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The 2021 Mazda3 Turbo Is Leaps and Bounds Better Than the Mazdaspeed3

Do you remember the Mazdaspeed3? It was a four-door hatchback that was based on the existing Mazda3 but it had a turbocharged engine, a sportier suspension, and some gaudy aero bits. For a streetcar, it was fast, but it needed refinement. Fortunately, after seven years without a fast, fun hatchback, Mazda recently released the 2021 Mazda3 Turbo, which (in my opinion) is leaps and bounds better than the Mazdaspeed3 ever was.

2013 Mazdaspeed3

When the Mazdaspeed3 was still in the market, it competed with other sport compacts like the Subaru WRX, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, and the Volkswagen GTI, and Golf R. And with a turbocharged 2.3-liter engine under the hood that produced 263 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque, it held its own against those cars. The only issue was that it was a little rough around the edges.

The last time I drove one, I remember the suspension being rather stiff for the street and although I enjoyed the massive power surge when the turbocharger spooled up, the massive amount of torque steer that followed wasn’t very pleasant and in fact, sometimes it was downright dangerous.

2010 Mazdaspeed3
2010 Mazdaspeed3 | Mazda

For example, I remember taking a left turn through a wide intersection and hitting the throttle to power out of it, upon doing so, the steering jerked to the right and almost sent me right into the curb. Yes, that’s technically “driver error,” but given the right circumstances (or bonehead driving maneuvers) the amount of force through the steering wheel could prove unruly. Otherwise, the Mazdaspeed3 was indeed a street rocket that was fun to drive daily.

Red 2010 Mazdaspeed3 going around a corner
2010 Mazdaspeed3 | Mazda

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Enter the Mazda3 Turbo

The Mazdaspeed3 was discontinued in 2013, which meant that the automaker was back to producing non-turbocharged commuter cars and revamping the image of their current lineup. It was a good move considering all of the vehicles in Mazda’s lineup now look like they’re ready to take on Mercedes-Benz as opposed to Toyota and Honda, and now it’s out to have a little fun again in the form of the Mazda3 Turbo.

In case you haven’t heard of it, the Mazda3 Turbo is in some ways the spiritual successor to the Mazdaspeed3 in that it has a turbocharged 2.5-liter engine under the hood, but this time, the car is all-wheel-drive as opposed to being front-wheel-drive. Additionally, Mazda kept the car within its newfound “sophisticated” ethos in the sense it rides much smoother than the Mazdaspeed3 ever did and it has a much quieter and more comfortable cabin.

2021 Mazda3 Turbo
2021 Mazda3 Turbo | Joe Santos

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I drove the Mazda3 Turbo around for a week and I can tell you that I wouldn’t hesitate to drive it across the country if needed. The interior cabin is a comfortable place to be, the steering is smooth not overly boosted, and the powerband is buttery smooth but powerful enough to pin you back in the seat when you stab the throttle. And as you can probably guess, since it’s all-wheel-drive, there’s no torque steer, which means that I was able to confidently take turns without any fear of ending up in the bushes.

2021 Mazda3 Turbo
2021 Mazda3 Turbo | Joe Santos

Craving sophisticated power? Check out the Mazda3 Turbo

Considering it’s priced around $30,000, I can tell you that the 2021 Mazda3 is a great value. If you’re looking for something that’s turbocharged with an all-wheel drivetrain, but don’t want a harsh ride or a “boy-racer” driving experience like you get in a Civic Type R, or especially a used Mazdspeed3, then check out the Mazda3 Turbo. You’ll be glad you did.