2021 Mazda 3 Review

2021 Mazda 3 - The 2021 turbocharged Mazda3 is speedy and sporty


Price: 2021 Mazda3 2.5 Turbo AWD sedan with Premium Plus package: $32,450

Pros-Slick styling. New potent turbo engine. Smooth. Fairly roomy. Upscale interior. Agile. All-wheel drive.   

Cons-Distracting infotainment system control. Somewhat narrow front seat area.  

Bottom Line-Good combination of sport and luxury at competitive price.

The 2021 Mazda3's new turbocharged engine, upscale interior and sporty driving nature makes it feel more expensive than it is.

The new turbocharged four-cylinder engine generates 250 horsepower on 93-octane fuel and 227 horses on 87-octane. Torque figures are virtually identical, at 320 pound/feet with the higher horsepower output and 310 with the lower horsepower rating. I tested the 250-horsepower Mazda3 with the Premium package and all-wheel drive, which comes with both turbo engine versions.

The compact-size Mazda3 2.5 Turbo with all-wheel drive and the Premium Plus Package lists at $32,450. It also comes as a hatchback, but I tested the sedan, which looks slicker than the hatchback. A base front-drive Mazda3 has 155 horsepower and lists at $20,500.

My test sedan had a low belt line for easy occupant outward visibility despite its sleek styling with a black grille and nicely integrated black rear lip spoiler. The base Mazda3 front-drive version has 155 horsepower, and a mid-range model has 186 horsepower.

For the money, and considering all its features, my test Mazda3 financially undercuts rivals, including the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Volkswagen Jetta and Hyundai Elantra.

My test car had a gloss-black, especially low grille and prominent oversized exhaust outlets. This is a five-seater, although four adults fit more comfortably. It's best to use the middle of the rear seat for the fold-down armrest, which has dual cupholders. A large front console makes the front-seat area feel somewhat narrow. Rear seat room is good, although a tall passenger behind a tall driver will want a little more leg room.

The cargo area is large, and 60/40 split-folding rear seat backs provide considerably more cargo space.

Wide-opening doors make it easy to get in and out of the quiet interior, which has an understated look but upscale materials and a power driver's seat. Both front seats are heated, but the passenger seat has a manual adjustment.

Gauges are easy to read quickly, although the console rotary knob for the entertainment system is distracting. I had to use it too much for simple functions, like finding the  radio station I wanted.

Still, there are manual dashboard controls for the  dual-zone automatic climate control, an 8.8-inch color display, AM/FM Bose premium audio system with 12 speakers and dual power side mirrors.

However, my test car's electronic parking brake had an annoying habit of switching itself on when the transmission lever was moved from "Park" into "Drive," although that brake can easily be shut off via a console button.

The soft-touch interior has the usual array of upscale items, including leather seats.There's also a push-button engine start, heated tilt/telescopic steering wheel, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, rearview camera, power sliding glass sunroof with a shade, 2 USB ports and a bluetooth hands-free phone/audio control.

This 3,379-pound Mazda3 sedan is fun to drive. The 0-60 m.p.h. time is about 6 seconds and 65-75 m.p.h. passes on highways was a breeze. The power shoots through a smooth six-speed automatic transmission, which has quick-responding paddle shifters. A small console switch moves the car's operation to "sport" for slightly faster acceleration, but it increases engine revs and thus hurts fuel economy. There's no need for it most of the time.

The rather firm steering is quick and accurate, thanks partly to a firmer front suspension with stiffer springs and dampers. The ride is firm but supple, easily absorbing bumps and pavement irregularities. Handling and cornering are sharp, helped by dynamic stability control and traction control systems. The 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with brake assist stop the car efficiently with good pedal feel.

The car's 45-series trees on 18-inch back alloy wheels also helped keep it firmly planted on the road, as does the four-wheel-drive system.

Mazda doesn't call this car a sports sedan. If anything, it has made the Mazda3 a little softer to appear to a wider range of buyers. Still, the Mazda3 2.5 Turbo with the Premium Plus package has many characteristics of a good sports sedan.

The Premium Plus package contains the leather seats, front and rear parking sensors, a 360-degree view monitor that lets you see objects around the entire car, traffic jam assist, traffic sign recognition, rear cross-traffic alert with braking and Mazda's navigation system.

The list of safety items is impressive. It includes a driver-attention alert, lane departure warning system, lane-keep assist and radar cruise control with stop-and-go. There also are front side-impact air bags and front/rear side air curtains.

Compared to well-known rivals, Mazda is small outfit, with only 33,608 Mazda3 models sold in America last year. If the word gets out, the Mazda3 with its new turbo engine promises to draw more buyers.

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

For more reviews from Dan, visit Facebook.