GETTING ITS ZOOM, ZOOM BACK: 2021 MAZDA 3 2.5t AWD
For the last decade Mazda has gone through an interesting phase being that their slogans have been “Zoom, Zoom” and “Feel Alive”. We might beg to differ considering some of their previous models had us wishing for more oomph, but, while not having much go in its get-a-long, Mazda always did have a way of connecting the driver to the road. However, time is evolving and some people don’t always desire the fuel saving ways, some like to put their foot down and go… Mazda has listened…
Giving the Mazda 3 the same 2.5-liter turbocharged engine that is featured in the CX-9 and the mid-size Mazda 6 sedan gives it an element of surprise and possibly a new class of compact cars. Where some of the Mazda’s sportier competitors shy just north of 200-horsepower, the 3-Turbo, in both hatchback and sedan form sees the shining light of 250-horsepower from its spruced up engine.
Avoiding the idea of this becoming the next generation Mazdaspeed 3, there is much more sophistication behind the wheel than what was once driven by someone that greets their date with two honks and a burnout. The Mazda 3-Turbo isn’t flashy or gaudy with huge spoilers, fat rims or even a loud exhaust that would attract any pubescent toddler in the midnight hours. Being much more subtle the 3-Turbo comes with 18-inch wheels, slightly larger exhaust tip and a turbo badge to keep from looking too ordinary. The Hatchback alternative does come with an optional lower body Aero Kit in case one feels the need for a little bit of attention.
Naturally Mazda had to do things the odd way with this turbo. With the sedan, the only way to move the wheels is through a six-speed automatic brought over from the Mazda 6 and CX-9 turbos. But should one desire the crisp sensation of shifting for themselves with a third pedal, then the hatchback has, well, your back. Going with the automatic is where the Mazda 3 loses its sense of wild possibilities. When left to its own devices, the automatic is, okay… pushing just north of 5.5-seconds to 60-mph makes it a quick goose, but the transmission ends up being stuck in parental guidance mode that holds back on the hooligan inside that is begging to be unleashed. And dare we opt to pop it into manual mode to find the steering wheel paddle shifters are as responsive as a tired llama.
Seeing that the Mazda 3-Turbo’s starting price is north of the 30k mark makes it much more expensive than its competition on the market. Shying away from ordinary however, it drives as much, if not more nicer than some of the larger mid-size similarly priced sedans out there. There is a unique way the 3 ushers down the road that captivates smooth composure. Its standard all-wheel drive system keeps most of its power and torque in line with linear application. Considering the 3-Turbo is still a compact sedan with an ultimate goal to provide comfort has the tendency to give the oooohhh what’s about to happen next feeling when we push it a little too aggressively.
Outfitted like an upscale high-rise apartment, the interior is exquisitely filled with so much premium essence, there is a sense we’re in a higher priced sedan. The leather is rich with soft touch materials nearly on every surface. The large touch screen infotainment system is attractively placed in the center of the dash and is easy to use through the rotating command dial in the center console. We have to remember however that the 3-Turbo is still a compact sedan and there are attributes about its settings that are slightly uncomfortable. The vertical designed dashed gives the front occupants a claustrophobic feeling and the back seat is as snug as fitting an overstuffed carryon suitcase in the overhead compartment on the plane.
With a price tag nearing $35,000 for our range topping 2.5T Premium Plus, the Mazda 3-Turbo is a tough sale, even with boosted performance, nicely equipped 360-degree camera view and a high-definition heads-up display. Entering a new territory of premium compacts with all-wheel drive, it starts to face tougher competition against the Audi A3 Quattro, BMW 228i xDrive and Mercedes-Benz A220 4-Matic. But also shouldn’t be overlooked when looking at a premium compact with all-wheel drive and all the right premium content of a luxury sedan.
Vehicle: 2021 Mazda 3 2.5T Premium Plus
Base Price: $32,450
As-Tested Price: $33,990
Engine: 2.5-liter Turbocharged Four-Cylinder
HP | Torque: 250-HP |310 lb-ft of Torque
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic
Drivetrain: All-Wheel Drive
MPG: 23 | 32 | 27 (City | Highway | Combined)
As-Tested MPG: 24.2-MPG Combined
Fuel Range: 220 miles
0-60 MPH: ±5.5 seconds