The 2021 Mazda3 Sport GT Turbo is priced from $33,900 in Canada, $30,195 in the US.
The Mazda3 Turbo is grown-up fun.
Refined and premium, this car is not for hooning about.
The facts are that expectations for the hotly-anticipated turbocharged Mazda3 were wrong, not off. We should all recall that Mazda’s gone in a different direction of late, one that is meant to bridge the gap between mainstream competition and premium brands. It is with this in mind that the Mazda3 GT Turbo was created.
It’s tough to not bring up the “M” word but I won’t. It is subjectively the only thing wrong with this car – it’s not an “M”. It is, in fact, far greater than what that box would have allowed it to be. And this is very important. In the past, Mazda has dabbled in a specific variety of driving involvement and those days are now behind it. Like everything else in this world, Mazda has evolved.
The current-generation Mazda3 signaled Mazda’s intent to move up the premium product ladder and they hit the nail square on the head. Having achieved what they set out to do, they could not vulgarly set up the 3 GT Turbo with massive wheels, a giant rear spoiler, and various other aerodynamic bits. From all angles, the Turbo is nearly identical to the GT, which is a good thing.
At $33,900, the 3 Sport GT Turbo is only $700 more than a 3 Sport GT AWD which essentially makes the Turbo a no-brainer choice. The main difference in that the $1,700 Premium Package (smart brake support, head-up display, gloss black front grille, and more) is no longer included. As such, the actual cost for the boosted-4 is $2,400. Still a highly worthy option.
At this point in time, we’ve all become quite familiar with the turbocharged 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine that is now offered in all Mazda vehicles save for the CX-3 and MX-5. It produces 227 horsepower (250 with premium) and 310 lb.-ft. (320 on premium) of torque. Mazda’s impressive i-Activ AWD system is standard with the Turbo as is the 6-speed automatic transmission.
This entire power- and drivetrain is identical to the one found in the CX-5, which happens to tip the scale at 200kg (440lbs) more than the 3 Turbo. This makes for a very quick car, but Mazda’s not interested in boasting, which is in line with the image the Japanese brand wants to project. The only acceleration data I could find was not from Mazda but from a well-known American magazine. They measured a 0-60mph (0-96km/h) time of 5.9 seconds. Brisk though this may be, the only indicator is the unfortunate digitized engine noise – including this must have been a last-minute decision on Mazda’s behalf as it does not fit with the car’s overall character.
The Mazda3 Sport GT Turbo is an astoundingly civilized compact car that happens to be fast. The car’s platform and chassis are perfectly in tune with each other, providing what could only be described as dynamic comfort. Factoring the immensely capable i-Activ AWD and included G-Vectoring Control Plus (GVC Plus) means that control and agility are always on hand no matter how hard one gets on the throttle.
This is the way
And this brings us to why the Mazda3 Turbo is exactly what it needs to be. In true Mazda fashion, the car’s power is perfectly matched to its chassis, much like the MX-5. Never does the car feel overwhelmed by the available power. Never do these cars get unruly; they are always perfectly poised. This is why there is no “M” Miata and why “M” will not return, in my opinion, to an internal combustion engine-powered Mazda.
Sorted and polished, the Mazda3 Sport GT Turbo is responsive in a respectful way. It’s never harsh – some would say subdued even. In fact, it’s refinement level is on par with the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz A-Class. This is what the 3 Turbo is. And it’s a bargain at that.
Perhaps what makes the Mazda3 Turbo more difficult to accept for some are the gaps in its roots or heritage. The 323 GTX, the Speed3, and the Mazda3 Turbo span some 35 years. In contrast, the Volkswagen GTI has been consistently available for 45 years. Let’s not kid ourselves, there’s a significant difference between a 5th-generation GTI and the outgoing 7th-gen car, but the GTI’s always been around.
It will replace your STI and save you from further punishment
If that’s what you want… I’ll have to exclude myself from this group. Although the 3 Turbo is aimed at buyers roughly my age (mid-40s) and not car enthusiasts looking for an affordable alternative to a Volkswagen Golf R or Subaru WRX STI, the 3 Turbo did not ignite a fire under me like I’d hoped. I’m not disappointed, because the car lived up to my expectations – it’s simply that I secretly wished to be blown away. The Golf R and WRX/WRX STI always leave me wanting more.
Despite this final point, I loved every moment with the 3 Turbo, especially when we finally got a reasonably decent serving of snow. You can still definitely hoon with the 3 Turbo but a grown adult shouldn’t seek out such thrills…