The Mazda3 Turbo is here, and while it’s no Mazdaspeed, this is still a happy day for enthusiasts. Its full, official name is the 2021 Mazda3 2.5 Turbo, which begins to describe it perfectly. Just as was expected, Mazda has taken its 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder off its shelf and plopped it into the compact 3.
When run on 93 octane fuel, Mazda claims 250 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque. You can still run it on 87 octane, but the numbers drop to 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. Mazda says this engine has a specific calibration for the Mazda3 “to deliver the unique driving dynamics expected by our most passionate drivers.” The engine delivers a stout low-end shove in its other applications, so perhaps Mazda has found a way to make it more excitable in the upper rev ranges. We’ll see about that when we drive it.
The Turbo is also paired exclusively with all-wheel drive and the six-speed automatic transmission. It is sad to see the six-speed manual being left in the dust here, but Mazda has decided to not offer it as an option. The all-wheel drive system operates the same as the one in the naturally aspirated version, which should hopefully be good enough to mitigate torque steer and understeer. Mazda hasn’t quoted any official acceleration times for the Turbo yet, but we expect it could chop about a second off the car’s 0-60 mph time. Something in the low 6-second range seems plausible. There are no changes to the chassis, suspension or brakes for this model; Mazda says "the current Mazda3, as well as all our vehicles, are always designed and tuned to be focused on dynamic driving. We are confident that the turbo engine will help to refine the already exciting driving experience without the need to add more than is necessary."
It does come in a base trim (similar to a base hatchback in content), but even that trim is relatively well-equipped. A Premium Plus Package is available that raises the bar. This package includes leather seats, navigation, HomeLink, Traffic Jam Assist (provides steering inputs below 40 mph to stay in lane), 360-degree camera, rear automatic emergency braking, rear cross-traffic braking and parking sensors in front and back.
Unfortunately, the new driver assistance features we listed above are exclusive to the Turbo and won’t be available on other Mazda3 models this year. You’ll be able to tell the Turbo apart from other Mazda3s by the “TURBO” badge on the trunk and on the engine cover, larger tailpipes and lower front bumper decor. The Premium Plus Package adds a gloss black rear lip spoiler to the sedan and a gloss black roof spoiler and front air dam to the hatchback.
Mazda announced more than just a range-topping new Turbo trim, though. There’s a new naturally aspirated 2.0-liter Skyactiv-G four-cylinder joining the bottom of the lineup, too. This engine makes 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque, and it’ll only be available with front-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic. It’ll slot in below the naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder that carries over into 2021 making 186 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. Just like last year, the NA 2.5-liter will be available with a six-speed manual, but only in the hatchback with the Premium package — all other configurations come with the six-speed auto.
Perhaps you’re wondering where the high-tech 2.0-liter Skyactiv-X four-cylinder is. It’s already launched in Europe and Asia, but now we’ve randomly been gifted the 2.0-liter Skyactiv-G engine that’s also available in those other markets. We’re left wondering, when will the Skyactiv-X come our way?.
We asked Mazda, and received this in response: “We are excited that Skyactiv-X has shown to be successful in the Mazda3 for both Europe and Japan. For us, our focus currently is to further connect heightened performance with our premium technologies and amenities to deliver an elevated ownership experience. Information on additional powertrains, such as Skyactiv-X, will be announced at the appropriate time.”
The obvious answer is better fuel economy and a cheaper price, but we also asked why it’s decided to add the 2.0-liter Skyactiv-G base four-cylinder to the lineup: “Adding the Skayctiv-G 2.0 gives Mazda3 fans more options. More options that should help them find the right fit for their lifestyle,” Mazda says.
It comes equipped in a virtually identical manner as the base Mazda3 sedan (16-inch alloy wheels, cloth seats, a suite of driver assistance features, but no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto) that starts at $22,445. Maybe Mazda can tuck the base price back under $20,000 with the 2.0, making it more competitive with cheaper Civics, Corollas and more.
You’re probably itching for more photos and a price on the Turbo, but we don’t have either yet. Mazda says the non-Turbo models will be going on sale next month, and the Turbo by the end of the year. Pricing for both will be available in due time, but one thing’s for sure, the compact car segment just got a bit more complicated.
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