Review: This 2021 Mazda3 Turbo Wants To Play The Luxury Car Game, But Is It Really THAT Good?

It certainly makes a strong case

2021 Mazda3 Turbo sedan
(Images: Mazda)

Can the 2021 Mazda3 Turbo give European sport sedans a run for their money?

Right off the bat, I have to say that the exterior and interior design of the 2021 Mazda3 Turbo is outstanding. Its turbocharged 227 horsepower, four cylinder engine makes 310 lb-ft of torque, and it feels amazing. Even the somewhat archaic six-speed automatic transmission works smoothly, and efficiently. The all-wheel drive setup and overall tuning strike a satisfying compromise between sportiness and comfort.

However, this car is far from perfect — at least for me.

One of my first issues with the new Mazda3 sedan has to do with stuffing myself into this vehicle. The interior is tight if you’re a bigger person, and entering requires a sports-car-like rear yoga butt-planting maneuver. The roof, pillar and seat arrangement require some bending to work your way around. In fairness, a fair bit of that difficulty is my fault. I’m a husky horse who’s kind of tall. Not all of you will have that problem.

2021 Mazda3 Turbo sedan

Once inside, after marveling at the elegant looking interior design, I felt kind of cocooned as the door shut. That has to do with a section of the door that rubbed against my left arm. Once again, that has to do with my bulk, and you may not have this issue.

One thing EVERYONE will have an issue with is the infotainment system. Mazda insists on aping BMW’s iDrive system – which is a mistake. The 8.8-inch screen looks cool, but it’s not a touch-screen, and many of the functions translated from the multifunction knob are sluggish. The design of the knob, which is south of the gear level looks good, but most other setups are superior.

My tester, which had the sumptuous white leather interior, was fully loaded. Back seat riders were pinched for legroom, unless they were small. Trunk space isn’t too bad, but it’s not class-leading. Also, rear headroom is limited.

2021 Mazda3 Turbo sedan
The new Mazda3 turbo has a nice, sporty look — and a good character to match. (Image: TFLcar)

Verdict: Some complaints, but I absolutely adore it.

Sure, I’m a little cramped at first, but the drive reminds me of a slightly detuned 2011 Audi S4 I drove for a while. It still is one of my favorite rides, and this Mazda sort of reminds me of it. The solid feel behind the wheel, the seating position, the effortless surge of power – yea, it’s kind of reminiscent of that Audi.

I like the way driving the Mazda3 Turbo makes me feel. It’s not a boy-racer like the Mazdaspeed3 – so forget that over-caffeinated feel. This car is much more mature, refined, smoother on the road, and buttoned-up within. With G-Vectoring coupled to Mazda’s i-Activ AWD system, the little sedan can match most pricy mid-level sporty sedans in overall driving feel. It feels like a $50,000 car. Even fully loaded, this Premium Plus trim tops out at just over $34,000.

It’s also pretty efficient, although it’s happier on more expensive premium fuel. Still, I averaged about 24 mpg with a ton of aggressive mixed driving.

In this video, I talk about the way the Mazda3 AWD Turbo Premium makes you feel. I truly like it, despite its flaws. I only wish it was offered with a manual transmission OR they put this drive setup in the awesome, but sadly discontinued Mazda6. Yes, it’s near $35,000 price may seem expensive for a Mazda. If you look at the way this thing looks, how its built – and you forgive its shortcomings, it’s a lot of car for the money.