2021 Mazda 3 spins out a turbocharged all-wheel-drive compact contender

It’s been a long time coming, but a turbocharger finally returns to the Mazda 3. Just don’t call it a Mazdaspeed 3. 

The 2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo makes 250 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque from its 2.5-liter turbo-4 with 93 octane gas, the automaker announced Wednesday. The torque-rich engine doesn’t match the 263-hp Mazdaspeed 3 that was discontinued in 2013, but it boosts the Mazda 3 back into the hot hatch discussion. 

Redesigned for 2019, the Mazda 3 lost some of the handling verve that made it an eager but underpowered competitor to the Volkswagen Golf GTI, Hyundai Veloster N, Hyundai Elantra GT N-Line, and the Kia Soul GT-Line Turbo. With the addition of all-wheel drive for all but the base models, the Mazda 3 sedan became the more sophisticated compact, while the hatchback geared more toward enthusiasts with an available 6-speed manual. 

2021 Mazda 3 with turbocharged engine, all-wheel drive leaked

2021 Mazda 3 with turbocharged engine, all-wheel drive leaked

For 2021, Mazda unites them again with an optional turbocharged engine. But it will only come with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Unlike the Mazdaspeed 3, the turbo engine will be available in both the sedan and the hatchback. Even with 87 octane pump gas (or regular), the 2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo makes 227 hp and 310 lb-ft. Not only is that a dramatic power increase over the 2.5-liter inline-4 (186 hp and 186 lb.-ft.) in the 2020 Mazda 3, it also churns out more torque than the GTI (258 lb-ft), Veloster N (260 lb-ft), Soul GT-Line (195 lb-ft), and the front-wheel drive brute Honda Civic Type R (295 lb-ft).

It remains to be seen if it will match the near-$40,000 price tag of the Type R.

The 2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo comes well equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, wi-fi hotspot, 8.8-inch display screen, keyless entry, keyless start, and two USB ports.

The 2.5 Turbo is likely to be the top of the Mazda 3 chain. Premium features include a head-up display, power sunroof, heated synthetic leather seats, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters, leather-wrapped shift knob, and a slew of active safety features. Standard on the Turbo are adaptive cruise control with stop/start, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert, active lane control, automatic high beams, adaptive headlights, and a driver-attention monitor.

2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo

2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo

Changes to the outside beyond Turbo badges on the trunk and engine include 18-inch black alloy wheels, larger tailpipes, black heated side mirrors, LED headlights and daytime running lights, and rain-sensing wipers. A black grille and lower front bumper adorn the sedan.

The Premium Plus Package adds a black rear lip spoiler on the sedan and a black roof spoiler on the hatch. It comes with even more safety features, including reverse automatic emergency braking, leather seats, navigation, an available surround-view camera system, and an available hands-free driving system at speeds slower than 40 mph. 

Pricing will be announced when the 2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo arrives by the end of this year. The 2021 Mazda 3 with two non-turbo models will be on sale next month. 

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