Mazda’s Mazda3 is recognized as one of the more sophisticated cars in the compact class due to its lively handling, polite ride, and high-class cabin. With the introduction of a 2.5 Turbo model for 2021, the Mazda3 becomes a contender in the performance arena as well.
The turbo engine delivers 250 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque, provided you ply it with 93-octane premium fuel. Premium isn’t required though. Regular 87-octane is the recommended fuel, and will give you 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. Nice punch either way.
The Mazda3 2.5 Turbo is available as a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback. Both versions have all-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode and paddle shifters. There are two trim levels, base and Premium Plus, for both forms.
Notable standard features on the well-equipped base Mazda3 2.5 Turbo include adaptive LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, leatherette upholstery, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar and memory, power moonroof, 7-inch digital gauge display, head-up display, 12-speaker Bose premium audio, and a Mazda Connect infotainment system with all the associated accouterments including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Standard safety equipment includes lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, and blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert.
With the $945 destination charge included, pricing starts at $30,845 for the sedan and $31,845 for the hatchback. Given the level of standard equipment and the Mazda3’s near-luxury quality, those are attractive prices.
My test car was a hatchback with the Premium Plus package, base priced at $34,695. Beyond the features found on the base model, it adds navigation, a helpful 360-degree view monitor, front and rear parking sensors (also helpful), leather seats, HomeLink, a black rear spoiler and an air dam.
On the safety and driver assistance fronts, the Premium Plus package includes traffic sign recognition, Smart City Brake Support (to help the driver avoid rear-ending another vehicle in heavy traffic), rear cross traffic alert with automatic braking, and Traffic Jam Assist (yet more help in heavy traffic).
The Mazda3 2.5 Turbo sedan’s exterior styling is a standout. By definition, a hatchback won’t be as sleek, a little broad in the beam, so to speak. But this one is still quite the looker. My tester’s Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint (a $595 upcharge) was immensely flattering, and when wet with rain it just shimmered.
Passenger space within the hatchback is nearly the same as the sedan’s, but cargo space is considerably more generous, making it the obvious choice for buyers who want more versatility: 20.1 cubic feet versus 13.2 cubic feet. With the rear seats folded, 47.1 cubic feet of cargo space is available in the hatchback.
The 8.8-inch infotainment system has a good-sized rotary control knob in the center console perfectly located for ease of use. Though the whole system is somewhat complex, the basics are simple, which is all I ask of an infotainment system. The control dial can be used for tuning, and alongside it is a smaller dial for volume control.
The extra vigor from the four-cylinder turbo engine is a great boost for the Mazda3’s reputation. Engineers didn’t go overboard, risking reductions in ride comfort, cabin quietness or fuel economy. EPA ratings for the hatchback are 23 mpg city, 31 mpg highway, and 26 mpg combined.
2021 MAZDA MAZDA3 2.5 TURBO
Base price, including destination charge: $34,695
Price as driven: $36,490
Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who lives in Snohomish County. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild, and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.