The Mazda 3 continues to impress in 2021. This time around, offering two engine choices. For the base model, a naturally aspirated 2.0L 4-cylinder. In the upper stratospheres, a powerful and impressive 2.5L turbo four. I was lucky enough to experience this boosted, larger displacement option first hand, and to say it’s a lot of fun for the money would be an understatement.
Along with the standard ‘zoom zoom’ mantra, ‘a lot of fun for the money’ could also be said about most Mazdas these days. For years now they’ve perfected the art of delivering dependable, dynamic vehicles, at a price-point well below what one would expect after a quick test drive. Straddling the line between economical and performance luxury.
The 2021 model year is no different, if anything, it pushes the credo even further. The new 2.5L turbo option takes center stage. Making 310-320 lb-ft of torque. Depending on how cheap you are with your octane rating at the gas pump. This is big power for a sedan on the smaller side. Good looking on paper, but at what cost? Vehicles of the past, the Subaru WRX’s, aftermarket turbo kits on Civics, the oddball Dodge Neon SRT-4; these cars demonstrated that by turbocharging a small car, you transform it into something loud, stiff and completely unruly. Good on a track, not as good in the every day stuff. A big spoiler, oversized wheels and a hyper-stylized body-kit seem to be requisite companion pieces as well. Not always what one wants.
The new Mazda 3 turns this theorem on its head, delivering all the power and performance, while still maintaining wonderful day to day comfort and practicality. No compromises. Just more power when you need it. In large part, this is due to the more subdued automatic transmission. Geared to take its time. More sophisticated than sporty. Other cues hint at all that power under the hood, but in a subtle, inconspicuous sort of way. There are slightly larger exhaust tailpipes exiting the rear. An additional aero package will take the aesthetics a step further, as will oddly expensive BBS wheels. Both still fall to the side of subtle over sporty, and are completely optional if you’d rather go without.
The dark interior contrasts against the light seats and dash/door panels perfectly. Punctuated with metal trim and speaker covers, hiding a Bose premium audio system. This clean, uncluttered approach, using soft-touch premium materials in all the right places, wrapping the steering wheel and shifter in leather, is all highly effective. It would be understandable for any unsuspecting passenger to confuse the Mazda 3 with a much more expensive European rival like an Audi A4 or BMW 3-Series.
Popular driving aides like land-keeping assist can be found, with a heads up display to keep everything front and center. Bright LED interior lighting illuminate the cabin as you enter and exit, inviting you in to experience everything the new Mazda 3 has to offer firsthand. For the cost, the discovery you’ll make is that this list is extremely long. Even with the larger engine and Premium Plus package, my model was still priced well under 35k. And so, the latest Mazda 3 stands as yet another example of Mazda doing what it does best. Building cars that are above-average, and then giving them a below-average price.
Price as tested: $32,450.00