When Mazda North America Operations scheduled me to be one of the first to test drive the all-new 2021 Mazda3 2.5 Turbo Hatchback, I was literally calling all my friends with excitement and clearing my weekend schedule. As far as looks go, it wasn't too much of a departure from what we've already seen with the naturally aspirated hatch; however, my turbocharged tester was white, which really accentuated the front air dam, roof spoiler and rear diffuser, which are all painted black. There's also the 18" black forged BBS wheels that come with the Premium Plus package that couldn't look any more at home on the hatchback. Looks aside, though, I, along with thousands of other enthusiasts have been patiently waiting for the return of a fun-to-drive turbocharged Mazda hatch, or so we thought
I hopped in the driver seat and right away I could again appreciate the modern day Mazda3 design and feel. The interior is minimalist and feels like more of a European premium vehicle, not the entry-level type stuff you might've remembered from the Mazdaspeed3 back in the day. And speaking of the Mazdaspeed3 (and I know what many of you are going to compare this to), the Mazda 2.5 Turbo Hatchback is absolutely not that, and it was more apparent once I put the gear selector into drive. The 2.5 Turbo utilizes a similar SkyActiv engine that's an option on the CX-5 and Mazda6. It also only comes in a six-speed automatic transmission. Yes, there are paddle shifters, but right away I was a taken off guard and disappointed, considering you get the option of a manual with the naturally aspirated base model.
Alas, I finally exit the driveway, get onto the first open street, and slam the gas pedal. Hmmm The acceleration doesn't have the "pow" I'd hoped for; however, the power delivery is as linear as it gets with the boosted engine happy in lower revs. Peak power is 227hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, which, don't get me wrong, is a sizable bump up from the 186hp and 186 lb-ft of the NA inline-four. You get an even bigger increase when filling up with 93-octane premium fuel to 250hp and 320 lb-ft; however, since I live in California, only 91-octane is offered.
I wanted to push the Mazda3 harder as it does have a well-tuned chassis and exceptional handling characteristics (for the turbo model, stiffer front dampers and new front knuckles were added to improve weight transfer and steering response); however back to the power delivery. While potent, it didn't make me feel like I was in a zippy, sporty hatch. Combined with the mandatory automatic (to maximize fuel economy), you'll continue to comprehend that this isn't the Mazdaspeed3 and it was never designed to be one.
From its sophisticated yet subdued styling cues (notice no large air vents or aggressive accents despite being a turbo model), premium feel and sound (the 12-speaker Bose system is one of the best I've listened to!), and purposeful powerband, this five-door hatchback caters more toward grown-ups and graduated enthusiasts. It lacks the edge to get your adrenaline pumping, but in exchange, you get a smooth, graceful, luxury-like machine.
The Mazda3 Turbo will receive praises from your office colleagues and your parents will undoubtedly approve, even some first dates might even be impressed; however, if it's the canyon carving, boost-happy hatchback that you thought you could perhaps slap a bolt-on turbo kit to make 400+hp, this Mazda3 2.5 Turbo is definitely not it. I'm personally on the fence Don't get me wrong, it's a fantastic first-class vehicle for $31-32K that includes all the options and standard features you could ever want, but maybe I just don't want to grow up yet, being a nerdy car guy that always had a soft spot for the original Mazdaspeed3.
THAT NEW CAR SMELL
2021 Mazda3 2.5 Turbo Hatchback
THE STICKER Starting from $31,845 MSRP ($34,695 as tested with the Premium Plus Package)
POWER 227hp, 310 lb-ft of torque on 87-octane regular fuel; 250hp, 320 lb-ft of torque on 93-octane premium fuel
ENGINE 2.5-liter Skyactiv-G turbocharged DOHC 16-valve inline-four engine
DRIVETRAIN six-speed Skyactiv-Drive automatic transmission; i-Activ all-wheel-drive
FOOTWORK & CHASSIS independent MacPherson strut front suspension, torsion beam axle rear
BRAKES 11.6" front, 10.43" rear rotors
WHEELS & TIRES 18x7" black alloy wheels; 215/45R18 tires
EXTERIOR auto on/off headlights, gloss black heated power side mirrors with turn signals, gloss black front grille, LED headlights with adaptive lighting, LED daytime running lights, power windows with one-touch up/down, rain-sensing wipers
INTERIOR 8-way driver power seat, active driving display, dual zone climate control, heated seats, leather shift knob and steering wheel with paddle shifters, power glass sliding moonroof, 7" digital gauge cluster, Bose Premium audio with 12 speakers, 8.8" center display
CURB WEIGHT 3,383 lbs
0-60MPH 5.9 seconds
1/4 MILE 14.5 seconds at 95.5mph
AT THE PUMP 23/31/26 mpg (city/hwy/comb)