Does the 2021 Mazda3 Turbo Speed Past the Volkswagen Golf R?

While a Mazdaspeed version isn’t happening, Mazda is still giving the 2021 Mazda3 a bit of zoom-zoom. Specifically, in the form of a new turbocharged powertrain. However, the Mazda3 Turbo’s luxury aspirations put it in competition with another turbocharged fast hatchback: the Volkswagen Golf R. But which one is really faster? That’s what YouTube team Throttle House wanted to find out.

2021 Mazda3 Turbo vs. 2019 Volkswagen Golf R: how do these AWD hatchbacks compare on paper?

The front 3/4 view of a red 2021 Mazda3 Turbo Premium Plus on a city street
2021 Mazda3 Turbo Premium Plus front 3/4 | Mazda

Arguably the biggest changes the 2021 Mazda3 brings over the 2020 model are the new range-topping Turbo trims. The 2.5 Turbo and 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus come with a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine rated at 250 hp and 320 lb-ft, Automobile reports. Though that’s only if you run them on 93-octane gasoline.

Unlike the lower trims, the 2021 Mazda3 Turbo doesn’t offer a manual transmission, just a 6-speed automatic. However, instead of FWD, it has AWD as standard, which is optional on cheaper trims. Both of these things mean the turbocharged Mazda3 has a 0-60 mph time of 5.6 seconds in sedan form, Car and Driver reports. That’s actually faster than the Mazdaspeed3.

A blue 2019 Volkswagen Golf R drives on a racetrack
2019 Volkswagen Golf R front 3/4 | Volkswagen

The next-gen Volkswagen Golf R isn’t due until the 2022 model year. Hence why Throttle House tested a 2019 model. But while the 2019 Golf R doesn’t have the upcoming hot hatch’s powertrain, it doesn’t really need it.

The 2019 Volkswagen Golf R has a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine rated at 292 hp and 280 lb-ft, Motor Trend reports. Like the 2021 Mazda3 Turbo, it has AWD; it even weighs roughly the same. However, unlike the Mazda, the Golf R has a 6-speed manual option. With it, the German hot hatch goes 0-60 mph in 5.1 seconds, Car and Driver reports. And with the 6-speed dual-clutch automatic, that time drops to 4.5 seconds, Car and Driver reports.

Throttle House’s testing procedures

At first glance, then, it appears like the 2021 Mazda3 Turbo doesn’t stand a chance against the Volkswagen Golf R. Especially when it comes to Throttle House’s tests.

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The hatchbacks first ran a standing-start ¼-mile drag race, followed by a rolling ¼-mile drag race. The latter removes any traction-based launch influence and focuses purely on the engine and transmission. The standing-start race also typically features launch control. That’s available on the Volkswagen Golf R, but not on the Mazda3 Turbo. So, in the interest of fairness, Throttle House didn’t use it.

However, that’s actually to the Mazda3 Turbo’s benefit. It doesn’t have the Golf R’s horsepower, but it makes more torque. More torque typically means a faster launch, provided the car can put that power down effectively.

The rear 3/4 view of a blue 2019 Volkswagen Golf R by a lake
2019 Volkswagen Golf R rear 3/4 | Volkswagen

Still, by the numbers, the Volkswagen Golf R still edges the Mazda out on paper. In Car and Driver’s testing, the Golf R was faster in 5-60 mph, 30-50 mph, and 50-70 mph tests. Although admittedly, by only fractions of a second each time.

Is the 2021 Mazda3 Turbo faster than the Volkswagen Golf R?

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In this case, though, the numbers didn’t lie. In both the standing-start and rolling drag races, the 2019 Volkswagen Golf R finished ahead of the 2021 Mazda3 Turbo. However, without the benefit of launch control, the Mazda3 did launch faster than the Golf R.

Admittedly, the 2021 Mazda3 Turbo isn’t really a hot hatch, R&T reports. It’s more of a budget Audi A3 alternative, while the Golf R is more in line with the S3. That doesn’t mean the two cars aren’t cross-shopped; Throttle House reports the Golf R’s owner considered buying a Mazda3 Turbo.

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But if you want a fast luxury hatchback, the Volkswagen Golf R is faster than the 2021 Mazda3 Turbo. And since the 2022 Golf R is even more powerful, this situation will likely continue for some time.

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