Home > Cars >  

Driven: 2021 Mazda3 2.5 Turbo Sedan [Review]

Apart From A Few Small Complaints, Mazda’s New Sedan Gets Almost Perfect Marks

In recent years, Mazda has moved its product line in a decidedly upscale direction, a decision that has breathed new life into the automaker. Even the smaller “budget” cars and crossovers have interiors that would shame the best from BMW up until just a few years ago. The 2021 Mazda3 Sedan is no exception, but the real story with the new car is its engine. Mazda fitted the car with a new turbocharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that produces 186 hp and 186 lb.-ft. of torque.

2021 Mazda3 Sedan: A Well-Rounded Package

That powerful engine, combined with a plush interior, AWD, and a handsome exterior make the Mazda3 sedan a force to be reckoned with. After spending a week putting the car through its paces, we came away impressed. Beyond a few minor complaints, the 2021 Mazda3 2.5 Turbo Sedan should be worth considering for many buyers.

Confident Performance

Under a heavy foot on the skinny pedal, the turbocharged 4-cylinder engine delivered its power with a healthy howl. Acceleration off the line was strong and provided a solid seat-of-the-pants feel. The 6-speed automatic transmission does its best to keep the rowdy four-banger in check, but it was sometimes slow to shift.

I found that opting to use the included paddle shifters allowed for quicker acceleration, although there was nothing wrong with letting the Mazda3 Sedan choose its own adventure, especially during relaxed drives around town. All-wheel-drive helped keep things tidy in the corners and provided confidence-inspiring grip at almost all times.

The Mazda3 Sedan remained composed and comfortable, even over the worst of northern New England’s pre-winter roads. Even so, there was more engine and road noise in the cabin than I’d like to hear from a car with such premium leanings.

Upscale And Spacious Interior

Interior finishes are an area where Mazda has excelled in recent years, and this excellence holds true for the new 2021 Mazda3 Sedan. The available Premium Plus package showcased white leather upholstery in the cabin, which looks great but could easily turn into a parent’s worst nightmare. Hauling kids in a car with white anything on the interior could be considered loose risk management.

I was lucky in my time with the car that no stray applesauce or peanut butter made its way onto the seat cushions, but it’s easy to imagine those nightmares coming true if given enough time. There’s also the more general issue of discoloration and staining over time even if you don’t have kids, a common problem with light-colored upholstery. My test vehicle hadn’t been around long enough to suffer that fate yet.

Getting past the anxiety-producing white upholstery, the 2021 Mazda3 Sedan’s interior delivers superior comfort and a surprising amount of space. The front seats are deep and divinely padded, making them ideal for long-haul road trips and highway drives. The car’s front cabin area is driver-oriented while still being friendly to the front-seat passenger.

All controls and displays are well within easy reach of the driver, and the available head-up-display meant I never had to look far to find information. The cabin is set up intuitively. One complaint was that large bottles or cups in the cupholders can obstruct the ability to set climate controls.

The story is much the same in the back seats, where there’s more than enough room for two adults to ride in comfort. The Mazda3 Sedan’s compact dimensions mean that there might be some friction between front-seat passengers and adults in the rear over legroom, but the car’s gently sloping roof allows for plenty of headroom in the back seat.

The same is true if you are using a car seat. Parents will have an easy time lifting kids into and out of child seats thanks to the back seat design. Because of the sloping roof, loading kids into full-size or rear-facing car seats may present some issues with bumping the child’s head on the roof, however, but little ones fare much better in the back of the Mazda3 Sedan than many other compact cars.

Top-Of-The-Line Tech And Safety

The 2021 Mazda3 Sedan comes standard with a 7-inch digital gauge cluster, an 8.8-inch central display, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, USB inputs, a Bose 12-speaker sound system, Bluetooth, and more. It’s worth noting that Mazda did not equip the Mazda3 Sedan with a touchscreen. All controls are handled through a dial located in the center console area. This is to prevent the distractions that come from poking at a screen while driving down the road.

That dial may be confusing for some drivers, particularly those that aren’t tech-forward. There’s a bit of a learning curve, especially with navigating between audio sources and adjusting vehicle settings, but over time it becomes quite intuitive. The ability to use infotainment functions without taking your eyes off the road is a huge benefit — well worth the pain of learning how to use the dial.

The Bose stereo is plenty loud and provides deep, rich sound. The downside here is that the Mazda3 Sedan’s cabin isn’t as quiet as it should be to take full advantage of the premium sound system. Wind and road noise can muddy music and make podcasts hard to hear at times, especially on the highway.

Mazda didn’t go light on the safety gear in the 2021 Mazda3 Sedan either. The sedan comes standard with lane departure warnings, lane keep assist, a rearview camera system, blind-spot monitors, and rear cross-traffic alerts. My test car’s Premium Plus Package also included front and rear parking sensors, rear cross-traffic braking, a 360-degree camera system, traffic jam assist, and traffic sign recognition.

These features turn the Mazda3 into a rolling driver command system that provides excellent feedback and information on what’s going on around the car. The head-up-display clearly shows traffic signs and following distance information, as well as indicators to show where other cars are on the road around you.

2021 Mazda3 Sedan: The Price Is Right

With its most recent batch of vehicles, Mazda has proven that it can build refined, fun-to-drive cars with upscale features and finishes. And with the 2021 Mazda3 Sedan starting at $20,500 for the 2.0 sedan and $32,450 for the 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus, you get a lot of value for not a lot of money. Our Mazda3 Premium Plus AWD Sedan tester had a sticker price of $34,165, after the $945 destination fee.

When you factor in your ability to add on desirable useful features like AWD, a head-up display, and navigation, the 2021 Mazda3 Sedan becomes an even more compelling choice, even when compared against hard-hitting competition from Toyota and Honda.

About Chris Teague

After working in the technology and software industry for several years, I began writing as a way to help people outside of that world understand the sometimes very technical work that goes on behind the scenes. With a lifelong love of all things automotive, I turned my attention to writing new vehicle reviews, detailing industry trends, and breaking news. Along the way, I earned an MBA with a focus on data analysis that has helped me gain a strong understanding of why the auto industry’s biggest companies make the decisions they do.