Way back in November of 2018, we gave you a first look at the fourth generation Mazda3 in all of its sedan and rather uniquely-shaped hatchback glory. The history of the badge that dates back to 2003 includes over 6 million units sold, with the fourth gen. ushering in the most drastic visual changes, both inside and out. Its 2.5L mill musters 186hp and is tasked with hauling around 3,000-plus pounds.
Early in 2019, editor Sam Du took a spin in the optional Mazda3 AWD hatchback and was impressed with a relatively plush interior when compared to Mazda3s of yesteryear, though he felt that after driving 200 miles in various terrain, the AWD hatch could certainly use more grunt. And that leads us to today's announcement from Mazda ...
A new 2.5L turbocharged Skyactiv-G engine will be made available for the 2021 model. The new addition produces 250hp with an impressive 320 lb-ft. of torque (based on 93 octane fuel, 91 octane measures 227/310) and Mazda states it's been "specifically calibrated to the Mazda3 so as to deliver the unique driving dynamics expected by our most passionate drivers." Combining the i-Activ AWD system with the boosted 2.5L perched inside of a hatchback body seems like an enthusiast's dream come true, but as you might expect there's a tradeoff.
That time Mazda unveiled a Mazda3 race car:
Mazda3 TCR IMSA race car
Excited to see the official announcement, I skimmed through it for the highlights, then went back and read everything for clarification ... then skimmed through it once more, hoping to see some mention of a manual option. Instead, I found "heated leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters." At this point, you should be used to reading the same thing; the manual transmission, especially in our segment of the automotive market, is quickly becoming extinct.
Nevertheless, some of the subtle changes to the exterior include 18-inch alloys and gloss black sideview mirrors, and on the AWD turbo sedan, a gloss black front grill and lower front fascia are employed. If they don't hear the "swoosh" of the 2.5L's boost, then the "TURBO" badge on the rear will clue them in. The shadowed front end photo that leads this article, along with the peculiar image above of a guy holding microfiber towel in front of yet another shadowed look at the latest version of the Mazda3 were the only ones provided by Mazda.
As Sam mentioned in his review, the interior standards have been increased dramatically on the newer gen. Mazda3, and in the case of the 2021 model, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as is Mazda's Connected Services that include a 3-year in-car Wi-Fi hot spot, 12 speaker premium audio setup, 8.8-inch large center display and the aforementioned leather steering wheel with ... paddle shifters.
Like Honda and many other manufacturers, a bevy of brand-specific safety measures are baked in. Mazda's version, dubbed i-Activesense, includes a slew of parameters, from Radar cruise control and Smart Brake Support to Driver Attention Alert and Rear Cross-Traffic warnings.
Mazda made a huge step in introducing a far more seductive hatchback style for their latest generation Mazda3 and it didn't go unnoticed, earning World Car Design of the Year accolades for their efforts. This new, more powerful engine option with AWD certainly brings the model up a few notches, and we'll keep our fingers crossed that manual version will eventually eek out of the brand's lineup.