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Mazda3 Turbo: One-Year Ownership Verdict

When I bought my 2021 Mazda3 Turbo Hatchback, it seemed like the perfect daily driver. It was practical, comfortable, stylish, economical, and fun to drive. One year and 8,500 miles later, it turns out that many of the qualities that immediately won me over remain as impressive as ever. It’s also an exceptional value. Most Audi and BMW buyers won’t cross-shop this car, but they should. I’ve been in several entry-level luxury cars, and the Mazda3 competes in nearly every way.

So, should you buy one? Read on for my one-year analysis of owning a 2021 Mazda3 Turbo Hatchback Premium Plus.



5 things I’ve loved about the Mazda3 Turbo after one year


Styling


It’s so unique. I love the long hood, the lower lip that juts out, and its thick c-pillars. The front grille and headlights look menacing, and overall it has an attractive and unique shape. I agree with the decision to award it the 2020 World Car Design of the Year award. It is well deserved.


Fuel economy

Full disclosure: I always put premium gas in it. With premium, the engine produces 320 pound-feet of diesel-like torque and I wanted to be sure I got every last bit of power out of it. That said, I averaged about 28 mpg on most tanks of gas. I achieved 31 mpg once, and I have not taken it on a road trip.


About 70% of my driving is on the highway, but still, I think 28 mpg was pretty great, especially considering its high output engine, all-wheel drive drivetrain, and six-speed automatic transmission. The gas tank is small, however. Even when achieving 28 mpg, I was lucky to reach 300 miles on a tank. Usually, I was filling up closer to 270 or 280 miles, just to be safe.



Luxury


No, I wouldn’t say this is quite in the same luxury tier as something like the BMW M240i. And it shouldn’t be, considering the bimmer is about $20k more than the fully loaded Mazda. That said, the 3 is pretty great in the luxury department, and not that far off entry-level Germans that cost significantly more. It has all the tech you could want or need (probably more than you want, actually, but more on that in a minute), and all the materials feel high quality.

Bose stereo

It’s excellent. It sounds better in the Mazda3 than in many other Bose-equipped vehicles I’ve been in. Mazda mounted the front speakers in the footwells and not on the doors, which does wonders for a more solid, well-rounded sound.

The all-wheel drive

Whether it’s a sporty, even mildly aggressive canyon run, or trudging through a snow-covered highway, Mazda’s all-wheel-drive system shines in the 3. I have winter tires installed in the winter, which only amplifies the all-wheel drive system’s wonderful qualities.



8 things I haven’t loved after a year


The safety tech is too sensitive

The adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist are way too sensitive. I ended up disabling both of them, and I’m sure you will, too. They drove me nuts from day one and I was happy to never use these features.

The seatbelt chime is incessant

It’s seriously the worst. And it doesn’t let up. It will berate you immediately for not having your seatbelt on, and you will hate every second of it.

Piano black trim


It scratches immediately. On day one of ownership, I had scratches on the trim around the shifter. Try to clean it and it only gets worse! I would highly recommend having PPF or vinyl inlays applied upon purchase to avoid having your interior look like a two-year-old rubbed steel wool all over the trim.


Low-battery warnings


A plague among Mazda3s, even brand new ones, is the low-battery warning. Even having the door open for a few minutes can cause the battery to get low, and for an incredibly annoying warning alarm to sound. This happened far more frequently than you’d expect. I checked with the dealer and they said it’s normal, and Mazda doesn’t have a fix for it — yet. Usually, all it took was a drive around the neighborhood to remedy the issue, and it would go away until the next time I left the door open to clean or vacuum.

Slight rattles

The infotainment screen on the dash would slightly rattle over certain roads, as did the driver’s side window at times. The rattles were inconsistent, but, after 8,500 miles, they were there.

Small back seat


It’s really only for two people. Two smaller people. If your front seat occupants are over 5’ 9” and your rear passengers are over 5’ 9”, you’re going to run into issues. The Mazda3 was a step up in size coming from my BRZ, and only did I realize after the purchase just how literal that would be. It’s not the miniature size of the BRZ, but it’s probably one of the tighter back seats up the chain.


Lack of ventilated seats

The leather is perforated, but ventilated seats would do wonders here. I would gladly pay another $1,000 or so for this option.

Stiff suspension

The suspension is stiffer than you’re expecting. Way stiffer. This is probably my least favorite aspect of this car. In some ways, it rides more harshly than my WRX STI did. It didn’t seem this stiff when I first bought it, but over the last 8,500 miles, I’ve noticed the bumps more — right in my spine. I wouldn’t say this is a deal breaker, but it’s close. I’m honestly kind of annoyed with how stiff it is, and it has me bracing myself over bumps. I assume Mazda went the cheaper route with the suspension, and it shows.



One-year ownership verdict


So, should you buy the Mazda3 Turbo Hatchback? Yes. If you’re looking for a new, near-perfect daily driver for about $35k, it's an excellent buy. There are annoyances, but the overall value of the Mazda3 Turbo can’t be ignored. It’s fun to drive, torquey, luxurious, stylish, and unique. What more could you want?


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 jasonbellcars@gmail.com 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.




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6 Comments


seasideclub
seasideclub
Aug 07, 2023

You like the giant blind spot? C pillar.

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Mark Coopers
Mark Coopers
Oct 31, 2022

I've got the '22 Polymetal turbo base trim. 2k miles in and this review is right on the money. I love driving this and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. When you compare to the traditional competition of the Civic and Corolla you get so much more, and compared to the Germans you're getting more for less. It's one of the best values out there, although many Corolla and A3 drivers I've talked to say it's the worst value and would never pay that much for "just a Mazda" (although for different reasons). Can't change some people's minds, but forgive them for they know not. For the rattle behind the infotainment screen and one more under the driver seat from…



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Mark Coopers
Mark Coopers
Mar 14
Replying to

Almost 2 years in. Still awesome, still loving the choice. One of the rattles ended up being my dashcam and not the infotainment. I was so peeved. Wish I had gotten PPF on the front when I first bought it but other than that it's a great year round do it all car, with or without passengers, and works great as a pair to the MX-5 in the fleet.

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J. Faidley
J. Faidley
Oct 27, 2022

We replaced my wife's Prius with a 2022 turbo hatch. Absolutely loving it after a 7 month wait! Soul Red of course. Looks superb in the garage next to my 86.

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Atthew Immons
Atthew Immons
Oct 26, 2022

It would be my mazda of choice in the current lineup. No doubt about it. The out going cx-9 a distant second. I own an 2011 cx9. step father has a 2021 cx5. I have owned 2003 mazda3 5door. 1990 RX7 convertible. Dad owned 1980 626 and 1983 626 for 18 years. Best car he ever owned. We buy other brands as well, but mazda usually gets the first look.

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J. Faidley
J. Faidley
Oct 27, 2022
Replying to

If I'd fit in a ND RF, I'd own that over my 86. But I don't, so I get the next smallest coupe I can get! :-)

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