Mazda gave the vehicles in its lineup several updates for 2021, but most of these were related to interior technology. However, the Mazda3 sedan stands out from the rest due to its major powertrain updates. Last week, MotorTrend gave us an in-depth review of the car’s newly available turbo engine.
The 2021 Mazda3 also has a new base motor. These updated engines are appreciated, but they don’t really fix some of the Mazda3’s other glaring faults. Here’s what you can expect from the 2021 Mazda3, as well as some areas where it still needs improvement.
Exciting powertrain upgrades
Last year, the Mazda3 was only available with one 2.5-liter four-cylinder capable of 186 hp. It has a six-speed manual transmission, plus a manual option in the hatchback version. For 2021, this base engine was swapped out for a naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 155 hp.
The 2.5-liter four-cylinder is still available, but only in the middle trims. The 2.5-liter turbo-four engine is new for this year, making up to 250 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque. It can only be paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, but AWD is standard for both body styles.
According to MotorTrend, the 2021 Mazda3 turbo feels noticeably more speedy than the previous model. In its 0-60 mph test, it got a faster time than luxury rivals like the Mercedes-Benz A-Class sedan. It also has a thicker steering arm and a slightly more responsive steering wheel than the 2020 Mazda3.
Where the 2021 Mazda3 falls short
The 2021 Mazda3 is slightly more sporty than the outgoing model, but it fails to resolve some of its biggest issues. MotorTrend testers still reported that the Mazda3 still doesn’t have the best suspension. While it works fine over smooth roads, any potholes cause unpleasant vibrations throughout the interior. It’s especially disappointing for a sedan with standard AWD.
The Mazda3 still retains its stylish interior, but MotorTrend felt the standard interior trim doesn’t hold up well over the years. The bigger problem lies with the Mazda3’s infotainment system, which isn’t forgiving for new users. It’s not a touchscreen display, so you have to use a physical dial. Consumer Reports found the rotary controller to be confusing to operate and there are several redundant menus.
Rear-seat space is also not very accommodating inside the Mazda3. While there are three seats in the second row, only two riders have adequate room to move around comfortably. Headroom is extremely limited, especially for tall people. There’s also not really much extra cargo room to compensate for the lack of passenger space.
The low roofline also creates problems for taller drivers, who will likely have to duck their heads to enter the car. Visibility is also limited due to sloping pillars, especially on the hatchback version.
The 2021 Mazda3 is still an outstanding car
Despite these minor hiccups, the 2021 Mazda3 still has plenty of redeeming qualities. No matter what engine is under the hood, each Mazda3 has great handling. It can tackle corners with ease and the brakes respond quickly. The cabin is also well-insulated, even when driving at highway speeds.
MotorTrend staff also noted that the 2021 Mazda3’s interior is on par with several luxury sedans they had tested previously. It has upscale black and metal trim, plus intricate stitching on the seats. The higher trim tested also includes several niceties like LED headlights and a premium audio system. Staff also appreciated the new safety features added for this year.
Tight dimensions and a rocky suspension are still dealbreakers, especially for families. However, in terms of performance and value, the 2021 Mazda3 is a great sedan.