The Mazda3 hatchback is one good-looking car, with its shooting brake profile and the sleek, sculptural design Mazda is known for. But beauty is way more than skin deep, especially now that you can equip the car with a 2.5L turbo engine and an all-wheel drivetrain. We spent a wintry week with one and are here to share our enthusiasm.
Our car came decked out in a beautiful shade called grey called Polymetal, which offers a subtle contrast from the black mesh grille, front air dam, rear roof spoiler, and substantial 18" aluminum alloy rims. It's a look that's sleek and sporty without being showy. Its shape is faithful to Mazda's "Kodo - Soul of Motion" design principles, a dynamic and energetic persona that can be seen throughout the entire modern Mazda line.
Behind that big Mazda grille breathes a turbocharged Skyactiv-G power plant that cranks out an impressive 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft. of torque on 93 octane fuel. Those numbers represent a substantial bump over the naturally-aspirated engine's 186 horses and 186 lb-ft. of torque. Sadly, there's no manual gearbox option like there is on the less-powerful Mazda3 Premium, but the 6-speed automatic transmission delivers smooth shifts and a sporty feel. Plus, there are paddles if you prefer to select your own gears.
All that torque feels great off the line and comes without turbo lag. Acceleration is immediate and especially well-delivered to the ground thanks to Mazda's exceptional i-ACTIV AWD system. Even with a generous dose of snow, sleet, and ice on the roads here in the Midwest, the Mazda3 gripped confidently. Overall handling is sporty and predictable but not as aggressively-tuned as some other hot hatches, and the G-Vectoring Control system helps the car's stability entering and exiting turns. The suspension is tuned for everyday use while still packing a little something special under the hood. On a warm and dry road, you can expect 0-to-60 times around 5.6 seconds.
We were particularly impressed with the Mazda3's quiet and comfortable interior, which is also quite upscale. Our car came equipped with premium leather seats, which complement soft-touch surfaces on the dash, doors, and center console. And the heated front seats and heated steering wheel were a godsend as daytime temperatures dipped into the teens here in Chicago.
Beyond our personal preference for the look of hatchbacks and wagons over sedans, we also love the added utility. There's plenty of room in the back of this car. Even with the rear seats in use, you get more than 20 cubic feet of cargo space. Drop them, and that jumps up to over 47 cubic feet. That's a similar amount to compact SUVs and crossovers. Plus, the back row folds in a 60/40 split so you can have a passenger back there and carry longer items at the same time. Keep in mind that the back row doesn't have a ton of legroom, so it's best for kids or shorter adults.
There's lots of technology on display here, too, including an 8.8" infotainment/navigation system, a heads-up display, adaptive radar cruise control, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, parking sensors, brake hold, surround-view backup cameras, and more. There's also Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, though they're a little trickier to control than usual with a dial instead of a touchscreen interface.
One of the smarter tech features is the traffic sign recognition, which not only shows you the current speed limit but works with the speedometer to show you exactly how far over the limit you're driving with a red indicator bar around the display. This is a feature we'd love to see in every car.
We really enjoyed our time living with the Mazda3 2.5 Turbo Hatchback. It's a blast to drive with all of that power, and the AWD system instills a great deal of confidence even in bad weather. It's not as rough around the edges as hot hatches can often be, so that makes it a more appealing everyday car as well. Plus, it features a highly-appealing design, a good suite of modern technologies, and versatile cargo-carrying abilities. Fully loaded, the turbocharged hatch is priced under $35,000, so it delivers great bang for the buck as well.