2021 Mazda 3 Hatchback

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2021 Mazda 3 Hatchback Test Drive Review: The Grown-Up Hot Hatch

With the introduction of the fourth-generation Mazda 3 Hatchback, the Mazda brand took a turn in a very different direction in the US. Goodbye 'Zoom-Zoom,' hello 'Driving Matters' as a brand slogan, and in comes a new target audience for Mazda. Rather than catering directly to younger buyers with sporty products like the MazdaSpeed line, Mazda is now after a more mature demographic with buyers seeking a near-luxury product at mainstream prices.

This transition becomes apparent when stepping inside the new Mazda 3 Hatchback. Premium materials and elegant design give the Mazda 3 a whiff of Audi on the interior, which is high praise for a mainstream vehicle. For 2021, Mazda has now added a turbocharged engine variant with 250 horsepower, putting the 3 on a more level playing field with hot hatchbacks like the Volkswagen Golf GTI. But actually, Mazda hopes to punch well beyond the GTI's pedigree. Mazda says its new turbo 3 is so premium, it can steal customers from the Audi A3, BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, and Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Is the 2021 Mazda 3 hatch worthy of poaching luxury buyers? Or are those aspirations a bit too lofty? We took one for a few days to test drive it and find out.

Read in this review:

8.8
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New 2021 Mazda 3 Hatchback Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2020 Mazda 3 Hatchback?

The big news for 2021 is the addition of a new 2.5-liter turbocharged engine at the top of the range in two all-new trims for the USA: 2.5 Turbo and 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus. Producing up to 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque on premium gas, it answers one of the few criticisms of last year's model. This high-performance version of the Mazda 3 comes standard with the brand's i-ACTIV all-wheel-drive system. Elsewhere in the lineup, Mazda has added a few additional features such as a three-year trial of Mazda Connected Services, which includes a Wi-Fi hotspot with a six-month or 2-GB trial. The Mazda 3 2.5 S with the Select Package is a new trim for the hatchback and offers available AWD, blind-spot monitoring, dual-zone climate control, and black leatherette seats. With the Preferred Package, the Mazda 3 is now equipped with a power moonroof. Meanwhile, the Premium Package now gains a Bose 12-speaker sound system, navigation, and more.

Pros and Cons

  • Turbo engine delivers much-improved performance
  • Cabin feels expensive
  • Sporty handling
  • Plenty of standard features
  • Responsive infotainment interface
  • Eye-catching design
  • Limited rear-seat legroom
  • Other hatchbacks offer more trunk space
  • Large blind spots are a frustration
  • Missing a few premium features
  • Doesn't feel like a "hot" hatchback

Best Deals on 2021 Mazda 3 Hatchback

2021 Mazda 3 Hatchback Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
2.5 S
2.5L Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$22,650
Select
2.5L Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$23,850
Preferred
2.5L Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$25,500
Premium
2.5L Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
6-Speed Manual
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$28,000
2.5 Turbo
2.5L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
All-Wheel Drive
$31,050
See All 2021 Mazda 3 Hatchback Trims and Specs

2021 Mazda 3 Hatchback Exterior

2021 Mazda 3 Hatchback Front View CarBuzz
2021 Mazda 3 Hatchback Rear View CarBuzz
2021 Mazda 3 Hatchback Front Angle View CarBuzz
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Dimensions

  • Length 175.6 in
  • Wheelbase 107.3 in
  • Height 56.7 in
  • Max Width 70.7 in
  • Front Width 61.7 in
  • Rear Width 62.2 in
  • Curb Weight 3,082.0 lbs

Exterior Colors

  • Jet Black Mica
  • Snowflake White Pearl Mica
  • Deep Crystal Blue Mica
  • Machine Gray Metallic
  • Soul Red Crystal Metallic
  • Polymetal Gray Metallic, *PRICE TO FOLLOW*

2021 Mazda 3 Hatchback Performance

2021 Mazda 3 Hatchback Rear Angle View CarBuzz
2021 Mazda 3 Hatchback Gauge Cluster CarBuzz
2021 Mazda 3 Hatchback Engine Bay CarBuzz

Engine and Transmission

  • Engines
    2.5L Inline-4 Gas, 2.5L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
  • Transmissions
    6-Speed Automatic, 6-Speed Manual
  • Drivetrains
    AWD, FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

When an automaker's slogan is 'Driving Matters,' the cars better be pretty fun to drive. In this area, we were rather disappointed with the Mazda 3 AWD hatchback we had for review last year. The carryover 2.5-liter four-cylinder felt adequately-powered but joyless, and the AWD system was let down by its screechy, gripless all-season tires. By dropping in a turbocharged engine, Mazda easily fixed the 3's lack of speed. As with other Mazda models to use this turbo four-pot, the 3 feels gutsy, especially at low engine speeds. The engine has so much torque on tap, it rarely strains itself during passing maneuvers, delivering effortless acceleration reminiscent of a luxury model.

The characteristics of the Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo feel ideal for buyers who are coming out of a luxury brand like Audi or BMW, but it will disappoint customers in search of their next hot hatchback. This car is not a spiritual successor to the MazdaSpeed3, and thinking of it as such will only lead to disappointment. The AWD system strips aways the manic torque-steer of the old Speed3, replacing it with sensible understeer. Mazda will not offer the 3 will a summer tire option, though the Bridgestone all-seasons are much grippier than the Toyo Proxes that are also on offer. Those who care at all about how their car handles should get the Bridgestones, or better yet, get a set of summer tires elsewhere for the warmer months.

Though the addition of the turbocharger will propel the hatchback at faster speeds, Mazda hasn't done much else to improve the handling. The suspension is still tuned for comfort, meaning the car exhibits plenty of body roll around corners. With AWD standard, the 3 2.5 Turbo at least feels planted at all times, though we would have liked to see Mazda offer sport suspension and larger brakes. In Sport Mode, the car activates its G-Vectoring Control, which senses driver inputs and manages the weight balance when cornering to apply more grip on the front end using a combination of the brakes and gearbox. Sadly, the six-speed automatic box lacks the quickness of more modern transmissions, and on-throttle, it often short shifts, even in Sport mode. With this transmission, the Mazda 3 feels perpetually inclined to be driven at seven-tenths rather than all-out. We hate to take the cliche "it needs a manual stance," but Mazda could probably benefit from a newer automatic with a few more cogs or a dual-clutch transmission in the near future. In this regard, it feels more lukewarm than a true hot hatch.

2021 Mazda 3 Hatchback Interior

2021 Mazda 3 Hatchback Dashboard CarBuzz
2021 Mazda 3 Hatchback Steering Wheel CarBuzz
2021 Mazda 3 Hatchback Central Console CarBuzz
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Seating and Interior Space

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater
  • Front Leg Room 42.3 in
  • Front Head Room 38.0 in
  • Rear Leg Room 35.1 in
  • Rear Head Room 37.2 in

2021 Mazda 3 Hatchback Trunk and Cargo Space

2021 Mazda 3 Hatchback Rear Passenger Seats CarBuzz
2021 Mazda 3 Hatchback Seat Folded CarBuzz
2021 Mazda 3 Hatchback Trunk Space CarBuzz
  • Maximum Cargo Space
    47.1 ft³

2021 Mazda 3 Hatchback Safety and Reliability

Warranty

  • Basic:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    5 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles

US NHTSA Crash Test Result

  • Overall Rating
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
  • Side Crash Rating
  • Rollover Rating

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2021 Mazda 3 Hatchback a good car?

The 2021 Mazda 3 Hatchback is an interesting cross-blend between a mainstream and premium vehicle. Both the exterior and interior look visually stunning, tremendously increasing the car's curb appeal. Adding a turbocharged engine fixed the lack of pace, finally allowing the car to accelerate effortlessly like the premium item that Mazda billed it as. While we can't imagine too many shoppers seriously comparing it to an Audi, BMW, or Mercedes, the fact that those cars might pop into mind when thinking about a Mazda is an impressive feat on its own.

We do have some warnings though for those reading this Mazda 3 hatchback review. For good and for bad, the 3 feels like a grown-up car, even with the new turbocharged engine. It lacks the silly streak of a hot hatch, meaning buyers coming in from a Golf GTI or Hyundai Veloster N could be bored by the Mazda 3, as it's not really hot-hatch competition. This car is perfect for someone who's had their fun with a smaller or less comfortable hot hatchback and now wants a more mature vehicle with similar power, a nicer cabin, and sexy styling. Our hatchback preferences skew more towards the wacky and ridiculous, but if your tastes are more reserved and sophisticated, the 3 could be an interesting option.

Check out other Mazda Mazda 3 Styles

2021 Mazda 3 Hatchback Comparisons

Mazda 3 Sedan
Mazda CX-3 Mazda
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Mazda 3 Hatchback186 hp26/34 mpg$23,100
Mazda 3 Sedan 155 hp28/36 mpg$21,150
Mazda CX-3 148 hp29/34 mpg$20,790

2021 Mazda 3 Hatchback vs Mazda 3 Sedan

Naturally, both the 3 Sedan and Hatchback have much in common. Dynamically, they're each fun to drive and come with feature-packed, well-finished cabins. Their different body styles have an impact on practicality, though, as the sedan offers only 13.2 cubic feet of trunk space in comparison to the hatchback, which has over 20 cubes before folding down the seats. However, the sedan offers a bit more headroom for occupants at the back. While both the sedan and hatchback now offer the option of a turbocharged 2.5-liter engine at the top of the range, the sedan comes with an entry-level 2.0-liter engine that produces only 155 hp but drops the price down to a more wallet-friendly $20,500. Because of this, the sedan undercuts the hatchback by $2,000. Comparing apples with apples, the sedan is around $1,000 cheaper than the equivalent hatchback. Choosing between the two will depend on which body style better suits your needs.

See Mazda 3 Sedan Review

2021 Mazda 3 Hatchback vs Mazda CX-3

The CX-3 is one of the smaller crossovers on the market. In fact, it's even shorter and narrower than the 3 Hatchback. While both cars are offered with either front- or all-wheel-drive, only the 3 Hatchback has the option of a turbocharged engine, whereas the CX-3 has to make do with a rather gutless 2.0-liter naturally-aspirated engine churning out no more than 148 hp and 146 lb-ft of torque. It's clear that both vehicles came from the same stable, though, as they're more entertaining to drive than most rivals despite the rather sluggish base engines. Both also have well-crafted cabins that are more upscale than you'd expect at the price, but rear-seat space isn't generous in either according to our reviews. The 3 also has a bigger trunk than the CX-3, and isn't enhanced practicality supposed to be the point of a crossover? Both Mazdas are excellent cars, but we'd side with the more powerful 3 Hatchback if it came down to a choice between the two.

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