Mazda3 2.5 Turbo — A small sedan with a big punch

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(April 6, 2022) The Mazda Speed3 built from 2007 through 2013 was Mazda's answer to the hot hatch craze in the early part of the 21st Century offering competition to the Ford Focus ST, Dodge Caliber SRT-4, and Volkswagen Golf GTI. The final model came with a 2.3-liter turbocharged 4 making 263 horsepower and could accomplish a 0-to-60 run in just over 5 seconds. Those were the days — and Mazda has brought them back in the form of the Mazda3 2.5 Turbo, which was introduced last year.

It's not happy times for fans of hot hatches because the number of "pocket rockets" have dwindled to a very few including the long-running VW Golf GTI, Golf R, and Hyundai Veloster N. We think performance versions of small hatchbacks offer a great combination of affordability, cargo hauling capability, and performance. We found Mazda's latest effort highly entertaining and practical.

If you want the performance of the Mazda3 2.5 Turbo, but sans the hatch, it can be purchased as a sedan as well and for this review we drove a 2022 sedan, which is not as practical in terms of cargo hauling as the hatchback, but we think its design is more streamlined than the hatch. We'll call the sedan a "hot hatch" minus the hatch, substituting the hatch for a trunk lid. Purchasing the hatchback over the sedan will yield considerably more cargo space, however. For comparison purposes, the sedan has a 13.1 cubic foot trunk while the hatch brings 21.1 cubic feet behind the seats and 47.1 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded.

We dove the hatchback in 2021. So we were delighted to drive the 2022 turbocharged sedan for seven days this spring.

Comparing the 2021 model year to the 2022 is easy. There's virtually nothing different with the exception of a new Platinum Quartz Metallic paint option. Our test sedan with the Premium Plus Package was coated in Machine Gray Metallic paint and carried a $34,710 bottom line that included the $1,015 destination charge.

The Mazda3 2.5 Turbo sedan and hatchback live without a manual transmission, which might disappoint some Mazda Speed3 lovers. But don't despair — the  2.5 Turbo offers effortless acceleration, impressive refinement, and rewarding handling traits with a six-speed automatic. And the 2.5 Turbo gets all-wheel drive as standard equipment,  which adds to its handling prowess and bad-weather performance.

The heart of the Mazda3 is its 2.5-liter turbocharge 4-cylinder direct-injection engine making 256 horsepower (with 93 octane premium gas) @ 5,000 rpm and 320 pound-feet of torque @ 2,500 rpm. In this configuration the 2.5 Turbo has been clocked from 0-to-60 in 5.6 seconds and 14.1 seconds @ 99 mph in the quarter mile. Mazda says the engine will run just fine on regular gas, but horsepower will be cut to 227 and torque will drop slightly to 310 foot-pounds.

Interestingly, the Mazda3 turbo Monroney lists the engine with 227 horsepower with no mention of the boost from premium gas.

We were pleased with the handling and road-carving ability of the Mazda, bringing on a smile as we negotiated our usual winding rural road "test track." One unsuspecting passenger exclaimed, "wow, this has some punch for a 3" as we nailed it to pass a slower-moving car on a two-lane road.
While the suspension aided our aggressive driving, it also offered a compliant, comfortable ride that should please virtually all passengers. That and a relatively quiet cabin gives the Mazda3 2.5 Turbo a premium car feel.

We think Mazda shines best with its new interiors. The color combinations are striking and the material is first class befitting an entry-level luxury car such as an Audi A4 or a BMW 3 Series. The cabin detailing is important and Mazda has grasped that fact better than any other mainstream brand.

The dashboard is conservatively handsome and the switchgear is intuitive. Gauges are easy to read and understand. The infotainment screen is attractively imbedded at the top of the dash and the icons are clear and easy to access by a control wheel behind the shifter. Climate controls in the center stack are also clear and easy to use. And we like the placement of the radio volume knob on the center console.

The Mazda3 2.5 Turbo comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Mazda Connected Services with three-year trial and in-car Wi-Fi hot spot with six-months and 2GB trial, Bose 12-speaker premium audio, 8.8-inch large center display with Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio, two front USB inputs and Mazda Advanced Keyless Entry. 

Complementing the feel of refined performance are a heated leather wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters, frameless auto-dim rearview mirror, and chrome finishes around the push button start and glove box. Other interior features include Mazda's Active Driving Display head-up unit, power moonroof, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, leatherette upholstery, leather wrapped shift knob and aluminum speaker grilles. 

The standard Mazda3 is offered with two engines from which to choose — a 2.0-liter four making 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque, and a 2.5-liter making 186 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. The base 2022 Mazda3 starts at $21,815 in sedan form with the smallest engine. The base hatchback begins at $23,765.

But the sweet spot outside the 2.5 Turbo is the 2.5 in Preferred trim with a starting price of  $25,765. The 2.5 Turbo sedan comes in just two trims — 2.5 Turbo at $31,565 and Premium Plus at $34,115.

2022 Mazda3 2.5 Turbo sedan


Base price: $31,565; as driven, $34,710
Engine: 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder

Horsepower: 256 @ 5,000 rpm (premium gas), 227 @ 5,000 (regular)

Torque: 310 @ 2,000 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Drive: all-wheel

Wheelbase: 107.3 inches

Length: 183.5 inches

Curb weight: 3,379

Turning circle: 34.8 feet

Luggage capacity: 13.2 cubic feet

Fuel capacity: 13.2 gallons (premium/regular)

EPA rating: 23 city, 32 highway, 27 combined

0-60: 5.6 seconds (Car and Driver)

The Good
• Excellent performance

• High fun-to-drive quotient

• Stylish interior design

The Bad

• No manual transmission offered

The Ugly

• Turbo engine costs a lot more