The smallest of the 2021 Mazda lineup is the Mazda3, and while you can get this model in a traditional 4-door sedan we opted to test out the hipper 4-door hatchback design. A unique looking hatchback that gives you cargo hauling space power and style in one nice package that has a door for every seat. While the companion four-door sedan has the look of the larger Mazda6, just reduced in size, the hatchback has a very different profile almost like an athletic sport shoe that sweeps from the toe up to the top of the heel, or hatch in the case of this Mazda3. Outside the hood and the front end are the same as you will find on the sedan, and inside of both sedan and hatchback, you will experience an almost Zen experience. Though I found the hatch to be a bit tighter to get in and out of than the sedan but ride wise just as comfortable. The Sedan may be a little quieter, and that may depend on the engine, since the sedan has the option of the 2.0 or the 2.5- liter powerplant. Driving wise, both are energetic cars that return excellent miles per gallon.
While the Mazda3 looks different than other cars on the road from all four sides, it indeed is a different kettle of fish all together, with a long hood and long roof, that if it had just two doors, it would look something very European from the 1960s. The broadside view is the most dramatic with that long hood that rises up through the A pillar and extends over the four doors to the rear hatch. The only thing we found that we were not happy about was the size of the door openings, the Mazda3 takes some wrangling to squiggle in or out of. They are neither tall, nor wide, so if you are, or are stiff, it will be a tad difficult to get in or out of.
The premium package hatchback as some aerodynamic design features that you will not find on the sedan. Front air dam – Rear roof spoiler – Rear diffuser – Side sill extensions – BBS 18-inch black forged wheels or 18-inch black aluminum alloy wheels – Larger tailpipes.
Inside the Hatchback
Overall, the interior of the hatchback is very well designed, well appointed, with technology right up front, and like Mazda’s in general, is ergonomically designed. Mazda’s engineers do think about ergonomics when they design any of their vehicles, and it becomes apparent as you drive them. Instruments and gauges are in direct line of sight, switches and dials are with in easy reach, and everything has a clean look and a comfortable touch.
While the hatchback is a bit sportier than the sedan, the only issue I could find inside is that the seats could be wider, but it is not hard to find a comfortable sitting position, once you got settled in. The power driver’s seat and lumbar support with driver’s seat memory. Especially nice on colder days is the heated seats – and yes, this model has a heated leather wrapped steering wheel. Both seem like luxuries when you hear about them. But quickly become important if you live in a colder climate.
The Steering wheel of the Mazda is Leather wrapped and that has a wonderful feel to it. It is these little tactile details are what Mazda is so good about attending to. And really make driving a Mazda an even better experience, than other cars in their class.
Powerplant & All-Wheel Drive – SKYACTIV & I-ACTIV Together
Let’s start off with the word Mazda uses to define its powerplants. SKYACTIV – What do you think of when you hear that word? I think of clear, wide open spaces that is both clean and modern. In this day in age when internal combustion engines sound dirty, Mazda would like you to think of their engine as clean burning, technologically forward and all powerful. Once you drive this 2.5 Turbo SKYACTIV -G engine you will agree with that.
Mazda added this SKYACTIV -G 2.5 Turbo engine to the 2021 Mazda3 powertrain offering and complemented it with standard I-ACTIV all-wheel drive. Bringing forth performance, excellent fuel economy, a cleaner burning engine, and amazing surefootedness to this car.
Quick Facts on the 2021 MAZDA3 2.5 Double Overhead Cam Turbo SKYACTIV-G Engine provides:
- 250 horsepower at 5,000 rpm (93 Octane) – 227 horsepower at 5,000 rpm (87 Octane)
- 320 lb-ft of torque at 2,500 rpm (93 Octane) – 310 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm (87 Octane)
- Standard I-ACTIV All-Wheel Drive
- Standard G-Vectoring Control Plus
- Six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode and sport mode
- Estimated Fuel Economy I-ACTIV AWD 6AT (mpg) City 23 / Hwy 31 / Combined 26
Notice that they mention both 93 and 87 octane fuel, regular, and premium, can be used in this car. Which is great, because sometimes you want that extra performance and are willing to spend those extra pennies for higher octane fuel. And sometimes you don’t really need it. With Mazda’s technology you can do that without doing anything other than changing what you pump into the fuel tank.
Technology & Safety
If the tech from the engine is not enough you will find that this car has a lot of it throughout. From blind spot monitoring to rear cross traffic assist Mazda Radar Cruse Control – to Smart Brake support Dynamic stability control, driver attention assist lane keep assist and high beam control – which means you do not have to worry about switching your high beams off an on, the car does it for you when it detects an oncoming vehicle.
This little car has so much advanced technology, you just have to read a long list: 360° View Monitor with high definition digital clarity – Mazda Connected Services – Smart City Brake Support Reverse – Rear Cross-Traffic Braking – New Traffic Jam Assist – Standard i-Activsense safety features: Mazda Radar Cruise Control with stop and go, Smart Brake Support, Bling Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning with Lane-Keep Assist, High Beam Control.
Our Review Vehicle
This test model we were provided for a week is in the Premium package plus in Polymetal gray metallic with black interior. Though it is not included in the special Carbon Edition that Mazda is now offering on the Mazda 6, CX-r and CX-9.
Our premium package featured Bose® premium 12-speaker audio system – Apple CarPlay™ – Android Auto™ – Windshield-projected Active Driving Display, which is The best heads up display I have seen in a vehicle. Leather Seats – Heated front seats – Heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters – Power moonroof, which means that it is glass.
Our tester had a beginning MSRP of $33,750 and the only option is a rear bumper guard of stainless -of $125 and a delivery and processing and handling fee of $945 – that is the fee to truck it to your dealership. Totaling $34, 820 – A darn nice buy for under $35K – The base 3 hatch starts as an MSRP of $29,900 does not include for destination and handling, taxes, title, or additional fees. Dealers set actual sale prices. You should make use of any discounts available to you from groups you belong to get the best deal possible.
Mazda has always been the spunky little car company that can do. Not a large conglomerate like other Japanese brands. Building cars since early in the 20th century and bringing them to America in the mid-20th century. – And they have always been a different car company. Who can forget those Wankel engines? Rotary engines in the 1970s – Light and powerful, though a bit fuel and oil thirsty.
First coming to the USA in the 1960s with the 808 and the RX Rotary powered cars, aka, Wankel engine powered cars. Mazda is the only production vehicle manufacturer that ever put a rotary engine on the road for consumers. (I had both an RX3 Wagon and an RX7) as well as the B-2000 small pickup and MX6, both of those were piston powered engines.
The ancestor to this Mazda3 hatchback is the GLC, followed by the 323. Though today they are far removed from the cars of back then. And those were pretty forward thinking for their time when you look at the competition.
Mazda is always improving their vehicle with little tweaks, that they often add mid cycle during a model run. Mazda does not just wait and pour all the new tech into a new model. – Good to know if you are buying an established Mazda model – think later rather than earlier model year – if buying a used one.
While everyone is all gaga over SUV’s these days, this is a great alternative for those who want a small and nimble vehicle with all-wheel drive – you are not going to go off road with it, but you will be able to manage troublesome weather and road conditions with it.
Would I buy one? I have always loved Mazda’s so yes, but maybe not this one as the only thing I found that was not to my liking is the tight door openings, it is not as easy to get in and out of as we would like – which for some of you who are older or less limber might be a problem.
If you are in the market for a small sporty four-door hatchback that can carry cargo and people, and is a lot of fun to drive, then the Mazda3 should be on your shopping list, if for no other reason that to test drive one.
Words and images by William West Hopper
Mr. Hopper has long been a Mazda enthusiast from 1974 when he drove a RX3 Rotary Wagon, moving on to the RX7, B2000 pickup and MX6. As Past President of the Washington Automotive Press Association where he served for three years, he was able to celebrate his love for all automobile and truck brands. You can find him on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.