2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo Hatchback – Bottom Line Review

2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo Hatchback: hot enough to outrun last Mazdaspeed 3, cool enough to cosset mature audiences, starting at $34k. Tester MSRP = $35k

DESERVED DYNAMISM DROPPED IN: Increasing the power of a motorized device by one-third and its rotational torque by three-quarters will definitely be noticed. Roadblazing.com editors’ favorite premium sporty compact car steed was already brimming with ingredients such as unexpected refinement and more than adequate grunt which could be reigned in by rider. The premium car pastry chefs at Mazda were called upon to infuse this machine with prodigious power without upsetting the recipe for balance. Their appetizing achievement is the 2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo Hatchback.


WHAT: 2021 Mazda3 2.5 Turbo Hatchback AWD Premium Plus. This compact 5-door sport hatchback, is stablemate to the sedan version of the 4th generation of Mazda (BP) to wear the number “3”, built on the same underpinnings as the new Mazda CX-30 compact crossover utility vehicle.


Power:  transverse intercooled variable nozzle turbocharged 2.5L DOHC 16V DI gas I-4 = 250 hp/ 320 lb-ft @ 2500 rpm.* G-vectoring throttle front wheel traction transfer.

Compared to Mazdaspeed 3 BL MZR 2.3L air-to-air intercooled turbo engine:

        • +200 cc displacement
        • -13 hp, +40 lb-ft @ -700 r.p.m.
        • -25% fuel consumption

Drivetrain: 6-spd. torque converter planetary automatic transaxle + PTU to multi-plate wet clutch differential torque vectoring variable all-wheel drive.

*(NOTE: results with 93 AKI unleaded gasoline. 227 hp / 310 lb-ft @ 2000 r.p.m. using 87 AKI fuel.)

WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE(S): The 2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo Hatchback retains the 3 sedan‘s forward proportions of low slung long hood with more aggressive shark nose and rising Coke bottle fuselage with deeper concavity in the cheat line than its BN series predecessor. Yet where the sedan features stately chrome embellishments, the 3 2.5T Hatchback is accented assertively dark. Although the dimensions don’t vary from the previous BN series, this time around they went with a bolder posterior aft of the B-Pillar. It is all intended to impart more visual emotion and cast an aura of prestige.

2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo Hatchback: all accents are piano black darkened for sinister look

– Piano black arms from a shortened pentagonal grille lower bezel extends with arms cradling more drawn prominent amber upper DRL headlamps. The grille itself is darkened lattice followed by a lower fascia crease line and then a jutting gloss black lower spoiler with splitter.

2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo Hatchback: Switching to the torsion beam suspension provides cohesive rear wheel lateral control to reduce bump steer. While rear brake rotors lack venting, the binders respond firmly without judder. Piano black splitter roof spoiler is optional.

– At the second row door handle, the beltline dramatically rises in a wild kink to meet a hefty wide C pillar visually enhanced by a darkened lifgate glass border and roof spoiler. The tested 3 2.5T hatchback featured an available gloss black aggressive splitter roof wing. As with the sedan the license plate dish is relocated to the lower bumper cover, while the liftgate features a taller mid folded Kammback. Concentric circular taillamps, formulated into wrap around outboard arrows flatter the ND MX-5 roadster. Midway down the bumper cover a gloss black valance houses reflectors at each side and dual exhaust tail piper at the nether regions.

WHY: Zesty grand touring answer to Mazdaspeed 3 hot hatch absence.

WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since autumn 2020

WHERE: Mazda new car dealers

WHERE MADE: Hofu, Yamaguchi, Japan

HOW STRONG: During relaxed cruises the 6-speed automatic planetary transaxle keeps things humming well below 2000 r.p.m. displaying a character much like its naturally aspirated sibling. Straying from other modern applications this turbocharger doesn’t spool up until the crankshaft spins closer to the bi-millennium mark at which point the gearbox can kick down a couple gears avoiding dreaded boost lag. Sincere foot prodding provides more effortless highway passing. Above 85 miles per hour is where this powertrain, despite a relatively short short fourth gear ratio, pulls away dramatically from the atmospheric 2.5 liter. Pedal placement suits heel to toe right footedness in the esses with rev matching shifting. The exhaust reproduces a raspy note from straight six less two pistons. Though it lacks the last BL Mazdaspeed 3‘s outright bark and frenetic responses, the new Mazda 3 Turbo hatchback is a far vastly more settled daily driver as an entry prestige sport compact should be.

HOW LIMBER: Dumping a multi-link for a simpler rear twist beam suspension results in less abrupt abrupt movement at the rear wheels for reduced tail out tendency. While a tinge of previous BN Mazda 3‘s roll resistance and off-camber planting has been lost, a more compliant ride has been reaped.  G-vectoring momentarily cuts throttle for forward mass shift and enhancing available tire tread plant, reducing body sway in corners. All-wheel drive bolsters rear wheel traction with a maximum of 50% of available torque.

2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo Hatchback: having slightly lower clearance than the sedan suits a ride that responds taut without harshness. Steering isn’t excessively hefty and transmits road grip.

Steering resistance feels meaty without being taxing. The latest Mazda 3 2.5T Hatchback helm communicates more usable road feel than some high priced prestige grand tourers. Despite wearing one inch smaller rear disc brake rotors than the last atmospheric 3 Sedan tested, the brake pedal reacts with linear firmness but bites somewhat later than liked.

HOW FAR: 28 miles per gallon combined fuel economy. 420 miles highway range per tankful of 87 AKI petrol.

HOW BIG / LITTLE: The front part of the cabin emits an almost mid-size feel due to a lower and deeper cowl. Nonetheless, Row 2 feels the strictly compact part. Average male adult knees will typically need to be splayed, and the delayed roof slope improves rear headroom slightly. Rear outboard bucket seating bunches the center position to mere kid fare.

2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo Hatchback: the new Mazda 3 gained 1.0″ wheelbase for a little less rear seat knee snugness.

2021 Mazda 3 AWD 107.3″ wheelbase = 3.7″ > Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk. 8

    • Row 2 legroom: 35.1″ inches = 0.5″ < Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk. 8
    • Cargo space (nom.): 20.1 cubic feet = 16% > Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk. 8
2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo Hatchback: Aluminum cargo bay liftover sill cover is good accessory for frequent loading

HOW USEFUL: Sub liftgate cargo space = 1 full size + 2 roll-aboard carry-on cases; 60/40% folding split rear seat nearly triples cargo hold; Abundant fore and aft door pocket storage due to Bose speaker relocation. Damped action glove box door w/ stylish chrome latch

  • +/- Smart phone storage is way up, including a lower front center stack tray, but still trails competitors connectivity and concealment.
  • -1 Non locking glove box door, un-lined glove box
  • -1 Aft sliding then tilting center console bin lid encroaches 2nd Row

HOW SAFE: earns IIHS 2021 Top Safety Pick Plus trophy: 8 airbags, Rear camera w/ fixed gridlines, Sonar audible park assist;

Driver assist technology: City collision avoidance braking w/ pedestrian detection; Blind spot, rear cross traffic warning; Rear side traffic braking, Lane departure warning with selectable vibration/ chime; Lane keep assist; Adaptive cruise control – full; e-parking brake auto hold.

2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo Hatchback: i ActiveSafety Sense Lane departure, side traffic warnings, Traffic Jam assist


Available (included on Premium Plus): Traffic Jam Assist autonomous assist w/ lane tracing and blind spot lane change braking; Surround camera, Road sign recognition; Heads Up Display

2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo Hatchback: Premium Plus trims add surround cameras to the comprehensive ActiveSense i driver assist suite. Native navigation maps depict waves off Milwaukee’s Lake Michigan shoreline.


Particularly in Premium trim, the 2020 Mazda 3 has its own take on the Signature series of larger Mazda siblings. No panel nor physical control was spared attention to detail. Higher definition display graphics are for enhanced visibility without overwhelming. Minimized physical controls have been finished in robustly pleasing materials exhibiting precision action.

Improved cushion comfort, advanced foam leather seats, including driver’s 8-way power adjustment and 2-position memory; Thick padded front and rear outboard headrests; Quadruple channel door seals and thicker glass for excellent cabin isolation.

2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo Hatchback: black leather seating chestnut dotted inserts, while front buckets have ample side and cushion bolsters which occasionally pinch wider corpi

Cool Gizmo(s): Full color Heads Up Display; selectable layout TFT center gauge cluster w/ traffic sign recognition.

2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo Hatchback: Premium Plus trim includes HUD display and traffic sign recognition

Details Done Right: Light contrast simulated leather dashtop, upper door panels with contrast stitching; Tight grain soft mid dash and door panels; Aluminum accents, door speaker housing covers, climate control knobs, steering wheel spoke switches.

Nearly Non Descript: -1 Horizontal steering wheel spoke switches have impossible to read script and lack tactile distinction; Lacks all-wheel drive lock or power distribution display; Key fob non distinctive kernel buttons.

HOW “APP” -LICABLE: Partially embedding the wider-screen dashtop MazdaConnect display, now with media split screen capablity = a less pod-like appearance. A revised center console Commander dial, with improved action, is as classy as in any luxury marque.

– Re-categorized MazdaConnect home sub-menus should in theory be more intuitive but there is still a learning curve. Higher resolution shows with cleaner graphics. Stand alone mobile device apps such as Pandora, Aha & Stitcher have been rendered redundant by the inclusion of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay projection. The Bose Centerpoint has made the jump to audiophile sound with a “Linear” sound mode for improved spatiality.

2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo Hatchback: Contrasting tandem stitched dash panels, brushed aluminum accents and a sporty concise TFT analog gauge cluster could be mistaken for a cabin from a much more expensive make.

Dash top 8.8″ flat-panel LCD infotainment screen with Commander toggle dial control; Native HDD GPS voice command / guidance Navigation; Voice command hands-free communications; SMS with stored contacts photos; 425 W, 12-speaker Bose Centerpoint 2.0 audio; USB-A x 2, 12V x 1; Qi wireless charging pad inside front center armrest bin.

2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo Hatchback: Revised remote media display precision twist, toggle Commander knob and updated adjacent audio volume knob with live / rewind toggle.

+1 More versatile and comprehensible voice commanded navigation and media.

+/- Mazda implementation of Sirius Travellink supplants typical Movies application with Parking app filled with incomplete listings.

-1 No 2nd Row USB ports; Convoluted spin, depress or toggle center process for console rotary command controller when using mobile phone projection systems.

2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo Hatchback: Split pane 8.8″ remote commanded LCD media display uniquely splits Android Auto projection layouts as well.


HOW MUCH: $35,085 suggested retail price 2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo Hatchback AWD Premium Plus.

WHAT’S MISSING: Manual transmission option in turbo model; Performance gauges; More visible steering wheel spoke switch labels; Automatic electronic emergency brake which doesn’t require manual disengagement in drive gear.

ANY COMPETITION: Hyundai Veloster N: +1 power, DCT automated manual transaxle, independent rear suspension; Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk. 8: +1 manual or DCT transmission, independent rear suspension

FINAL WORDS: Kaizen refined antidote for Mazdaspeed 3 withdrawal.

(Contributing Editor: J. Flynn)

An automotive enthusiast since an orange toy VW Beetle ended up in his playpen and following him everywhere, George Straton has been chief editor at ChicagoNow.com/Drive-He-Said automotive lifestyle blog since 2010. In 2017 George established Roadblazing.com, dedicated to accurate automotive reviews, news and road trip stories. George is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association and the Phoenix Automotive Press Association. George also happens to be an attorney and Loyola University of Chicago Ramblers fan. Present ride: 2022 Mazda 3 Turbo AWD Hatchback.

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