Tested: 2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo Is a Tuner Car for Grownups

Photo credit: Marc Urbano - Car and Driver
From the car and driver
Just from the specs alone, the 2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo looks like a juiced punk, sort of pint-sized terror that Mazda occasionally unleashes to remind the world they know how to make turbo-charged torque grenades for road construction. Available as a sedan or hatchback, the 2.5 Turbo enlivens Mazda's small four-door hatchback with 250 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque deployed via a six-speed automatic transmission (with steering-wheel shift paddles) and all-wheel drive. This looks like the stuff of a modern 323 GTX, if not an automatic Mazdaspeed 3. In fact, our 2.5 turbo sedan got a time of 5.6 seconds between zero and 60 mph, 0.2 seconds faster, when we could make it The 263 hp Mazdaspeed 3 that we tested in 2006.
But this car was a thrust bomb, with torque control to shame a Saab and an irritable teenager's behavior. The 2.5 Turbo is much more mature both in its overall presentation and in its driving style. It's the student who can't wait to graduate and say goodbye to these babies. While the Subaru WRX is playing ding-dong digging with sacks of burning dog poop, the 3's 2.5 Turbo is brewing its own doused Sumatra and contenting itself with a post-modern reading of Homer's Illiade. He wears glasses even though he doesn't need them.
Photo credit: Marc Urbano - Car and Driver
The Dodge Neon SRT-4's theorem is that turbocharging a small car should lead to an associated scuffle - stiff suspension, loud exhaust, a rear view filled with rear wings. But sometimes more power is just more power, and this is one of those times. If you're looking for visual cues that indicate the performance of the turbocharged Mazda 3, the 2.5 Turbo has slightly larger tailpipes than the naturally aspirated version. And there's an aero package, but it's both subtle and optional. This is not a street legal rally car, and it doesn't try to look like one - fast, but not fake.
The engine is big news, but it's the transmission that defines the character of the 3. A six-speed automatic borrowed from Mazda's larger crossovers and the 6-series sedan. She is lithe and intelligent, but needs time shifting. In automatic mode, a 1-2 upshift at full throttle seems to take as long as it did in an early automated manual, but this is a modern planetary car. Our acceleration runs were fastest in manual mode, which seemed to enliven the shift speed. A dual clutch transmission - or, dare you dream, a manual transmission - would completely change the personality of the car. But you hit the road with the gearbox you don't have, and the relaxed gearbox is in sync with the rest of the car's tuning. The 3 2.5 Turbo wants to be an Audi, but not an S3. Maybe more like an A7.
Photo credit: Marc Urbano - Car and Driver
The interior is worthy, bringing in materials and color schemes that are reminiscent of high-end European cars. Its functions also go beyond the segment - colored head-up display with street sign recognition, Bose audio system with 12 speakers, forged 18-inch BBS wheels (now also available for the non-Turbo 3). These wheels are $ 919 each, but we didn't have them in our test car. We're pretty sure that even Porsche, which would probably upholster your rims with bright green bouquet at the right price, wouldn't charge at the wheel.
The way the 3 2.5 turbo drives deny their starting price of $ 33,395. The car just flows down the street, and its steering and driving movements harmonize so that you don't even notice them. The Bridgestone Turanza EL440 tires offer quick reflexes but no grip for sports sedans - 0.85 g on the skid pad. Mazda's all-wheel drive system quickly suppresses wheelspin, but a hard start can create a tortured bark from the front tires before the system diverts torque backwards. And there is a lot of power. With 25 percent more displacement than the 2.0-liter quads customary in the industry and a high (for turbo) compression ratio of 10.5: 1, the 2.5 is unusually snappy even when the boost is switched off. When the boost comes up, 320 pound-feet of torque feels more than enough for a car this size. Not so long ago - 2013 - Chevrolet built V-8s with small blocks that produced less torque.
Photo credit: Marc Urbano - Car and Driver
Mazda admits that the starting numbers of the 2.5 Turbo are octane dependent. When you run it on premium fuel, you get the full 250 horsepower and 320 pound-feet. Pour a tank of basic slop and those numbers drop to 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet. But Mazda says there isn't much of a difference below 4,000 rpm even then. So you can save a few dollars if your daily commute doesn't include regular visits to the Redline.
Indeed, commuting seems to be this car's forte, its raison d'etre, but the French don't have the perfect word to describe the thing it excels at. A daily commute is usually a variation on bleak hell, but a 2.5 turbo like ours - including the Premium Plus package that offers leather seats and Traffic Jam Assist adaptive cruise control with lane keeping - wouldn't be a bad place to bang your buck spend daily trip. Our car had a tested price of $ 33,790, which means this above average car is below average. It has some nuisances - why doesn't the infotainment display just stay on top of the satellite radio tuner instead of taking three steps to get there? - but that's a minor thing. When you close the Mazda 3's door, the sound is more of a ping than a thud. And on every trip, this is usually the last reminder that you are in a car that could have been much rowier.
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