2021 Mazda3 debuts powerful new engine, maintains sporty driving character Featured

Posted On Wednesday, 29 September 2021 23:11 Written by
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The 2021 Mazda3 adds a powerful new turbo engine option The 2021 Mazda3 adds a powerful new turbo engine option Photo courtesy of Mazda

Despite the seemingly unstoppable trend toward SUVs and other larger vehicles, the class of small but fun-to-drive cars still has its share of devotees.

One such contender in this niche category is the Mazda3, which comes in sedan and hatchback models.

This vehicle hasn’t had a full redesign since 2019, but the 2021 version does introduce some new engine options and make other slight refreshes.

I recently got a chance to test out the impressive 2021 Mazda3 Turbo Premium Plus hatchback model, and I’m back with a full report on how it measures up, and who might be a good fit for this vehicle.


The bold but classy exterior design of the 2021 Mazda3 stands out in the segment, and won’t be mistaken for any of its rivals.

Exterior features include: 18-inch black alloy wheels, LED headlights and LED rear lighting, and heated exterior mirrors.

Moving inside, Mazda continues to impress with its high-end interiors, which border on luxury level. The quality leather seating is extremely comfortable and attractive, and there is a sharp overall design with well-placed controls.

Keep in mind that we’re in the compact class, and that this is a very small car. It’s quite tight in the back seat, so save that area for the little ones or very short adults. Trunk is small, too, so trunk space is limited unless you fold the rear seats flat.

If you plan on carrying passengers or cargo on a regular basis, I would recommend upgrading the midsize Mazda6 sedan or one of Mazda’s SUV options, as this vehicle is not made for those purposes. Its size is quite prohibitive in many regards, like all vehicles in this class.

Interior features include heated front seats, 60/40 split fold-down rear seat, rear seat armrest with cupholders, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, heated steering wheel, and an auto-dimming interior mirror. The power sliding glass moonroof is another nice touch.


The 2021 Mazda3 I tested featured the top engine offering — a turbo 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque.

Another option is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder powerplant offering 186 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. And the new base engine is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet.

All of these choices come with a six-speed automatic transmission. A six-speed manual transmission is offered on the hatchback version of the Mazda3 hatchback, but the sedan does not offer a manual option.

Front-wheel drive is standard on the Mazda3, but AWD is an option.

Zero-to-60 times on the top-level engine were impressive, coming in under at about 5.5 seconds with the top engine option. Numbers are closer to 8 seconds on the less powerful choices.

In terms of overall ride quality, power, handling and pure joy of driving, the 2021 Mazda3 offers easily the best experience in the nonluxury compact-car class. This is impressive when you consider the big names it competes against, including Corolla, Elantra and Civic.

Every day, I looked forward to zipping around in this little hot rod. Beyond its speed, you can tell by the vehicle's quick responsiveness to all driver input that this vehicle is made for people who love to drive.


The Mazda3 infotainment system is among the best you will find in any vehicle. Voice commands were extremely effective, which increases safety and lets you keep your eyes on the road. This is on top of the bevy of safety features offered on the vehicle.

Physical controls of the infotainment setup, including a center control dial, are based in the center console and generally easy to learn and use.

Tech features in the Mazda3 include: Dual-zone automatic climate control, an 8.8-inch color display, AM/FM Bose premium audio with 12 speakers, 3 free months of satellite radio, Bluetooth hands-free connection for phone and audio, Cruise control and steering wheel mounted controls.

You also get access to Mazda Connected Services, which allow you remotely start and lock/unlock your car, among other features. 

The Mazda3 comes with a rearview camera, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility for phone mirroring, keyless entry and push-button start. 

The 2021 Mazda3 has absolutely perfect safety ratings, something I didn’t expect on a smaller car. It got 5 stars across the board (overall, frontal crash, side crash, rollover), which shows Mazda’s ingenuity and ability to focus on sportiness AND safety all at once.

Safety features offered include a full array of airbags, blind spot monitoring system, rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist, tire pressure monitoring system, Mazda Radar Cruise Control with Stop and Go, and rain-sensing windshield wipers. There’s even a Driver Attention Alert that warns you when you may need to pull over for your own safety. 

Optional safety features on the Premium Plus hatchback model included: Front and rear parking sensors, 360-degree view monitor, traffic jam assist feature, traffic sign recognition, Rear Smart City Brake Support and Rear Cross Traffic with Braking, 

Many of the tech and safety features offered on the Mazda3 are only offered on the higher trim levels.


Official fuel mileage numbers on the 2021 Mazda3 are 23 city/31 highway/26 combined. In my time driving the vehicle, I averaged 24 mpg. This is less than rivals, but that is expected with the stronger engine and sportier ride.


The Mazda3 I tested was loaded and priced just under $35,000, at the top of the price range. Base price starts about $21,000. The lower end of the pricing is close to the nonluxury compact car competition, but the high end is a bit more costly due to its upscale look and feel, and strong performance ability. Due to its high-end nature, one could argue that the top end of the Mazda3 offerings are competing more with small Audi and Benz cars than they are with Civics, Corollas and Elantras — and in that light they can be viewed as quite a good deal.

As far as warranties, you get a 60-month/60K powertrain warranty, and a 36-month/36K bumper-to-bumper warranty.


The 2021 Mazda3 is a well-designed, small and fun vehicle that’s more upscale than you would expect it to be. It’s a good buy for those without families and cargo to carry around, or someone seeking a pure commuter car that they can enjoy driving.

The Mazda3 doesn’t have the name brand recognition of many of its competitors, but it’s head and shoulders above the field in its class when it comes to performance and driving experience.


AutoTechReviews.com can be found on Twitter @AutoTechReview, or stay updated at the AutoTechReviews Facebook page.

Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.

Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2021 Mazda3
  • Price as tested: $34,820 (starts at $21K) 
  • Best feature: Powerful engine options, made for driving enthusiasts, near-luxury interior
  • Rating: 4 out of five stars
  • Who will want this vehicle?: Car buyers looking for something small with power and pizzazz
Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

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