2021 Mazda Mazda3

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$20,650

starting MSRP

Key specs

Base trim shown

Sedan

Body style

31

Combined MPG

5

Seating capacity

183.5” x 56.9”

Dimensions

Front-wheel Drive

Drivetrain

Overview

The good:

  • Generous standard safety equipment
  • Balanced power from 2.5-liter four-cylinder
  • Immediate acceleration from turbo 2.5-liter
  • Interior quality
  • Steering feedback
  • Handling

The bad:

  • Controlled but firm ride
  • Narrow front-seat room
  • Tight backseat
  • Rear visibility
  • Multimedia controls
  • Modest cargo room in hatchback

10 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 2021 Mazda Mazda3 trim comparison will help you decide.

See also: Find the best Sedans for 2024

Notable features

  • 2.0-liter (new) or 2.5-liter (carryover) four-cylinder
  • New turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder
  • Front- or all-wheel drive
  • Manual transmission available with 2.5-liter engine
  • Sedan or hatchback body styles
  • Lane-centering steering newly available

2021 Mazda Mazda3 review: Our expert's take

By Kelsey Mays

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The verdict: Endowed with the model’s first turbocharged gas engine since the Mazdaspeed3 left showrooms early last decade, the 2021 Mazda3 can muscle past slower traffic with little effort — a commanding, if reserved, degree of performance that should raise the car’s appeal among Mazda fans. Still, broader obstacles remain for mass-market audiences.

Versus the competition: The Mazda3 is among the most fun-to-drive cars in its class, and a new engine only furthers that strength. But for daily driving, many competitors are easier to live with.

As before, the 2021 Mazda3 is available as a sedan or hatchback, with standard front-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive. Last year’s four-cylinder engine carries over for most models, but Mazda bookends it with two new ones: a smaller four-cylinder in base trim sedans, and the turbocharged four-cylinder in high-end sedans and hatchbacks.

Related: 2019 Mazda3 Review: Niche Appeal

Seven trim levels (base, S, Select, Preferred, Premium, Turbo and Turbo Premium Plus) run the gamut from the low-$20,000s to the mid-$30,000s with factory options; automatic transmissions come on all except the Premium hatchback, which is available with a manual. Stack the gang up here, or compare the 2020 and 2021 Mazda3 here.

We drove a Mazda3 Turbo Premium Plus hatchback, though we’ve also evaluated the current generation, both in sedan and hatchback form, with the mid-level engine.

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Powered Up

Although we haven’t tested the base engine, its limited availability means just a sliver of shoppers will buy it. Most Mazda3 examples are likely to have the 2.5-liter four-cylinder, which was the only engine available in the 2019-20 Mazda3. It’s a capable, smooth-revving engine, though tall gearing from Mazda’s six-speed automatic transmission limits some of its potential. Accelerate from a stop up to highway speeds, and it’s a long climb through 2nd and 3rd gear — but if you hit the gas while already in motion to tack on more speed, the same automatic readily downshifts without undue delay. You hate it, you love it.

I’ll get to the turbo four-cylinder in a moment, but first some context on how it stacks up:

  • 2.0-liter (FWD base sedan only): 155 horsepower, 150 pounds-feet of torque; six-speed automatic only
  • 2.5-liter (FWD or AWD, sedan or hatchback, most trim levels): 186 hp, 186 pounds-feet of torque; six-speed manual or six-speed automatic
  • Turbocharged 2.5-liter (AWD only, sedan or hatchback, Turbo or Turbo Premium Plus trims): 250 hp and 320 pounds-feet of torque (using 93-octane premium gas) or 227 hp and 310 pounds-feet of torque (using 87-octane gas); six-speed automatic only

Our test car came filled with 93-octane premium fuel, according to the fleet company that dropped it off. In any case, the drivetrain behaves in some respects like a diesel engine, with torque aplenty for vigorous starts but modest power progression once you get past 4,000 rpm or so. It’s not quite a plateau — some additional power still comes if you rev it out — but the drivetrain feels best suited to muscle past slower traffic as you apply steady gas, as opposed to flying around near redline with your foot to the firewall. Accelerate while already in motion and the transmission resists downshifts notably more than with the non-turbo 2.5-liter, but the Mazda3 Turbo’s vast torque and responsive accelerator absolves it.

Ride and Handling

Our impressions from when we first drove the current-generation Mazda3 still stand, which is to say ride quality is polished but firm. Although the suspension employs a cheaper torsion beam setup in back — as opposed to the independent rear suspension offered on previous generations of the Mazda3 — the chassis maintains good body control and clean, reverb-free shock absorption. But tuning is decidedly firm and probably more than what most compact-car shoppers will tolerate. Mazda cites a retuned front suspension with stiffer springs for the Turbo, and it does little to change the car’s character; softer-riding rivals like the Nissan Sentra, Toyota Corolla and Volkswagen Jetta seem better suited for the daily grind. The Mazda3 improves on the Honda Civic’s perpetual bounciness, but that isn’t saying much. Mazda shouldn’t wait for a full redesign to revisit suspension tuning.

Like the Civic, the Mazda3 redeems itself on the handling front, perhaps even more so in the Turbo. Mazda claims the AWD system on Turbo models can distribute more torque to the rear wheels, and the car indeed feels more neutral around sweeping corners than its non-turbo sibling. You can slide the tail a touch with aggressive mid-corner gas, something the non-turbo Mazda3’s AWD all but prohibited, and understeer remains well contained throughout. 

Mazda claims retuned steering hardware for sharper response on all Mazda3 variants for 2021. The ratio still isn’t as quick as some rivals’, but feedback remains very good. Flinging the Mazda3 around cloverleaf sweepers is a lively, communicative experience — an increasingly rare quality these days, even among sporty cars.

mazda mazda3 turbo 2021 08 cockpit shot  dashboard  front row  interior jpg mazda mazda3 turbo 2021 10 front row  interior  steering wheel jpg mazda mazda3 turbo 2021 13 apple carplay  center stack display  front row  interior jpg mazda mazda3 turbo 2021 14 climate control  front row  interior jpg mazda mazda3 turbo 2021 11 center console  front row  gearshift  interior jpg mazda mazda3 turbo 2021 12 center console  controls  front row  interior jpg mazda mazda3 turbo 2021 16 center console  front row  interior  storage jpg mazda mazda3 turbo 2021 08 cockpit shot  dashboard  front row  interior jpg mazda mazda3 turbo 2021 10 front row  interior  steering wheel jpg mazda mazda3 turbo 2021 13 apple carplay  center stack display  front row  interior jpg mazda mazda3 turbo 2021 14 climate control  front row  interior jpg mazda mazda3 turbo 2021 11 center console  front row  gearshift  interior jpg mazda mazda3 turbo 2021 12 center console  controls  front row  interior jpg mazda mazda3 turbo 2021 16 center console  front row  interior  storage jpg

Interior and Tech

Cabin materials in the well-equipped Mazda3 we evaluated were exemplary for this class. Mazda’s optional leather upholstery would feel at home in any entry-level luxury car — cloth and leatherette (imitation leather) are also available — and generous padding covers the armrests and areas your knees touch. Controls feel meticulous all around, and most surfaces — save a low-budget headliner — appear universally rich. Impressively, the backseat sees little drop-off in materials quality, a widespread practice among Mazda’s rivals.

In contrast to all that, the Mazda3’s multimedia system remains a weakness. It constitutes a high-mounted dashboard screen measuring a healthy 8.8 inches diagonally, but the ultra-wide aspect ratio limits overall display size with just 3 inches of screen height. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come on all but the base sedan, and CarPlay leverages the screen’s full width, but the backup camera does not. What’s more, the screen isn’t a touchscreen — not that such functionality would help much, as it’s mounted too far forward to easily reach — and requires a knob-based controller behind the gear selector. For straightforward user-friendliness, that’s a step backward; the related Mazda CX-30 SUV has the same system, and it ranked last for usability of controls in a recent four-car comparison we conducted.

Seating and Cargo Space

Craftsmanship notwithstanding, the Mazda3 isn’t particularly roomy or easy to see out of. The driver’s seat sits relatively low to the ground, and larger drivers will no doubt find the space narrow between the center console and doors. The hatchback blocks over-the-shoulder views with giant roof pillars and a tiny rear window; the sedan has mercifully thinner pillars, though rear glass is still undersized. 

Backseat knee clearance is tight, and we measured a modest 13.1 cubic feet of cargo volume behind it. That’s through Cars.com’s independent cargo measurements, not manufacturer-advertised specs, which we’ve found unreliable. Versus the Mazda3 sedan, the hatchback carries inherent advantages to maximizing cargo space when you fold the backseat down, but for those who need to carry passengers and cargo, the sedan may have considerably more room. Although we didn’t have access to a 2021 model-year sedan to measure cargo space with our latest methodology, we found the current-generation sedan’s trunk roughly a third deeper than the hatchback’s cargo area — with similar width and height to the tops of the seatbacks — when we tested both body styles two model years ago. (There is more space above the backrests in a hatchback, but loading above this height compromises cargo containment and rearward visibility, both safety hazards.)

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That’s not surprising. Indulge me a minute on this: Manufacturer-stated cargo specs usually employ separate methodology between hatchbacks and sedans, rendering spec comparisons tenuous at best. The Mazda3 hatchback isn’t necessarily an outlier, with as-tested cargo volume similar to that of most entry-level SUVs in our recent comparison. But you’ll find more cargo volume in many sedans, and less in many hatchbacks and SUVs, when measured the same way — which is to say, up to the tops of the seatbacks. With apples-to-apples methodology, the current Civic, Sentra and Corolla sedans have some 40-50% more usable cargo volume than a Mazda3 hatchback.

Should You Buy a Mazda3?

With the base 2.0-liter four-cylinder, the Mazda3 starts at $21,445 with destination, which is competitive for the class. Standard features include the automatic transmission, 16-inch alloy wheels, one-touch power windows all around and the 8.8-inch multimedia system, albeit without CarPlay or Android Auto. Also standard are stop-and-go adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning with steering assist, and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking. The well-rated AEB helped the 2020 sedan and hatchback both earn top ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but IIHS has yet to publish ratings for the 2021 model as of this writing. When available, the 2021 report and its changes, if any, can be found by searching for “Mazda 3” here

Higher trim levels, including all hatchbacks, all have the smartphone integration and 2.5-liter engine. Spend more and you can get heated leatherette or leather seats, a moonroof, dual-zone climate control, a power driver’s seat and Bose premium audio. Newly optional for 2021 are rear automatic braking, a 360-degree camera system and Traffic Jam Assist, a low-speed lane-centering steering system that’s now here following availability overseas.

Related Video:

Those who want the Mazda3 Turbo will shell out at least $30,845 for the sedan, with the hatchback running another $1,000. Turbo models with the Premium Plus addition (leather, Traffic Jam Assist and the safety extras, in-dash navigation and more) edge close to $35,000, with prices spiraling past that once you add premium paint and various cosmetic enhancements. That kind of money falls somewhere between performance mass-market compacts and entry-level luxury sedans.

As such, there’s a Mazda3 for many performance thresholds. A few years into its fourth generation, Mazda’s least expensive car remains a fun-to-drive choice among compact sedans and hatchbacks. The turbo engine extends the spectrum, though it doesn’t change the nameplate’s limited appeal for left-brained shoppers. As I said when the current generation arrived on scene for the 2019 model year, the Mazda3 seemed destined for niche appeal. The Turbo does much to add appeal — less so to expand the niche.

Cars.com’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

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Former Assistant Managing Editor-News Kelsey Mays likes quality, reliability, safety and practicality. But he also likes a fair price. Email Kelsey Mays

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.8
  • Interior 4.8
  • Performance 5.0
  • Value 4.8
  • Exterior 4.9
  • Reliability 4.7

Most recent consumer reviews

4.0

I really like it but I want to love it

Purchased a 2021 sedan premium plus turbo AWD in 2022 with 11,000 miles. THE BAD: At 17,000 miles I discovered the front end would wobble when I applied the brakes. I was told by the dealer that I needed front and rear rotors and that the cost would be $1,000. When I asked why I needed brakes at only 17K miles I was told it was because the rotors must have gotten wet when I drove through a puddle when they were hot. Really? He obviously thought I was an idiot. It ended up costing me $600 to have a local shop do the work including an upgrade on the quality of the original factory rotors and pads. At 29,000 miles the car left me stranded in a parking lot when the battery died. A replacement battery cost me $280. At 30,000 miles the original manufacturer tires were badly worn and needed to be replaced (and yes I rotate them in fact EVERY oil change as opposed to every other). I purchased 4 Michelin tires which cost me $1,200. Also at 30K miles a rock came up from the road and cracked my windshield causing me to spend my deductible to have it fixed ($500). Nobody's fault I understand, just one more expense with so few miles.I have also noticed that I often get a "safety and driver support systems temporarily disabled" notice. It seems to be random but is annoying nonetheless. Shouldn't be happening at 32K miles. At 29K miles I apparently hit a pothole and the front rim was badly bent. The cost to straighten the rim was $140. The lane departure safety feature is annoying. Every time I even begin to leave my lane it violently pulls me back. Even when I need to go around an object in the road it pulls me back. Also, the tone associated with lane departure only works when it fells like it which is probably a good thing. Another issue is that it takes forever for the interior to get warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The car needs to warm up for at least 15 minutes before the temperature gets where I need it to be. The problem with that is that when using the remote start through the Mazda App, it only allows the car to run for 10 minutes. Also, you can't make any adjustments to the temperature from the app. ... THE GOOD: This vehicle is a blast to drive! It sounds great and it has plenty of power and I am still in love with the exterior appearence. The interior is done so well and as YouTube car reviewers say, "it's a great place to be". It has every option I would every want except for wireless Apple car play. It handles great and the AWD seems to work really well in slippery conditions. Currently I am at a crossroads. Do I sell my Mazda3 while the value is still high and get something else or do I keep it and hope nothing else goes wrong? I really like the car but I want to love it. One issue is the fact that when I purchased it I got 2.9% financing. I would be lucky to get 6.9% with todays rates. Also, if I sold it what the xxxx would I buy that has all of these features, a turbo engine and AWD that wouldn't cost me $35-$45K?!

5.0

Love It

I'm driving my 4th Mazda. It looks good, it's reliable, and it's fun to drive. Only issue is road noise, but it is better in this model than in previous ones I owned.

5.0

Absolutely the best generation of Mazda3

I've owned many Mazdas, and every generation of Mazda3, including a first generation Mazdaspeed3, second generation sedan, third generation sedan, and now a fourth generation sedan with the turbo and AWD. I believe the fourth generation is the perfect daily driver; with compelling design, eye-catching paint, phenomenal interior ergonomics, fun handling, and an excellent blend of technology and traditional aesthetics. The gauge cluster is only partially digital, and the traditional gauges are well designed and clear, without an overwhelming amount of information displayed in the digital portion. The heads-up display is excellent, showing current speed and speed limit, navigation directions, and blind spot monitoring - although polarized glasses make it tricky to read in bright light. The infotainment system is a vast improvement over every previous version, and the lack of reliance on touch controls is a relief. The interface can be fussy, but is quick to learn. I couldn't wait to get a Mazda3 with Apple CarPlay, but I never use it because the built in system is totally sufficient. Wireless CarPlay might move the needle away from the built in system. The powertrain is smooth, and power delivery is mostly at the bottom end, which is surprising in the turbo trim. The car never sounds like it's working hard, even when it's being driven hard. The automatic is well tuned, and a mature design, so it's never hunting gears and matches the engine output perfectly. Manual mode is well executed, and you can go from the paddles, to the gear shift, if you want. The AWD system is totally transparent, but effective - particularly on snow tires. I live in the northeast and have had zero drama during the two winters I've driven it daily. No weather conditions have gotten me stuck, or caused me to lose control. Handling is predictable, with far less body roll than previous generations. The OEM tires should be swapped for high performance summer tires whenever possible, and braking is excellent, though it does require quite a bit of force. The design is a total head turner, and it's the first car I've had in years that I enjoy washing and waxing myself. I do wish the paint was more durable. It has several chips on the hood that go straight to bare metal, and most happened in the first 1000 miles, so it doesn't take much. A good paint protection film is a good idea. Dealership experience was good, and a service appointment to address some minor interior rattles was filmed and emailed to me, which was a pleasant surprise. All-in-all, a brilliant car from a brilliant company at the top of its game right now.

See all 20 consumer reviews

Safety

Based on the 2021 Mazda Mazda3 base trim.
Combined side rating front seat
5
Combined side rating rear seat
5
Frontal barrier crash rating driver
5
Frontal barrier crash rating passenger
5
Overall frontal barrier crash rating
5
Overall rating
5
Overall side crash rating
5
Risk of rollover
10.1%
Rollover rating
5
Side barrier rating
5
Side barrier rating driver
5
Side barrier rating passenger rear seat
5
Side pole rating driver front seat
5

Warranty

New car program benefits
Bumper-to-bumper
36 months/36,000 miles
Corrosion
60 months/unlimited distance
Powertrain
60 months/60,000 miles
Roadside assistance
36 months/36,000 miles

Compare the competitors

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