The Mazda3 is the world’s best-selling Mazda and won the 2020 World Car Design of the Year.
The 2021 Mazda3 added a new 2.5-liter turbo engine mated with a Premium Plus package that easily morphs this compact sedan into Mazda’s Zoom Zoom mantra.
2021 Mazda3 2.5 Turbo w/Premium Plus AWD Review
Expending only 5.9 seconds to reach 60 mph, it’s a driver’s delight using steering wheel-mounted manual paddles sitting in a sophisticated cabin.
The Japanese-built Mazda3 is quicker than some German-made competitors, like BMW and Mercedes, and even adds 23 horses when using 93-octane fuel that shaves fractions of a second before reaching 60 mph.
Mazda3 is for those who eschew the current buying frenzy for SUVs and trucks and comes at a price several thousand dollars below today’s average vehicle sales price of $40,500.
We test drove the top of three trims, the SkyActiv-G 2.5-liter inline 4-cylinder turbo Premium Plus AWD sedan with one add-on cost – $595 for eye-catching Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint. All trims have option packages.
The ride was sports-car firm in sport drive mode using coil springs for the front strut and rear torsion beam suspension on 18-inch black alloy wheels that add to the vehicle’s distinctive and basically unchanged award-winning looks.
Handling was pleasantly responsive and confident around curves and twisty ramps, using the automatic transmission or manual paddles.
Often cited for its safety features, our test drive had the Mazda3 standard I-Activsense with industry cutting edge features.
Driver security includes a driver attention monitor to fight drowsy driving, Traffic Jam Assist to help under 40 mph creeping in congested traffic, LED highlights dimming automatically, 360-degree cameras to help avoid parking dings, and a sharp heads-up display. Unfortunately, it becomes invisible when wearing sunglasses.
Inside, the stylish black and white cabin trim oozes luxurious ambiance with soft door panel inserts, white perforated leather seats, heated steering wheel and heated power-adjustable front seats, BOSE 12-speaker audio and navigation with excellent voice recognition.
The 8.8-inch dashboard screen displays sharp graphics and necessary information. Information and features are easily found manipulating a center console twist knob.
Adequate cabin storage space is augmented with rear seats folded to create 13.5-cubic feet cargo space.
Rear seating is comfortable for two average-sized adults, slightly challenging for taller passengers.
Mazda3 earned top government and insurance industry safety ratings in crash tests. Visors fully extend and there is a compact spare tire.
At a Glance
LIKES: Power, looks, handling, cabin, safety, mileage, technology
DISLIKES: No complimentary maintenance, heads-up display with sunglasses, rear seating tight for taller adults
BOTTOM LINE: Mazda3 with 2.5-turbo engine adds to the sedan’s appeal for those seeking a sporty drive option
Fact File: 2021 Mazda3 2.5 Turbo w/Premium Plus AWD
2.5-liter, turbo SKYACTIV-G
227-hp at 5,000 rpm
310-ft-lbs at 2,000 rpm
6-speed automatic/manual paddles
23 mpg city/32 mpg hwy
27-gallon tank, regular
0-60 in 5.9 seconds
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Tom Crosby has written more than 1,000 automotive reviews and is a retired Vice President of Communications for AAA Carolinas. He has seen dramatic changes in the automotive industry over the past 25 years and ponders the advent of self-driving vehicles, electric-only vehicles, sophisticated in-car telematics, and the financial challenges facing automotive manufacturers in an increasingly congested worldwide market.