Sedans & Coupes

The 2021 Mazda3 Turbo Is Officially Good Enough to Challenge the Audi A4

The 2021 Mazda3 Turbo’s push to become an upmarket competitor is undeniable at this point. In fact, the entire brand plans to move upmarket by producing more luxurious vehicles. Thanks to its ability to offer luxury features for less, the current-gen Mazda3 is a massive leap forward for the model. To see how it stacks up to an all-out luxury car, Car and Driver tested it against the established Audi A4.

Before we dive in, it is worth pointing out that this Car and Driver test isn’t an all-out comparison. Instead, it is meant to see how far the Mazda3 Turbo has come toward being a true luxury car.

What does the 2021 Mazda3 Turbo do well?

A photo of the Mazda3 outdoors.
Mazda3 Sedan | Mazda

One of the most extensive upgrades to the Mazda3 lineup was the Turbo model’s arrival and its potent powertrain. Under the hood lives a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine developing 250 hp and 320 lb-ft. A six-speed automatic transmission sends the available power exclusively to all four wheels. As you may expect, this pushed the price up significantly. The 2021 Mazda3 Turbo starts a just under $30,000. In contrast, the base model trim starts at $20,500.

According to Car and Driver, the Mazda3 Turbos interior left the reviewers feeling like it was a premium product. This is attributed to the extensive use of quality materials throughout the cabin. Additionally, the Mazda3 Turbo includes features such as a 360-degree camera and a heads-up display, items that are usually reserved for expensive luxury cars.

Additionally, Car and Driver report that the Mazda3 Turbo offers an aesthetic that fits a luxury car. This is because the Japanese sedan features a long, low-slung hood on top of luxury sedan proportions. Car and Driver report that this helps separate it from competitors such as the Toyota Corolla.

The Audi A4 is an established luxury sedan

A 2020 Audi A4 idles on a road.
2020 Audi A4 idles | Audi

RELATED: Is a Turbocharged Mazda Worth the Extra Cash?

While the Mazda3 Turbo has taken great strides, it can’t overcome the luxurious Audi A4. Thankfully for buyers, it’s certainly getting close. Car and Driver report that a 261-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter engine powers the A4. Additionally, a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic sends power to all four wheels. Despite having a comparable power output. The Audi rockets to 60 mph, almost a full second faster than the Mazda.

While the Mazda3 Turbo’s cabin is certainly luxurious, Car and Driver report that it still can’t surpass the inferior quality offered by the A4. Regardless, the two sedans remain fairly comparable.

Keep in mind as well that this particular Audi A4 45 Quattro starts at $41,945. With all of the included options, the Audi comes out to $53,840. As a result, the Mazda3 Turbo is fighting against a car worth $20,000 more and hanging on. As a result, the Japanese sedan could spell big trouble for cheaper luxury vehicles such as the Audi A3, Mercedes-Benz A220, and BMW 228i Gran Coupe.

Lastly, the Audi A4 outperforms the Mazda3 Turbo with its stiffer suspension setup. While the Mazda3 features a significant body roll, Car and Driver report that the A4 remains fairly composed.

Will Mazda become a luxury brand?

A photo of the Mazda3 outdoors.
Mazda3 Sedan | Mazda

As of writing, it seems the Mazda3 Turbo may turn into an all-out luxury car in a few years. In early December, we reported that Mazda is developing a range of powerful six-cylinder engines for the Mazda6 and CX-5. As a result, these models will likely begin to compete with established contenders from BMW and Mercedes-Benz. This could potentially see Mazda become a luxury brand. However, for now, the move upmarket is undeniable.