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A bluish-gray 2021 Mazda3 2.5 Turbo hatchback sits in a white glossy showroom as a man in a business suit walks away
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The 2021 Mazda3 2.5 Turbo Hatchback Doesn’t Make You ‘Feel Alive,’ Says MotorTrend

When it comes to speed, growl, and all the things you'd expect from the car at a glance, this Mazda3 is not that. Wait, that wasn't what you expected to hear? We explain how it differs from the regular Mazda3, what it has going for it, and what it doesn't.

The 2021 Mazda3 2.5 Turbo is a great hatchback that’ll whisk you to your destination comfortably. It looks aggressive and is exactly the type of small performance car that Mazda likes to toss into the market every once in a while to remind us it can. But when it comes to speed, growl, and all the things you’d expect from the car at a glance, this Mazda3 is not that.

Wait, that wasn’t what you expected to hear? We’ll explain how it differs from the regular Mazda3, what it has going for it, and what it doesn’t.

How is the 2.5 Turbo different from a standard Mazda3?

Producing 250 hp, the Mazda3 2.5 Turbo packs a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and an all-wheel drivetrain. This sporty hatchback sits on 18-inch wheels with a black finish. A heated steering wheel, 12-speaker Bose audio system, and a head-up display are opulent touches.

Mazda is working hard at pushing its products to the luxury level. As with the regular Mazda3, the 2.5 Turbo’s cabin is among the best in its segment. The dash is minimalist, with everything organized for driver convenience. 

MotorTrend likes the interior’s secondary controls for volume, climate control, and more. MT appreciates their well-thought-out functionality and quality.

Plus, the exterior is gorgeous, cargo space is generous, and fuel efficiency is an impressive 31 mpg on the highway if the car isn’t in Sport mode. 

The Mazda3 2.5 Turbo hatchback gets the job done

The 2021 Mazda3 2.5 Turbo is a great car. It’s just not what you’d expect. Yes, it’s a solid car, but not satisfying.

As MotorTrend points out, we’ve come to expect certain things when it’s Mazda and the car has a “turbo” badge on it. Considering the turbocharged inline-four and 310 lb-ft of torque with AWD, you’d expect more of a performance vehicle. Similar hot hatches — like the Volkswagen GTI, Ford Focus ST, and MazdaSpeed 3 — might come to mind. If the 2.5 Turbo had been like them, Mazda fans would be ecstatic.

To clarify, the engine in the 2.5 Turbo isn’t new. Mazda has put it in the CX-5 and CX-9 for a while. If you use 93-octane fuel, you can get up to 250 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque. That’s a paltry increase of just 41 horses over the standard Mazda3. 

However, it zoomed from 0 to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds in MT’s test. It made the quarter-mile in just 14.5 seconds. That, and it can keep up with the rest of the class and even beat the VW Golf GTI, which took six seconds to reach 60 mph.

On the downside, this model doesn’t offer a manual transmission. It has good acceleration and numbers. But it also displays a bit of lag — not something you’d expect when you drive a so-called turbo model. 

It lacks the wow factor


The 2021 Mazda3 Just Sent a Message to Competitors in Its Class

Unfortunately, the 2021 Mazda3 2.5 Turbo lacks that invigorating sensation you get with a great performance car. As MT explains it, it lacks that sense of “feeling alive” when driving it. Instead, it delivers a tame experience.

Plus, its mushy brake doesn’t instill confidence in the car’s ability to stop when you need it to. A genuine hot hatch boasts sharper reflexes and good feedback, not lag and brake drag.

Yes, the Mazda3 2.5 Turbo has good suspension damping and lends itself to an athletic driving experience. But it has a rear torsion beam like the standard Mazda3 instead of an independent rear end like previous versions of the car. That also negatively affects the ride, requiring lots of steering corrections when you encounter small road flaws, particularly at lower speeds.

At the end of the day, the 2021 Mazda3 2.5 Turbo is a great car with a stunning exterior, a posh interior, and a relatively quick, quiet ride. But it’s not invigorating to drive as you’d expect from a turbo. Alas, it doesn’t measure up to other performance cars the brand has produced.