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Is the 2021 Mazda3 Worth the Upgrade Over 2020?

The Mazda3 is one of the most popular small cars on the road today. Boasting space, fuel-efficiency, and a spunky attitude, the zippy Mazda3 is one of the brand’s best-selling cars. The new 2021 Mazda3 will be hitting dealerships with some new changes, but with the 2020 Mazda3 already wowing experts, will it be worth the upgrade?

The newest 2021 Mazda3: what’s coming next

The 2021 Mazda3 is not the first of a new generation, but there are some big changes for the new model year. The biggest changes with the 2021 Mazda3 come in the form of its options for buyers, in the way of performance options and trim levels. Where the previous 2020 model offered buyers one engine choice across four trim levels, the newest Mazda3 will more than double the choices for buyers, with three engine choices across eight total trim levels. With more trim levels and powertrains to choose from, features, options, and packaging are also reworked for the 2021 Mazda3.

The previous year’s 186-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is now the middle-of-the-road option for the 2021 Mazda3, with a new base and upper-trim engine choices. According to Car and Driver, “Mazda has added two engines to the 3’s lineup this year,” including a 155-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine as its base engine and a more impressive 250-hp turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine available in upper trims.

These three engines are spread across a broader range of trim levels in the new 2021 Mazda3, giving buyers eight variants to choose from: the 2.0, 2.5S, 2.5S Select, 2.5S Preferred, 2.5S Premium, 2.5 Turbo, 2.5 Turbo Premium, and 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus. But other than two new engines and some new trim names, buyers will mostly see some “shuffling of equipment” over the previous model year rather than seeing many new features.

The current 2020 model – did it even need the upgrades?

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The 2020 Mazda3 is available in four trim levels with one engine choice: a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. But according to U.S. News, the 2020 Mazda3’s sole engine is “refined” and helps provide “sporty handling” and an overall “engaging performance.” Its upscale interior as well as standard features also help it earn some of the best scores in the compact car segment. In fact, U.S. News experts say that the “Mazda3 stands out as one of the best small cars you can buy, largely because of its dynamic performance.”

New owners can choose between sedan and hatchback body styles, with the hatchback offering a competitive 20.1 cubic-feet of space. All 2020 Mazda3s come paired to a standard, six-speed automatic engine, although a manual transmission is optional on some trims. Standard features include an 8.8-inch infotainment screen, 7.0-inch information display, and a variety of safety features like rain-sensing wipers, lane-departure warning, a rearview camera, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and more.

Is the new 2021 Mazda3 worth the extra money?

Adding new engine choices and spicing up the trim configurations may lead many to believe that the 2021 Mazda3 will be much pricier than the 2020 model. But Mazda was smart in its changes, managing to spread features (and choices) into different-sized budgets.

In fact, according to Cars.com, the 2021 Mazda3’s base trim is $1,000 cheaper than the previous year’s, while even upper trims start at less than $1,000 more than the previous year’s. Comparing the two years, experts say “increases are negligible.”

For example, Preferred trims with the 2021 Mazda3 earn buyers the turbocharged engine for nearly the same price as the 2020 Preferred trim, which only gets the base 2.0-liter engine. With such comparable prices, it’s always better to buy the newer option.