2021 Mazda3 2.5 Turbo with Premium Plus Pkg and AWD Review by David Colman
A real back road burner with a modest price tag
By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
This loaded Mazda3 is as perfect for a rainy day as a grilled cheese sandwich and a cup of hot tomato soup. Through most of the winter season I've tested one car after another with sloping rear windows devoid of a rear wiper. In fact, none of them even offered one as an option. If you look at the back pane of the Mazda3 hatchback, however, you'll see a winter weather work of art. Not only is there a wiper affixed as part of standard equipment, but this one's a multi-speed blade with a washer function as well. That kind of attention to detail is characteristic of Mazda products. The Mazda3 2.5 liter Turbo with AWD tops the food chain for the company's entry level sedan. The price range starts at $20,500 for the 2.0 liter version, $21,500 for the 2.5S, $22,700 for the Select, $24,530 for the Preferred and $26,850 for the Premium. Moving up to the 2.5 liter Turbo range costs $29,900, with the Premium Plus AWD model we tested going for $33,750.
The Premium Plus Package adds a raft of extras, with an emphasis on technology upgrades. For your $3,850 outlay, you'll receive leather seats, front and rear spoilers, front and rear parking sensors, traffic sign recognition, navigation system, rear smart brake support, rear cross traffic alert with braking, a 360 degree monitor, and traffic jam assist. This latter feature allows you to plod along automatically with slow moving traffic without resorting to physical application of throttle or brake. Mazda's sophisticated all-wheel-drive system, called i-Activ AWD, uses data from sensors to calculate how weight shifts from tire to tire. The system then sends power to the tires capable of generating the most grip in every instant. Mazda transfers that power to the road through a set of 215/45R18 Bridgestone Turanza EL 440 all-season tires, with a hard treadwear rating of TW 480. While the Bridgestones generate just 0.85g in dry weather tests, they proved ideal for coping with the flooded winter conditions that prevailed during our week with this Mazda.
If you fill this hatchback's fuel tank with Premium gas, you'll enjoy 250hp. Mazda also offers the choice of running the 3 on Regular grade, but you'll suffer a 23hp loss. In either event, the sophisticated DOHC Skyactiv motor is more than a match for this relatively lightweight, 3,379 lb. chassis. Connected to a 6-speed, electrically controlled sport automatic gearbox, the potent 4 cylinder engine loves to spool up to redline of 6300rpm, especially when prodded to perform with the manual shift paddles provided at the steering wheel. You can slip the console mounted gear selector into manual mode for complete control of the powertrain. Likewise, Mazda fits this top level 3 with a sport/normal drive mode control switch that invites you to oversee the stiffness and resilience of the suspension system. In either setting, the ride of the Mazda3 verges on firm. Choosing the sport setting eliminates the window of compliance available in normal drive mode. The Mazda3, with its torsion beam rear axle, lacks true independent rear suspension. This design is partially responsible for the sometimes jarring ride quality. The Turbo motor endows this chassis with a sub-6 second sprint to 60mph from a standing start. After cutting a 0-60mph time of 5.6 seconds, the turbocharged 3 will run 14.1 seconds at 99mph in the quarter mile, with a governed top speed of 134 mph. Those impressive numbers reveal that this rather inconspicuous looking Mazda is loath to show all its cards at first glance. In reality, this understated package turns the Mazda3 Turbo 2.5 into a back road burner that belies its humble origins as Mazda's least expensive sedan.
Even more removed from those entry level limitations is the interior treatment of the 3. A number of unexpected niceties make life easier behind the wheel, like fully automated adjustments for the driver's seat, dual memory settings for the driver's seat and mirrors, 3 position heat control for both front seats, and steering wheel heat provision. Mazda is adept at continuing to provide physical buttons on the dashboard to control certain critical functions that should never be left to the complexity of a menu-driven screen display. For example, those heated seats and steering wheel are instantly available through fascia mounted switches, as are all HVAC controls. Most importantly, the driver can easily delete most of the safety nannies by simply depressing a single button on the dash below and to the left of the steering wheel. I wish I could say the same for the single knob control of the infotainment system, but the selection method and menu structure of this device is so opaque that you need a tutorial to accomplish the most simple commands.
All in all, the Mazda3 2,5 Turbo AWD is a real driver's delight, with performance features far outweighing it's meager investment cost.
2021 MAZDA3 2.5 TURBO with PREMIUM PLUS AWD
ENGINE: 2.5 Liter inline 4 DOHC Turbo
HORSEPOWER: 250hp@ 5000rpm
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 23MPG City/31MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $35,415
HYPES: Stealth Bomber
GRIPES: Confusing Multi-Function Commander Control
STAR RATING: 9 Stars out of 10