2022 Mazda Mazda3 Sedan Turbo Premium Plus new car reviews

Photography Courtesy Mazda

On paper, the Mazda3's 250 horsepower and 320 lb.-ft. of torque have the potential to offer an experience that could rival the latest hot hatches from Honda, Hyundai and the like–but how well do those specs translate in reality?

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J.G. Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak
Production/Art Director

Boy, this one is frustrating. As I think I probably agonize over so many of my new car discussions, I never really want to find fault with a car for what it isn’t, but, as a former Mazdaspeed3 owner, I can’t help but think that the current 3 is just a huge missed opportunity.

Just look at the specs: All-wheel drive, 250 horsepower, 320 lb.-ft. of torque, and by all measures faster in a straight line than the 263-horsepower Speed3 I bought back in ’08. On paper, those sound like the specs of a modern 323GTX that would give the Subaru WRX a run for its money and could easily be juiced up a bit more to run in STI/Civic R/Veloster N territory.

[2008 Mazda Mazdaspeed3 | Project Car]

But what we get is just so…civilized.

It’s not that it’s bad. Quite the contrary, it’s quite a good, refined small sporty sedan. But, much like the punk rock kid from your high school who always wore the ratty Seven Seconds tour shirt but then shows up to the reunion in a Brooks Brothers suit and tries to get you to buy into his latest crypto scheme, the current 3 really kind of makes you want to scream “YOU USED TO BE COOL!”

And, fine, it’s still cool. But seeing your friend who used to throw elbows in a Corrosion of Conformity pit trying to join the local country club still feels weird. This Mazda3 is borrowing more inspiration from brands like BMW and Audi than from models like the SRT4 and Shelby GLH-S. The interior is really well laid out, with a driving position and wheel angle and size that begs for more aggressive chassis tuning. The engine is flexible and willing—it’s not surprising that it’s faster than the Speed3, as that car unleashed all its power in an overwhelming flood as soon as the boost hit—and provides good thrust throughout the rev range, with a swell rather than a fist made of frozen whisky when the boost peaks.

The transmission lets the engine down a bit, though. In each gear, acceleration is good, with the little bit of slack from the torque converter working well with the boost to provide smooth and controllable thrust. But the shifts between gears are too soft and don’t sync well with the paddles on the wheel in manual mode, giving you the sensation that the “manual” mode is more of a “strongly worded letter highly suggesting a shift” mode.

So, yeah, it’s generally a good and competent car and a particularly good value when you stack it up against mid-range sedans from the Germans, which it compares very favorably with. I just feel like if I found the exact right Dead Kennedys tape to pop into the cassette player—well, if it had one, so I guess we’ll have to rely on Bluetooth here—that it would unlock some sort of hidden sport mode that is clearly within the car’s capabilities, lay four patches of rubber, and woosh off into a sporty sunset.

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GTwannaB GRM+ Memberand Dork
6/6/22 9:34 p.m.

I snagged a Dead Kennedy's CD a few years ago, popped in the car to crank it up and regain some youth. I got a headache. Sometimes you can't go back. 

jwagner (Forum Supporter)
jwagner (Forum Supporter) Reader
6/7/22 8:35 p.m.
GTwannaB said:

I snagged a Dead Kennedy's CD a few years ago, popped in the car to crank it up and regain some youth. I got a headache. Sometimes you can't go back. 

I still can go back to the DKs, but not the new Mazda3.  JG has it right.  I've had three 3's and the new one doesn't do anything for me.  I'd recommend it to my older sister as something sophisticated and sedate.

It saddens me, I've been a Mazda fan for a couple of decades.

Error404 HalfDork
6/7/22 8:44 p.m.

I might not be in the best frame of mind but I had to reread that a couple times to square up the car with the words, I genuinely thought that was the 2022 version of the 6 sedan that the woman had until a couple years ago. Looks more like a 6 than a 3, to my eye, but I've learned from the Mach-eww thread that there is nothing in a name.

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