2021 Mazda3 Turbo Hatchback | Long-term ownership review #1
In August of 2021, I said goodbye to my BRZ and welcomed a new 2021 Mazda3 Turbo Hatchback to the stable as my new daily driver. While I was heartbroken to see the BRZ go, I was excited about the incredible value the Mazda3 Turbo offered, as well as having a little more room for my kids in the back. They had outgrown the BRZ’s backseat all too quickly.
So, as someone who has owned this wonderful daily driver for just over six months now, I thought it helpful to post the first in a series of long-term ownership reviews to help fellow enthusiasts see if the much-loved Mazda3 Turbo is right for them.
In short, the Mazda3 Turbo Hatch is one of the best daily drivers that you’re not buying and is an excellent value. I’ve driven many of the upscale German competitors to the Mazda3, and the Mazda’s driving experience and interior appointments aren’t far from those for thousands less.
Here are five things I love and four things I don’t after six months and 6,000 miles of ownership.
Five things I love about my Mazda3 Turbo Hatch
The Mazda3 Turbo can run on regular and premium gas, but filling with premium unlocks the engine’s full 250 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. The thrust of the torque is intoxicating, especially with sport mode engaged. The Mazda3 is perfectly fine being a docile commuter, but getting after it yields some very big smiles, more so than you’re probably expecting. The Mazda3 puts down the power with authority and feels more fun than the Subaru WRX STI I owned not long before I purchased the Mazda.
The Mazda3 Hatchback’s styling has been controversial from day one, and I admit at first glance it wasn’t my favorite, either. However, over the last six months, I’ve come to love and appreciate the styling for being so wholly unique. It’s a clean design with amazing curves that are endlessly interesting to look at it — a far cry from the myriad of intensely over-stylized competitors. It’s not overdone, but it’s also not boring. I can see why it “2020 World Car Design of the Year” award.
The eye-catching styling extends to the interior as well. The interior is lovely. Simple and clean, it’s evident that great thought went into designing an interior that is functional, stylish, and high-quality. It feels much more upscale than its price tag suggests and is always a welcoming place to spend time, whether it be on a commute, heading up the canyon, and anything in-between.
Speaking of styling, Mazda’s gone to great lengths to optimize comfort in the Mazda3’s compact space, and it’s paid off wonderfully. The Mazda3 is very comfortable and feels luxurious without the premium price tag. Rear-seat space can get a little tight for two grown adults, but it’s perfectly adequate for short trips around town.
This was our primary family vehicle for a few months and having two kids in the back in child seats worked out fine, with no complaints from the kids or their parents.
I’ve read a number of reports from owners commenting on how dismal their fuel economy is in the Mazda3 Turbo, each averaging in the mid to upper teens. I am happy to report that poor fuel economy has not been my experience.
I drive about 60 percent highway and 40 percent city, and I’m routinely averaging about 27 or 28 mpg. The best I’ve achieved on a tank was 31 mpg last fall. Not too shabby considering the power output from the turbocharged engine powering an all-wheel-drive drivetrain.
Oh, and by the way, the all-wheel-drive system is excellent. Especially in the snow when equipped with winter tires.
The Mazda3 Turbo Hatch handles pretty darn well for what it is. No, it’s not a sports car. I get that. But, it handles far better than you expect, especially with the less-than-modern torsion beam suspension in the rear. As I said, the Mazda3 Turbo is fine being a docile commuter but is more than happy to come alive and respond favorably to your more aggressive inputs. Well done, Mazda.
Four things I don’t like about my Mazda3 Turbo Hatch
Small gas tank
While fuel economy has been surprisingly great, It’s still difficult to break much more than 300 miles from its 12.7-gallon gas tank. I usually fill up when I’ve gone about 270 miles, which means I have about 50 or so miles left in the tank. Not terrible, but not great either. With a 48-mile round-trip commute each day, I’m filling up just about every week.
No ventilated seats
Maybe I’m spoiled, but I really love ventilated/cooled seats. I feel bad complaining about the lack of cooled seats in the Mazda3 Turbo considering its already excellent value proposition, but I would happily pay an extra thousand or so more for the option if Mazda were to make it available.
No wireless Apple CarPlay
One of the more head-scratching elements of the Mazda3 Turbo is the lack of wireless Apple CarPlay. The 3 has a wired Apple CarPlay setup, but to not have wireless CarPlay in a car of this stature seems like an airball. I’ve been in many cars less expensive than the 3 that had wireless Apple CarPlay, so it’s unclear why it’s not a standard feature in a vehicle that is decidedly more upscale than many of its competitors.
Surprisingly harsh ride
Last but not least, I’ve found the Mazda3 Turbo to be surprisingly stiff over rough roads — almost as stiff as my old WRX STI. I expected the suspension to be softer, but over rough roads at higher speeds, I find myself changing lanes to avoid those rough patches. It’s not a huge deal, but it can occasionally rattle the jaw over the right bumps.
Six-month ownership verdict
Overall, the Mazda3 Turbo Hatchback is one of the best daily drivers on the market. It’s fun (and no, it doesn’t need a manual transmission), practical, stylish, economical, safe, luxurious, loaded with tech, and more. I would spring for the top trim like mine, the Premium Plus. This gets you the full suite of safety tech, a 360-degree camera, an excellent Bose stereo, and of course, those optional, amazing, red leather seats, and more, all for around $33k.
I’ve only seen a few on the road in the same spec as mine, which means not many people are buying them. What a shame! Here we have one of the best daily drivers to come around in a long time and yet, everyone’s distracted by the more expensive rivals from Germany.
If you haven’t yet considered the Mazda3 Turbo (even if you’re a dedicated manual transmission fan), you owe it to yourself to check it out. It only took five minutes to win me over. How long will it take you?
About the author: Having owned everything from a DeLorean to an E46 BMW M3 and a Toyota Land Cruiser, Jason Bell is a lifelong car enthusiast who loves sharing his passions as a teacher, writer, speaker, and social media manager. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org for comments/questions, or just to say "hi."
The views and opinions expressed here are my own and may not align with the founders of Everyday Driver.