazy.

So, what do we have here? How about it’s a nicer, softer WRX. Or maybe it’s a sedate, commuter-friendly version of a Type R.

But it’s not a replacement for the old Mazdaspeed3. The turbo 3 just doesn’t have the snap–nor the manual box.

[2008 Mazdaspeed3 Project car]

Perhaps it takes advantage of the fact that we’re between Civic Si generations while that new Acura Integra isn’t here yet.

But, at the end of the day, would you pay about $34k for a Mazda3?

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Comments
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Buck Futter
Buck Futter SuperDork
11/8/21 12:00 p.m.

Dang. Was really hoping Mazda nailed this. Sounds like it needs a trans remap, and a reduction in price by several thousand dollars. 

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
11/8/21 12:17 p.m.

Mazda interiors HAVE come a very long way.  I've been nothing but impressed with them.  And the infotainment control apparatus is one of the least frustrating out there.

 

I didn't realize the WRX was so cheap, that may be why I see so many of them nowadays.

Kreb (Forum Supporter)
Kreb (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
11/8/21 12:25 p.m.

As good as the Mazda 3 looks and acts, it still says "economy car" aesthetically and historically. 

bobzilla
bobzilla MegaDork
11/8/21 12:54 p.m.

I know I'm likely in the minoriy but I think these look ridiculous. Long snout, odd shaped rear hach area and short windows. Reminds me of a high top tennis shoe, and not in a good way.

Robbie (Forum Supporter)
Robbie (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
11/8/21 1:08 p.m.
bobzilla said:

I know I'm likely in the minoriy but I think these look ridiculous. Long snout, odd shaped rear hach area and short windows. Reminds me of a high top tennis shoe, and not in a good way.

pump it up!

pres589 (djronnebaum)
pres589 (djronnebaum) UltimaDork
11/8/21 2:27 p.m.

I like the styling but that high beltline and huuuge c-pillar make this a hard no for me were I in the market for a car right now.  The price is also kind of baffling... is this much nicer than a brand new GTI?  Lack of a manual also a turn-off.  Also the last couple of Mazda's I've rented that have this radio/etc control setup seem pretty awful to me.  

Golf GTI or some flavor of new Civic over this, please.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
11/8/21 2:51 p.m.

In reply to pres589 (djronnebaum) :

GTI and Civic are missing three very important things, though: A driveshaft and two halfshafts.

You have to get a Golf R or a CRV to get those in a GTI or a Civic.

pres589 (djronnebaum)
pres589 (djronnebaum) UltimaDork
11/8/21 2:55 p.m.

This is probably not going to be a widely held opinion but I don't want AWD on my car.  Don't need the weight, the cost, added potential problem points, drag, etc.  I do not see this as a positive.

bobzilla
bobzilla MegaDork
11/8/21 3:44 p.m.
pres589 (djronnebaum) said:

This is probably not going to be a widely held opinion but I don't want AWD on my car.  Don't need the weight, the cost, added potential problem points, drag, etc.  I do not see this as a positive.

i'M with you on this. More maintenance, more potential for problems and if its so bad I need AWD to go somewhere I'm staying home.

calteg
calteg Dork
11/8/21 4:10 p.m.

In reply to bobzilla :

Agreed. I love Mazdas, and I love hatches, but I don't love this.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
11/8/21 4:39 p.m.

*shrug*

After spending the last few months driving a front wheel drive car that made approximately the same amount of torque from a similarly sized engine, "bad weather" included light rain.  Trying to accelerate uphill from a stop was infuriating. This was on Conti ECS.

The quarter turn of lock burnouts at 50mph were also interesting, but I was very happy to get the AWD working again.

 

 

solfly
solfly Dork
11/8/21 4:58 p.m.

It's hard to imagine a scenario where someone would pick this over a WRX/Civic R/GTi

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito UltimaDork
11/8/21 5:31 p.m.

I liked the turbo drivetrain in the Mazda 6. It would lay rubber from a stop at will and on the highway it was fun. But sporting it was not. It reminded me more of a early 2000's supercharged Buick Regal GS than anything else; an intermediate bruiser sedan that was a great highway bomber.

The new 3 is also not very sporting. Drove a N/A car with a stick, and walked away severely disappointed. Couldn't see out of it, handling wasn't nearly as good as my 2012 model, and it was glacially slow. The interior was amazing though, so I at least give it that. I can't see anyone with sporting intentions buying this over anything else in the segment. 

aircooled
aircooled MegaDork
11/8/21 6:02 p.m.

Having a Speed 3 in the house for a while and shopping this generation of hatchback (before the turbo) I can say, these cars have very bad rear visibility.  It's like they used the Camaro as an inspiration!

Someone may want one of these, but it will almost certainly not be a previous Speed 3 owner.

I guess we can wait for an electric Speed 3 land missile....

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/8/21 7:38 p.m.
bobzilla said:

I know I'm likely in the minoriy but I think these look ridiculous. Long snout, odd shaped rear hach area and short windows. Reminds me of a high top tennis shoe, and not in a good way.

I don't like them much, and we've actually owned a 3 (first year!) and currently a CX-9 and generlaly like Mazda styling. But these always look odd to me

Buck Futter
Buck Futter SuperDork
11/8/21 9:20 p.m.
bobzilla said:
pres589 (djronnebaum) said:

This is probably not going to be a widely held opinion but I don't want AWD on my car.  Don't need the weight, the cost, added potential problem points, drag, etc.  I do not see this as a positive.

i'M with you on this. More maintenance, more potential for problems and if its so bad I need AWD to go somewhere I'm staying home.

Uh huh. You must not live somewhere it snows 3ft and it stays around for 3mo. Plus, some of us LOOOVE our awd in snow. The shenanigans are great, and you feel like Colin McRae. 

spacecadet (Forum Supporter)
spacecadet (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
11/8/21 10:01 p.m.
irish44j (Forum Supporter) said:
bobzilla said:

I know I'm likely in the minoriy but I think these look ridiculous. Long snout, odd shaped rear hach area and short windows. Reminds me of a high top tennis shoe, and not in a good way.

I don't like them much, and we've actually owned a 3 (first year!) and currently a CX-9 and generlaly like Mazda styling. But these always look odd to me

1985 BMW 318 M50 Rally Car / 1988 Porsche 924S / 1989 Dodge Raider SWB V6 / 2005 Toyota Sequoia Tow Pig/ 2018 VW GTI SE DD

I adore the Kodo design language, and I'm a BIG BIG BIG fan of the brand having spent 3 and a half years moving their metal.. but I REALLY DISLIKE the Hatch.. the rear styling was a move backwards IMHO.

The sedan turbo 3 is available for $31.5k and it's worth every penny.

Who are these cars for? Someone who would be shopping for a A3 sedan/hatch... and Mazda can Coax them to the brand with a similar level of refinement, and overall better styling and much better value for money.

Compare this car against the civic and the civic hatch comes in a bit cheaper.. but not by much.. and it's way down on power and FWD only..

the Civic Si sedan and the WRX are on their own.. and Mazda has made it pretty clear.. they're not targeting those buyers.

back in 2016 Mazda pushed the following numbers..

the average household income of a Mazda buyer was around $90k.. and they wanted that number to be higher with who they're targeting..

I know some folks who shop for Civic Si's with that kind of income.. but most of my car friends making that kind of money seem to shop higher up the automotive food chain..

thatsnowinnebago
thatsnowinnebago GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
11/8/21 11:29 p.m.

Funny this article just popped up. My wife and I test drove a turbo Mazda3 sedan last night. We both liked it quite a bit. She's looking for a 6 but we figured why not try out the 3 while we're there. I liked the heads up display and the motor made nice sounds. 

pres589 (djronnebaum)
pres589 (djronnebaum) UltimaDork
11/9/21 3:58 a.m.

In reply to Buck Futter :

Yeah, oddly, I'm not driving around in snow up to the door handles.  Doesn't really interest me much.  The number of places where that happens and stays for very long is pretty limited in the USA so I doubt it's a concern for most people on this forum.

scrapin240
scrapin240
11/9/21 6:46 a.m.

The major issues outside of the lack of visibility from inside the cabin, which is interesting since it's a hatchback, is the rear beam suspension and major lack of aftermarket scene.

My GTI and now my R are leagues ahead of this. I wish they weren't as I love Mazda. Guess the wife's CX-9 will be the lone Mazda again

bobzilla
bobzilla MegaDork
11/9/21 7:11 a.m.

In reply to Buck Futter :

I live where if it snows 6" I'm snowed in until the v-plow gets there because the drifts ge 6' tall across the road abou 80' long. We see snow every year. We've had as much as 2' at a time. It's not worth going out and dealing with it to us.

dculberson
dculberson MegaDork
11/9/21 7:31 a.m.

I like the look of the car. When they first came out, I saw a soul red hatchback on the freeway and thought it looked amazing.

bobzilla
bobzilla MegaDork
11/9/21 7:37 a.m.

In reply to dculberson :

i like individual elements on them, just not as executed.

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
11/9/21 7:47 a.m.

Reading this was so exciting to start.....  and then so less satisfying to finish.  The autotragic may be fine for most but this car really deserves a 3 pedal option.

CyberEric
CyberEric Dork
11/9/21 7:49 a.m.

Yeah I'm a big fan of the looks, but I haven't driven one yet. I loved the last gen, but I keep hearing this gen isn't as sporty. The turbo motor was developed for the CX-9 and just happens to fit in the 3. That's about it.

This doesn't surprise me as Mazda moves to steal Audi buyers, as was touched on above. I don't like it, but I get it. Mazda is a very small company that needs to make moves to keep it afloat. I do hope they swing back to sport someday.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
11/9/21 7:55 a.m.

In reply to CyberEric :

If it has a similar price and performance as an Audi, I'll take the Audi for its superior paint and rust protection.

 

After a few years, you can fix mechanical, you can fix electronic, rust is a lot harder to fix.

dculberson
dculberson MegaDork
11/9/21 8:32 a.m.

I do find it amazing that we have a 260hp turbo AWD hatchback and the general concensus is .. meh. That shows how far we've come, power-wise, in the last 20 years.

bobzilla
bobzilla MegaDork
11/9/21 8:44 a.m.

In reply to dculberson :

Right? I mean, 10 years ago 250hp hatches were scarce. Now? Meh.

volvoclearinghouse
volvoclearinghouse PowerDork
11/9/21 9:59 a.m.

I'm glad I bought my '18 Mazda 3, and not the newest gen. The older model not only has better rearward visibility, but more cargo space in the hatch. It was also over 10k cheaper, and has a 6MT.  I'm probably in Mama's target demo, but the new 3 holds 0 interest to me. I specifically did not want a turbo, either, for a number of reasons. 

ProDarwin
ProDarwin MegaDork
11/9/21 10:02 a.m.
dculberson said:

I do find it amazing that we have a 260hp turbo AWD hatchback and the general concensus is .. meh. That shows how far we've come, power-wise, in the last 20 years.

I think its interesting that the slowest class in Autocross is ruled by 200hp turbo hatches.

pres589 (djronnebaum)
pres589 (djronnebaum) UltimaDork
11/9/21 10:34 a.m.

Me personally, I'm miles away from "meh" by the numbers.  My '88 626 Turbo made about 100 less HP and I think 100 less lb/ft of torque and it was a riot.  That's really where my "meh" comes from; this thing doesn't seem all that fun.  There's not real turbo lag, right?  There's no manual trans.  It seems like it would be a very competent car but not an interesting car to drive.  

I'm not sure if a GTI or whatever the upcoming Integra is going to be more entertaining thank this car but I can't image either would be less-than.  Something slightly rowdy is going to be more memorable.

fidelity101 (Forum Supporter)
fidelity101 (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
11/9/21 10:47 a.m.

Ughhh, even getting the non turbo version in manual is very limited now. only 1 or 2 trim levels offer it and good luck finding one. especially with leather

Tony Sestito
Tony Sestito UltimaDork
11/9/21 2:11 p.m.

In reply to fidelity101 (Forum Supporter) :

I'd honestly pass on it if you like anything remotely sporty. This isn't it. I tested one when car shopping last year, and it just wasn't fun to drive at all. Great place to hang out and sit, although you can't see anything beside or behind you thanks to the weird AMC Gremlin C-pillars, but that's about it. It sucks for diehard Mazda people, but it's just the way it is. As someone who has been singing the praises of Mazda for years, I'm just as disappointed as the rest of you.

I'd take a look at a Corolla hatch with a 6-speed if you are looking for something hatchback flavored, N/A, and manual. It's almost like Toyota copied the 2010-13 Mazda 3 and modernized it. I hear they are sorta fun to drive. They were on my list when shopping last year, but test driving the Kia Forte GT changed my plans.

And complaining about a 250hp turbo hatch... yeah, it's odd to think that it wouldn't be fun to drive, but I believe it. Kind of the same way a 305hp Dodge Avenger with the Pentastar is not fun to drive. It's not all about the power; it's about the whole cohesive experience.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
11/19/21 11:29 a.m.

Saw a hatch this morning and I got to thinkin', and eventually one of the things that popped up:

Engine doesn't reach redline.  Something about this sounds familiar, the ND tach was either too slow or something and not reading the true engine speed.

untchabl
untchabl Reader
11/19/21 12:30 p.m.

So far I'm really happy with my 21 N/A 3. It's an auto, base model which is exactly what I wanted for a DD. I've got a little over 3k miles on it so far and no real complaints so far. But I wasn't looking for a super sporty car and I honestly liked it better than the 21 Civic Sport I test drove.

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