2021 Mazda 3 Sedan

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2021 Mazda 3 Sedan Test Drive Review: Premium Sedan At A Compact Price

We always knew the Mazda 3 had good bones. The problem is, Mazda shot itself in the foot by offering a car with decent dynamics but no engine to go along with it. The 186-horsepower naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter engine is refined, but it always felt as if it could do with a bit... more. That's why 2021 sees the introduction of a turbocharged version of the same motor, generating 250 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque, but also a new base motor with only 155 hp. The six-speed automatic gearbox is the same, and the 3 Sedan can still be had with either FWD or AWD, it's now just got more fire to back up the excellent chassis we've always loved. Competing in the compact sedan segment, rivals include the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and Volkswagen Jetta, but with sleek looks, great handling dynamics, a premium interior, and now, turbo power to go with it, Mazda might have earned itself the top spot in the segment. To see if these virtues are enough to catapult it into stardom, Mazda sent us a turbo variant for a week-long test drive. And it didn't disappoint.

Read in this review:

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2021 Mazda 3 Sedan Changes: What’s The Difference vs The 2020 Mazda 3 Sedan?

Mazda made some minor tweaks to the various trims, including a slight renaming, but it all has to do with the biggest changes to the lineup - two new engines that diversify the range in comparison to previous years. A 2.0-liter naturally-aspirated four-cylinder powers the base sedan with 155 hp, while a 250-hp 2.5-liter turbo is finally available in the two high-end models, paired exclusively with AWD. A few features have been shuffled around to accommodate the new trim designations, with the mid-level Preferred losing out on navigation and a 12-speaker Bose sound system but gaining a power sunroof.

Pros and Cons

  • Luxurious, refined cabin
  • Handsome exterior
  • Excellent standard specification
  • Available AWD
  • Chassis tuning is spot-on
  • Now available with turbo power
  • Naturally-aspirated engines are lackluster
  • The rear legroom is tight
  • Infotainment isn't the best
  • Cargo capacity is below average
  • No manual option for the sedan

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2021 Mazda 3 Sedan Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
2.0 Sedan
2.0L Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
2.5 S
2.5L Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
2.5L Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
2.5L Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
2.5L Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
See All 2021 Mazda 3 Sedan Trims and Specs

2021 Mazda 3 Sedan Exterior

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  • Length 183.5 in
  • Wheelbase 107.3 in
  • Height 56.9 in
  • Max Width 70.7 in
  • Front Width 61.7 in
  • Rear Width 62.2 in
  • Curb Weight 3,071.0 lbs

Exterior Colors

  • Sonic Silver Metallic
  • Jet Black Mica
  • Snowflake White Pearl Mica
  • Deep Crystal Blue Mica
  • Sonic Silver Metallic, Build Out: 08/04/2020
  • Soul Red Crystal Metallic
  • Machine Gray Metallic

2021 Mazda 3 Sedan Performance

Engine and Transmission

  • Engines
    2.0L Inline-4 Gas, 2.5L Inline-4 Gas, 2.5L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
  • Transmission
    6-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrains
    AWD, FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

Sadly, Mazda doesn't do dedicated sporty models anymore. The MX-5 is the only glimmer of hope as we think back nostalgically to the MazdaSpeed 3 and MazdaSpeed 6. The thing is, were they great cars? The MS6, with its advanced AWD system and six-speed manual 'box, was, and still is, fantastic, but we're not entirely convinced that the MS3 was ever truly spectacular - it just had a ton of torque steer and made some nice noises.

Modern Mazda's are more mature, and all the better for it. Instead of fitting a car with a rock-hard suspension and too much power for the front wheels to cope with, Mazda focused on steering response and a balanced suspension setup.

The result is the Mazda 3 is a car that flows down the road beautifully and confidently. It stops short of being razor sharp like the Civic SI and VW Jetta GLI, but we don't necessarily see that as a bad thing. Not everyone wants something overly firm, and there's a definite market for luxurious cruisers with a turn of pace a-la BMW. These are the buyers Mazda's targeting. Don't get us wrong there's still some fun tuned into the chassis, but the baby won't be bounced awake every time you drive over a pebble. The steering responds well, but it's typical of modern electronic setups in that it doesn't drip with feedback.

The only thing slowing the Mazda 3 Turbo down is the transmission. It's slow to shift compared with how willing and able the engine is, and to get the best out of it, you need to shift manually using the paddles. The transmission is the right one for the car, but not the engine if you're expecting to drive a MazdaSpeed 3 without the badging. A manual transmission would bridge that gap somewhat, but we do feel a proper Mazdaspeed version would be the perfect range topper.

2021 Mazda 3 Sedan Interior

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Seating and Interior Space

  • Seating capacity
  • Front Leg Room 42.3 in
  • Front Head Room 38.0 in
  • Rear Leg Room 35.1 in
  • Rear Head Room 37.3 in

2021 Mazda 3 Sedan Trunk and Cargo Space

  • Trunk Volume
    13.2 ft³

2021 Mazda 3 Sedan Safety and Reliability


  • 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 Sedan A Good car?

There's no denying the Mazda 3 is a good package. It has a beautiful exterior and interior, and it's fun to drive. The main problem was Mazda's dedication to the naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter engine. It's a good enough engine, but it just doesn't have the gusto to keep up with competition like the Civic Si and Jetta GLI.

While the new turbocharged model isn't as scalpel-like as some of the more hardcore offerings in the segment, we're just happy that Mazda finally gave it turbo power. We knew there was a good car in there somewhere, and the turbo brings it out. Thanks to Mazda's focus on sublime steering and balanced ride and handling, it can hustle as well, despite erring on the side of refinement rather than brutality. Finally, the Mazda 3 is a brilliant car. Before, it didn't offer any real reason to buy it over a CX-5, but now that Mazda added fun to the mix, it's a viable option.

Check out other Mazda Mazda 3 Styles

2021 Mazda 3 Sedan Comparisons

Honda Civic Sedan Honda
Mazda 6 Sedan Mazda
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Mazda 3 Sedan155 hp28/36 mpg$21,150
Honda Civic Sedan 158 hp30/37 mpg$22,550
Mazda 6 Sedan 187 hp26/35 mpg$24,475

2021 Mazda 3 Sedan vs Honda Civic Sedan

The Civic remains one of the top choices in the midsize sedan segment, for good reason. For a reasonable price, Honda gives you a quality cabin, decent ride and handling, and a turbocharged engine that's very responsible at low speeds. Thanks to new turbo engines, the Mazda 3 is now in direct competition with the Civic Si as well, which already has its cult following as an affordable driver's machine.

These cars compete on two levels. On the practical side, the Honda offers a more extensive interior and better fuel economy. The Mazda's interior is a massive step up in terms of quality at the expense of space, and it has the option of AWD.

On the performance side, we have the Civic Si, which is down on power compared to the turbocharged Mazda. But, and it's a big Seth Rogen-sized but, the Si is available with one of the sweetest manuals on the planet, and it only weighs 2,889 lbs. The Mazda is quicker off the line thanks to AWD, but the Civic Si has built quite a following for a reason. At $25,000, it's a lot cheaper than the entry-level turbocharged Mazda. We'd say a more mature buyer should get the Mazda, while a young hot-head should get a Civic Si or even a base Civic Sport. But there's an all-new Civic on the way for 2022, and until then, we'd rate the Mazda 3 as the better vehicle for the up-and-comer.

See Honda Civic Sedan Review

2021 Mazda 3 Sedan vs Mazda 6 Sedan

With the Mazda 3 moving upmarket, there was some overlap in pricing with the bigger Mazda 6. Now with the turbo models, that overlap is even more pronounced. A top-spec Mazda 3 retails for $32,600, which is just $350 less than the 2021 Mazda 6 Carbon Edition. This specific model creates a massive problem for the 3 because it's also equipped with the 250-hp 2.5-liter turbocharged engine. Yes, it's sure to be slower, but Mazda's Carbon Edition trim adds a lot of nice features we'd love to be a part of our daily motoring lives. This includes beautiful red leather-trimmed sports seats, power adjustment for both front passengers, wireless Apple CarPlay, ventilated front seats, heated front and rear seats, a power moonroof, and all of the driver assistance features. The 6 is bigger, with a larger trunk and more rear-passenger space, but lacks the precision of the newest Mazda 3. It's still fun to drive, though. There's only one problem - the Mazda 6 is soon to be discontinued in the US, so if you've had your eyes on one and been putting the decision off, this might be your last chance.

See Mazda 6 Sedan Review

2021 Mazda 3 Sedan Popular Comparisons

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