Mazda did a redesign of the little Mazda3 compact for the 2019 model year. That restyling included some fresh (and eye-catching) new looks and an interior revamp for a more upscale feel. This year, Mazda has replaced the base engine in the 3 and added a bigger displacement upgrade that also has a turbocharged option that really changes the game for compact cars.
The new engine in the Mazda3 Turbo (which can be had in either sedan or hatchback) is taken from others in Mazda’s lineup, including the CX-5 and CX-30 Turbo crossovers. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder outputs up to 250 horsepower thanks to that turbo. We say “up to” because Mazda rates the engine differently for different grades of gasoline. Pumping standard 87 octane will mean 227 horses while 93 will mean 250. Torque also changes commensurately from 310 to 320. The other 2.5L non-turbo options output 186 HP, for reference, while the 2.0L base engine outputs 155.
The Turbo model is just the start in the Mazda3’s evolution here. All-wheel drive is an option for this generation of the 3, when equipped with the 2.5L engine, and comes standard on the Turbo models.
There are now three trim levels for the 2021 Mazda3, though the Premium Plus package could also be viewed as a fourth trim point. The base trim is the Mazda3 2.0, which comes in front-wheel drive only and includes a six-speed automatic transmission along with a nice list of standard features like LED headlamps, alloy wheels, an 8.8-inch infotainment display with eight-speaker audio, and remote vehicle monitoring via the Mazda app. Not to mention the full suite of safety features like frontal crash mitigation, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, etc.
From there, the trims go upwards with the Mazda3 2.5 S, which adds the 2.5-liter engine and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (mysteriously missing from the base model). The Mazda3 2.5 Turbo upgrades the S with the turbocharged 2.5, adds all-wheel drive as standard, and ups the wheel size from 16 to 18 inches. The Premium Plus package takes the Turbo model and adds a huge number of accoutrements like a spoiler, navigation, leather upholstery, a 360-degree camera system, and more.
Pricing for the 2021 Mazda Mazda3 starts at $20,650 plus delivery. The Turbo model starts at $29,900 plus delivery and tops out at around $34,000. We drove the Mazda3 Turbo sedan at near that topmost price point.
Where the Mazda3 Turbo really shines is in its athleticism. It’s fast-paced, compact, and very road worthy. It’s not a Mazdaspeed 3, but it’s as close as one can get right now without combing used car lots and classifieds. Where the Mazda3 misses is in its back seat. Even kids are cramped in there. Until recently, that would have been the norm for most subcompact cars, but in today’s market, it’s now an exception. Most of the 3’s rivals like the Kia Forte and Toyota Corolla have more backseat room.
For those looking for fun daily driving and a solid little performer in both looks and good times, though, the 2021 Mazda Mazda3 Turbo is definitely on the short list of options.