Displaying items by tag: Mazda
We started our 15 months with our long-term Mazda CX-30 Premium AWD wondering if the handsome new subcompact SUV could convince us Mazda is truly on the march upmarket to become a luxury automaker. Now 19,163 miles later and with our CX-30 departing the MotorTrend garage, we feel safe saying although Mazda has made serious strides in some areas, the overall CX-30 experience left us cold—a new feeling for us, considering how much we loved our old CX-5, CX-9, 3, and 6 long-term cars.
The CX-30 has had an admittedly weird stay in our long-term fleet, with more than half of a year overlapping with safer-at-home orders. But despite sticking close to home base in Los Angeles for the first six months or so of its loan, our CX-30 got some meaningful road trip time in, including long stretches up to northern Oregon and shorter stints to San Francisco and out to the Mojave Desert in support of our Of The Year programs. Over that time, we got to know the CX-30 quite well. We really appreciated our CX-30's premium styling. Although the swooshy waveform on its flanks is controversial among staff (some think the reflections make it look like the SUV was sideswiped), the CX-30 has a distinctive and unmistakably Mazda look. The interior styling won high praise, too, outdoing segment rivals such as the Buick Encore GX and Lexus UX in design and material choice. We were also charmed by our long-termer's engaging steering feel, which is usually something of an afterthought in the subcompact SUV segment.
But despite the bright spots, the CX-30 wore on us over the months. Its styling promises luxury, but the drive experience doesn't deliver. We grew tired of apologizing to passengers for the buzz-prone powertrain, the transmission's sloppy shifts, and inconsistent stops due to a mushy brake pedal. The standard 186-hp, 186-lb-ft 2.5-liter I-4 also felt a bit underpowered when loaded with four people—an impression that the hunt-happy six-speed automatic didn't help. Mazda now offers a 250-hp turbocharged I-4 on the CX-30, but it's still saddled with the increasingly dated six-speed auto.
The CX-30's cabin also wasn't as nice a place to spend time as it first appeared to be; passengers frequently complained that the tight cabin was claustrophobic, due to the stylish high beltline. (The driver's seat is thankfully height-adjustable.) We've also found Mazda's infotainment system difficult to use while driving, requiring far too much time looking at screens and twiddling a knob than is safe to do while on the road
Although our CX-30 has been mechanically trouble-free over its time with us, its cabin is showing signs of early wear and tear. The white leather seats have started to stain from sliding across them in jeans, and the bolsters have been marred from rubbing up against the SUV's B-pillar. We were also disappointed to see the CX-30's faux carbon-fiber plastic trim quickly became an ugly rainbow of scratches, especially in high touchpoint areas around the shifter and cupholders. We had identical issues with our 2020 Mazda 3 long-termer.
Mazda's failure to improve materials quality is disappointing. However, we continue to be pleased with the dealer experience. For a mainstream automaker on the march upmarket, Mazda's dealership fell squarely on the luxury side of the spectrum, impressing us with the swiftness of its service and the attention to detail. Granted, we didn't spend much time at the dealership during our loan. Our two visits to the dealer were for routine service (an oil and filter change, tire rotation, and inspection) and recall work (one for a Bose audio system glitch, the other to improve the spotty adaptive cruise control).
We spent about $375.00 maintaining our Mazda (we say "about," because a careless former employee neglected to file the paper work for our CX-30's second service). That's significantly more than we spent on our long-term 2020 Kia Soul ($198.19 for two services) and 2018 Subaru Crosstrek ($281.85 for three services). It's also about $100 more than what we spent maintaining the 2020 Mazda 3. All of these vehicles covered about 20,000 miles.
The EPA rates the CX-30 AWD at 25/32/27 mpg city/highway/combined, and in our time with it, which heavily skewed toward urban driving, we netted 25.8 mpg. Unsurprisingly, that's worse than our Mazda 3 hatchback (28.8 mpg), but it's about dead even with our old Crosstrek, which achieved 25.9 mpg in our hands.
Overall, Mazda has made notable strides with both design and the dealership experience. But if we're looking at it as a luxury SUV, its lack of polish and drivetrain refinement seriously detract from the ownership experience. At the same time, the compromises resulting from Mazda's move upmarket make the CX-30 less enjoyable to drive day to day. As a result, this is probably the least engaging Mazda we've experienced in a decade; improvements in design and dealerships don't outweigh that.
Ultimately, the CX-30 is less a jack-of-all-trades vehicle than a master of none. We won't miss this Mazda, but there's always the next one.
It should first be reminded here that Mazda confirmed last month that it is preparing five new crossovers for 2022 and 2023, which will be sold in different markets.
The first in line is this CX-50, which had its premiere today, and will soon be presented to the public at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
The CX-50 will be produced from January 2022 in Alabama, USA, and will arrive on the market in the spring of next year.
Also, the CX-50 will be sold only in North America, but for now it is not known at what prices.
The Japanese said in a statement that the CX-50 will be offered to American customers with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder petrol in the atmospheric and turbo versions, paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.
The driver also has at his disposal a selector of driving modes called Mi-Drive (Normal, Sport and Off-Road modes).
Mazda promises to offer new versions with electrified drive soon after the start of sales.
The CX-50 also has Mazda's "Kodo" design vocabulary, here with off-road elements (black protective plastic), black honeycomb mask, roof racks, larger air vents on the outer edges of the bumpers, as well as with the optional Zircon Sand paint.
The interior is provided with quality materials, seats of a new design and Terracotta colors, and there is also a panoramic roof.
Earlier this year, Mazda upgraded the popular CX-5, which accounts for 21% of the manufacturer’s total sales in Europe. Then he got a new gasoline engine and more modern infotainment. Less than a year has passed, the Japanese manufacturer is again improving its SUV with visual, but also technological changes. It is believed that the CX-5 is now more ready to fight a very successful rival - Toyota RAV4.
The new Mazda CX-5 arrives in Europe early next year and brings a new 3D design of the radiator grille with a chrome frame, a redesigned front bumper and a refreshed light group.
The new CX-5 uses Skyactiv-Vehicle Architecture, meaning it now offers an improved chassis and suspension, while designers have redesigned the seats as well, to increase driving comfort and reduce fatigue. In addition, comfort is further enhanced by better cabin insulation.
The 2022 model also gets new technology, with the introduction of Mazda's Mi-Drive system for selecting the mode of driving, where the novelty is the "off-road" mode, while all-wheel drive has become the standard for the American market.
As for Europe, the new CX-5 will be available in three new trim levels - the initial "Newground" is equipped with silver protection on the front and rear bumpers and door trims. It has black mirrors, lime-green details on the front grille and a choice of 17-inch or 19-inch wheels. In the cabin, the Newground models have suede upholstery and lime-green details, writes Autocar.
The next level is the "Sport Black", which features a glossy black mask with red details, with a black lower part of the bumper, wheel arches and mirrors. Black 19-inch alloy wheels come as standard, while the interior has red seams on the seats, steering wheel, gear lever and doors.
The top versions carry the "GT Sport" label, and are equipped with 19-inch alloy wheels in light silver and a more luxurious interior, with the addition of Nappa leather and wooden decorations.
The novelty from Mazda now also offers a storage for a phone with wireless charging, while the trunk is more practical with a double compartment. The "Newground" versions will get a partition with a waterproof side for wet or dirty objects.
Safety has also been improved with the implementation of Mazda's i-Activsense systems, which include state-of-the-art cruise control and driving assistance.
The new CX-5 will continue to use the atmospheric 2.5-liter Skyactiv-G of 190 hp, as well as the turbo version that develops 254 hp.
Details on prices and specifications for the 2022 model will be announced in the coming months.
The new Mazda MX-5 Sport Venture is the latest in a long line of special editions of the world’s favourite roadster
Like the standard roadster, the limited-edition MX-5 Sport Venture is a fantastic car to drive, thanks to its direct handling and buzzy naturally aspirated 1.5-litre engine. But the extra equipment Mazda has added to this limited-run car has pushed its price a little too close to its more powerful (and similarly equipped) siblings, which makes it hard to recommend unless you’re an avid MX-5 collector. You can find similar plushness and kit in the existing Sport Tech model.
Since the fourth generation of the MX-5 was launched in 2015, Mazda has released a steady stream of special-edition versions, following the pattern established by the three previous models. There was the Z-Sport in 2017, then a model that marked the roadster’s 30th anniversary in 2019, followed by a variant to celebrate Mazda’s 100th anniversary last year.
Now the company has launched the MX-5 Sport Venture, and it carries a little bit of heritage with it, because the limited-edition nameplate returns from the previous-generation car. The formula remains pretty much the same, too. Sold only in limited numbers, this one comes painted in a new Deep Crystal Mica Blue shade and with a grey fabric hood, which combine to give it a unique appearance among the MX-5 line-up. Stone-coloured Nappa leather upholstery gives it a premium edge over the Sport trim-level car it’s based on.
However, the £27,615 price-tag doesn’t look like much of a bargain when you consider that prices for the equally fun and much more practical Ford Fiesta ST start from £21,955. The MX-5’s price has crept up considerably since launch, but it remains a rare offering in today’s market.
The new MX-5 Sport Venture is only available with the entry-level 130bhp 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine. If you would prefer an MX-5 with the stronger 181bhp 2.0-litre engine, prices for that version start at £28,670, £1,055 more than this special-edition model.
What’s the point of the MX-5 Sport Venture, then? Exclusivity for one, because just 160 examples will be sold in the UK. It also helps that it comes with a whole host of features that you can’t specify (even as options) on the cheapest 1.5-litre car, including the roof colour, the leather interior, and silver mirror caps.
It also comes with standard adaptive LED headlamps (borrowed from the high-spec Sport Tech model), which swivel as you turn the wheel to light up dark spots on the road ahead in tight bends. They’re a welcome addition at night on the sort of narrow B-roads the MX-5 suits so well.
As in the Sport model, buyers also get a Bose audio system, which will please audiophiles and tech geeks alike. It’s a bit more bassy than the standard stereo in the SE-L car, and has speakers built into both headrests, which help to defy the wind noise when driving with the roof down.
When you’re listening to music, the speakers play mid-range frequencies and, if you get a phone call, they pipe your contact’s voice directly into your ears. It’s certainly a handy feature but, again, it’s a benefit more than a necessity.
Mazda hasn’t made any mechanical changes to the MX-5 Sport Venture, which means it drives exactly the same as the standard roadster. So, the power steering is a little over-assisted for such a light car, but the rack gives you enough feedback to know where the front wheels are pointing.
Despite all of its many charms, though, the MX-5 Sport Venture still ends up feeling just a bit too expensive for what it is, which is mostly due to the level of tech Mazda has added, and the premium the firm thinks such exclusivity is worth. This special edition costs the same sort of money that used to secure a solidly equipped 2.0-litre version of Mazda’s iconic sports car.
The biggest selling points for the special edition are its styling and its rarity, which makes it hard to recommend unless you’re an MX-5 aficionado. If it were our money, we’d either opt for the £26,335 MX-5 Sport and pocket the difference, or splash the extra cash and go for the bigger, more powerful engine in the MX-5 Sport Tech.
|Model:||Mazda MX-5 1.5 132PS Sport Venture|
|Engine:||1.5-litre 4cyl petrol|
|Transmission:||Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive|
The Mazda 6 family car gets the brand’s special-edition Kuro treatment
The Mazda 6 Kuro Edition is a good example of a dying breed of car. It gets plenty of standard equipment, the quality feels good enough for the price, it drives sweetly and offers enough practicality. However, combined with the naturally aspirated engine and Mazda’s reluctance to turn towards turbocharging for its petrol motors, a family saloon isn’t what buyers are after in 2021. We love that the 6 still exists, but fear that, as good as it is, many people will look past it in favour of a more-versatile SUV.
Mazda is a master of special editions; just look at its iconic MX-5 sports car and how many limited-run variants it has spawned to keep excitement high. Now the Japanese brand is trying to do the same with its Mazda 6 family saloon through this Kuro Edition trim. But is it injecting some life into a dying sector, or does the big family car still have merit in 2021 when buyers seem to be focusing on SUVs?
The Kuro Edition is available in saloon and ‘Tourer’ estate bodystyles, and it’s the former we’re testing here. Limited to just 100 cars in the UK (50 examples of each bodystyle), it features special Polymetal Grey Metallic paint to mark it out from other Mazda 6 models. The finish is included in the £29,250 starting price.
Kuro Edition cars are based on Sport spec when it comes to equipment, so they have a relatively generous tally that includes a reversing camera, an 11-speaker Bose stereo, keyless operation and a heated leather steering wheel to go with the standard-fit burgundy leather seats.
All Kuro cars use Mazda’s 162bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine. With no turbo (like all of the firm’s petrol engines) it needs working, but it’s a sweeter unit than the 2.5-litre range-topper.
It’s revvier, which plays to the motor’s strengths. This is born out of a deficit of torque; with only 213Nm on tap it’s lacking when compared with turbocharged rivals, but at least the engine is willing.
The only problem is that’s not always how you want to drive a car like this, and with a sweetly controlled chassis that delivers a comfortable ride, the engine refinement is at odds with the rest of the package. Having to extend it into the upper reaches to avoid the flat spot lower down means it can get a bit noisy, but at least the six-speed manual transmission is a joy to use. There’s no automatic option on the Kuro Edition.
The ride feels sophisticated for a family saloon, though. The steering weight is lovely, there’s a good level of grip, and the suspension keeps the Mazda well composed through faster bends. Not being shackled by a higher ride height and a heavier body, like a similarly sized SUV, means the handling is refreshingly enjoyable for a family machine.
But it’s also smooth when travelling at speed and soft enough around town so as not to bump its occupants around.
They won’t have quite as much space as in Mazda’s CX-5, talking of comparisons with SUVs, but the saloon’s 480-litre boot gives it more than enough luggage space and practicality for most occasions.
The Kuro Edition also has 19-inch alloys, automatic LED headlights, dual-zone climate control, Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay (which is a good, because the standard interface with sat-nav could be better), autonomous braking, blind-spot monitoring, all-round parking sensors and adaptive cruise control. The burgundy upholstery looks smart, while the materials are good for the price, but the infotainment system now feels outdated and clunky.
Otherwise, with claimed efficiency of 42.2mpg, the Mazda 6 Kuro Edition is a nicely rounded package, even if CO2 emissions of 152g/km mean it won’t be the most cost-effective company car choice in a sector aimed at buyers looking for just that.
Save for a misplaced plastic bucket in the middle of a highway, the first 10,000 miles with our Mazda CX-30 have been uneventful and about what we expected. We'll get to the bucket in a minute, but first let's talk about our initial thoughts on the CX-30—one specific to its segment, the other to the car itself.
As we see it, most small crossovers would work better as cars. In the case of the CX-30, the car it could be already exists: the Mazda 3 hatchback. But subcompact SUVs are popular, so Mazda created the CX-30, debuted it for the 2020 model year, and watched it sell more units than every other vehicle in its lineup except for the one-size-up CX-5. That pace hasn't changed this year. Through April, the CX-30 outsold both the Mazda 3 and the slightly smaller CX-3 crossover combined.
The only real change to the CX-30 for 2021 is the addition of an optional turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-four that produces 250 horsepower. Our long-term test car doesn't have that engine and, as we could have predicted, the Turbo model changes the SUV's math. In our testing, the boosted engine gets the CX-30 to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds versus 7.6 for our example with the standard 186-hp four. Just as noteworthy is the 1.1 seconds that the turbo engine lops off the regular CX-30's 50-to-70-mph time, which makes it far wieldier during passing maneuvers.
"Having spent a lot of time in the turbo version, not having the extra power really sucks the upscale vibe out of this thing," senior online editor Mike Sutton wrote in our CX-30's logbook. "It's quick and responsive enough, though. Good, linear steering and nice general body control. A good driver, but the same goes for the 3 hatch."
For C/D staffers less encumbered by seat time in the turbo, however, our regular CX-30 has quietly impressed as it's trekked up, down, and across Michigan. It hasn't left the state yet, but it's averaging a decent 27 mpg—1 mpg more than its EPA combined estimate—and summer road-trip season is nearly upon us.
Staff editor Eric Stafford took the CX-30 and his skepticism—"I haven't been a fan," he prefaced—on a nearly 2000-mile jaunt through Michigan's Upper Peninsula. He came away calling the vehicle "classy, sporty, and well equipped." The CX-30's 20 cubic feet of cargo space was sufficient for his needs, and he found enough back-seat room for adults. "While the 2.5-liter is gruff when pressed, it's plenty potent and operates quietly enough in normal driving," he wrote. Indeed, our Mazda's 68-decibel sound measurement at 70 mph is the same as the Turbo model's, and it puts the CX-30 in the company of the Mercedes GLA250. "Too bad its driving range is short. I averaged right around 300 miles per tank, which required extra stops on my long trip."
A few other criticisms have creeped into the logbook. The sometimes wonky activation of the car's automatic high beams can make for a challenging drive on foggy nights. The CX-30's adaptive cruise control sometimes will brake harder and more suddenly than we expect when approaching slower vehicles. "You should never design a heated seat control near a cupholder," noted creative director Darin Johnson. He didn't elaborate, but we assume he cleaned up whatever he spilled reaching for the seat heaters.
But our first 10,000 miles have largely been spent pondering how the CX-30 fits in Mazda's lineup, as well as how it stacks up with competitors such as Kia's Soul and Seltos and Hyundai's Kona and Venue. "I don't see why some people are confused about the CX-30's mission," buyer's guide deputy editor Rich Ceppos wrote. "It's the right-sized subcompact SUV that the CX-3 should have been in the first place—the cargo-friendly analog to the Mazda 3 sedan."
As for that bucket, it was blue, plastic, and it appeared out of nowhere on our local stretch of M-14. Ceppos, stuck in the center lane, didn't have any choice but to hit it. The result was a baseball-sized hole in the plastic panel under the CX-30's nose. We had the dealer inspect the damage when we dropped the vehicle off for its scheduled 10,000-mile service, which included an oil and filter change and a tire rotation at a cost of $107. Replacing the panel relieved us of another $93 and entailed an overnight stay while the replacement part was ordered.
Aside from that mishap, it's been a solid start to the CX-30's 40,000-mile test. "Sweet steering, sharp throttle response, fun handling—yep, this is a Mazda alright," Ceppos wrote. His only suggestion? It could benefit from the turbocharged engine.
Months in Fleet: 7 months Current Mileage: 10,696 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 27 mpg
Fuel Tank Size: 12.7 gal Observed Fuel Range: 340 miles
Service: $107 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0
Damage and Destruction: $93
In 2019, when we took the keys to a CX-5 for a 40,000-mile long-term test, we wrote that "Mazda has few obvious problems." The CX-5 supported that conclusion, proving "easy to love," earning 10Best honors in 2020 and 2021, and exhibiting uncommon excellence despite belonging to a segment we generally greet with a resigned sigh.
We tolerate compact SUVs because they're popular, but we celebrate Mazdas because they're good. The tension between those ideas, plus the rising popularity of small SUVs, makes for interesting work. The CX-5 won us over. So, let's up the degree of difficulty.
The CX-30 is a subcompact SUV, a segment that typically prompts a single frustrated question: Why aren't you a car? Recall, if you will, our review of the 2020 CX-30, which began, "Have you considered the Mazda 3?"
The 3 is roughly the same size as the CX-30, give or take a tuck or tweak here and there, and it's available as a hatchback. We like the 3 a lot. Despite already building the 3 and a similarly sized crossover, the CX-3, Mazda introduced the CX-30 for 2020. Why? Because people like to sit a little higher these days, and higher sells.
Any other reasons? We're about to find out over 40,000 miles with a 2021 CX-30. Now in its second production year, Mazda didn't change much from the CX-30's debut run except to add an optional turbocharged 2.5-liter engine that's good for 250 horsepower.
"I heard we got the non-turbo," staff editor Austin Irwin messaged shortly after the CX-30 arrived. To ensure his feelings were clear, he punctuated the sentence with a sad-face emoji.
We did not get the turbo. Sad-face emoji.
Our all-wheel-drive CX-30 came with the standard 2.5-liter inline-four and six-speed automatic transmission. It makes 186 horsepower and ran to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds in our initial testing. It hit the quarter mile in 15.9 seconds at 89 mph and pulled 0.85 g on the skidpad. Those are decent numbers. The Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo we recently tested did zero to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds. Just pointing that out.
The CX-30 starts at $23,000, which is $155 less than the "all-wheel drive is standard" base Subaru Crosstrek and $4390 more than the "it's front-drive or no drive" Kia Soul. There's value in the CX-30 in either direction, even when tacking on the $1400 for all-wheel drive.
We got the Preferred Package, which includes a power driver's seat, memory positioning for the exterior mirrors, heated front seats, a power sliding-glass moonroof, and driver's seat memory. But we stayed light on options for this one. We picked up all-weather floor mats ($150) and a rear bumper guard ($125). That's it. The as-tested price totaled $29,075. We took delivery and promptly set about running SUV-like errands in our SUV-like car (or our carlike SUV).
The first coffee spill came on a run to City Hall to drop off a ballot. The first grownup shunted to the back seat (kids are quick to grab the heated front passenger seat) surveyed her surroundings and said, "They make the most of the space they've got back here." A quick run to the driving range revealed that golf clubs fit in the aft cargo area without folding the rear seats. Barely.
Since we're still working from home, we ran some simulated commutes through town, out on country roads and on the highway. We recommend the country drive, especially in autumn. It's lovely, and there are just enough twists and turns to prove the CX-30 moves like a Mazda. It's playful enough to be fun.
The black on navy interior with leatherette seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel makes for high-quality company. The 8.8-inch infotainment screen is fine, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay come standard at the Select Package level. (That's one down from our Preferred.) The Deep Crystal Blue Mica paint job has already earned compliments. If there are quirks to be found, our planned lap and a half or so around the Earth should shake them out.
"Such a comfortable little medium SUV" begins the first entry in the logbook, which brings us back to our 40,000-mile challenge: What exactly is the CX-30, and why does it exist?
We had a different CX-30 at this year's 10Best testing and comments ranged from "true to the Mazda ethos" and "much more in the realm of Audi and BMW than Chevy and Toyota" to "just get the Mazda 3."
Have you considered one of those?
Of course, you have. Through October, Mazda sold nearly 28,000 3s in North America in 2020, but that's down almost 37 percent from the same point a year ago. The CX-3's sales numbers this year are also down, by 27.5 percent (7485 sold). The upshot for Mazda is that those declines could be ascribed to the appeal of the CX-30, which moved 31,007 units through October. In the Thunderdome of Mazda dealerships, the CX-30 is thriving, and Mazda buyers appear to (narrowly) prefer it to the 3. We'll let you know if there needs to be a recount.
Months in Fleet: 2 months Current Mileage: 3597 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 28 mpg
Fuel Tank Size: 12.7 gal Observed Fuel Range: 350 miles
Service: $0 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0
Damage and Destruction: $0
Mazda's slogan is "Feel Alive," but this hatchback doesn't yet fulfill its potential.
The 2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo is a tricky car to wrap the old noggin around. Not because it produces brain-melting acceleration and cornering figures or because it'll set your hair on fire at the local autocross. That's not necessarily the case. Rather, the new Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo is so perfectly adequate in so many areas that, viewed as a car that gets you from point A to point B in comfort and with no drama, it's a fine device. Still, you can't help but feel like it needs something more.
Beautiful On The Inside ...
As we've said before, the Mazda 3's cabin is the best in its class—by quite some margin, too. The dashboard is cleanly designed, while a set of mostly analog dials and a head-up display present important information neatly to the driver. All of the car's secondary controls (volume knob, indicator stalks, and HVAC) have a beautiful, high-quality weight to them. Even when you perform a task as mundane as adjusting cabin temperature, you manipulate something that feels well considered. Mazda is working hard to be seen as a near-luxury brand, and this interior is a standout example of what it's capable of.
The Mazda 3 hatch is also easy on the eyes, offers plenty of cargo space, and, if you never touch Sport mode—which activates more aggressive throttle- and shift-map behavior—will even return an EPA-rated 31 mpg on the highway. The Bose sound system is excellent, wind and tire noise are well hushed, and the whole car has an aspirational feel that justifies its $35,020 as-tested price.
And if your test drive ended there, you'd think, "Great stuff—good job, Mazda!" But it doesn't. Even though the 2021 Mazda 3 Turbo is a high-quality item, there are other intangibles that matter to the overall experience.
Is It A Driver's Car?
A car might be executed well, but if it leaves you with a sense of "meh," is it still a good car? Most people would say, "Yes, of course." And we agree. But sometimes that isn't quite enough to satisfy, especially when we've come to expect a level of personality from Mazda products.
Maybe our enthusiast-influenced hearts inflate our standards. When we see a "Turbo" badge on a small car's rump, and a spec sheet boasting a 2.5-liter I-4 with 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque, plus all-wheel drive, we tend to imagine we're going to have a rippin' good time. Other hatchbacks given the same treatment over the years—cars like the Volkswagen GTI, Ford Focus ST, and the old Mazdaspeed 3—come to mind, and you think, gleefully, this could be the new Mazda enthusiasts have waited for.
The new turbo I-4 engine—well, not exactly new new, as it's been in the CX-9 and the CX-5 for years now—makes 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft if you can find 93-octane fuel. If 87 octane is the best you can do, those numbers fall to 227 horses and 310 lb-ft. Compared to the standard Mazda 3, this hopped-up hatchback makes an extra 41 horses and an additional 124 lb-ft of twist, at a bare minimum.
In our testing, the turbocharged 3 made the 0-to-60-mph sprint in 5.9 seconds and raced through the quarter-mile in 14.5 seconds. That's right up there with the best in its class. It's even quicker than the last dual-clutch-automatic-equipped VW Golf GTI we tested, which needed 6.0 seconds to accelerate to 60.
Sounds good, so hop in and start the engine. There's no clutch to operate; the 2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo is an auto-only machine. Make your way to your favorite bit of twisty road, back-off the traction control, step on it and ... wait. Sure, it goes, but not in the way we expected. We're not talking about raw acceleration, which the numbers show to be good. But the transmission is a bit of a laggard, disappointing when Mazda's ethos used to nearly always deliver great-driving, enthusiast-pleasing cars right out of the box—without needing gobs of power to be fun.
Instead of feeling alive and on its toes, the 2021 Mazda 3 Turbo feels sedate. The brake pedal is mushy; instead of initial bite coming right near the top of the pedal's travel, you find an inch or so of travel before the binders affect much deceleration. This dulls the driving experience and lowers confidence in the car's reflexes. True hot hatches have sharp responses and feedback to tell you they were developed in part by beating them within an inch of their mechanical lives, so as to to make them as engaging and entertaining as possible. But that's not present here; in fact, it feels like a thick layer of latency-exaggerating rubber has worked its way into the Mazda's nooks and crannies.
The suspension damping is the Turbo 3's sharpest trait, a characteristic that usually goes a long way toward providing a sporty personality. But like the standard Mazda 3 hatch, this car makes do with a rear torsion beam; that's in contrast to the previous-generation car and its independent rear end. The result (as we've noted before) is a car that rides somewhat poorly, and which is unsettled by small road imperfections even at low speeds. Manhole covers and expansion joints can jostle the rear out of line enough to necessitate frequent steering corrections. If power was all the 2021 Mazda 3 needed to be fun to drive, it would have delivered. Instead, the car's underlying potential feels unrealized.
There's A Lot To Love, But It Isn't Lovable Yet
We know from experience Mazda can make a maniacal hot hatch that competes with the best of them. Yes, the old Mazdaspeed 3 was deeply flawed, but it was profoundly entertaining and lovable as a result. We didn't expect the new 2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo to be a direct successor to that car—Mazda has matured past its crazy teenage years—but we hoped for some of the old 'Speed 3's charm. Instead, the Mazda 3 Turbo feels like its name and nothing more, namely a 3 with a turbocharger bolted to its engine.
None of this makes the Mazda 3 Turbo a bad car; it excels at being a great car. If you want a hatchback that's quiet, usable, and relatively quick, this 2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo is a great choice. But if you want something that feels truly alive, you'll have to look elsewhere. Maybe our expectations were too high. Maybe you can say that's our problem. But the fact is that Mazda's previous creations set that high bar in the first place; unfortunately, this car drives under it.