2021 Mazda3 Brings Style and Performance to Midline Compact Sedans

2021 Mazda3 grille

Jerry Kronenberg

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2021 Mazda3 grille
Jerry Kronenberg

Mazda3 Is the Magic Number

The 2021 Mazda Mazda3 compact sedan offers all of the modest pricing and fuel efficiency of rivals such as the Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla, but boosts the coolness factor way, way up in terms of styling and performance. Now in its third model year after a 2019 redesign, the Mazda3 (base price: $21,645) is available as either a sedan or hatchback with looks and speediness far better than what the utilitarian Japanese compacts of yore offered. I recently checked out a top-of-the-line Mazda3 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus ($32,450 MSRP); here’s what I found.

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2021 Mazda3 Exterior
Jerry Kronenberg


The Mazda3 offers a really sexy exterior for a modestly priced compact sedan. Mazda carried the model over little changed from 2020, but my test vehicle came with premium Machine Gray Metallic Paint ($495) that gave the car a sophisticated air. In front, an aerodynamic hood sat atop small LED headlights, a black grille with chrome trim, and a big Mazda medallion. This led back to modest-sized doors, a great moonroof, and cool, 18-inch black alloy wheels with Bridgestone Turanza tires. My test Mazda3 also featured classy dual chrome exhaust pipes and a rear spoiler.

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2021 Mazda3 front seats
Jerry Kronenberg

Front Seats

My test Mazda3’s cabin looked great for a car with such a relatively modest sticker price. The smart-looking interior was done up in white, black and chrome: The heated front seats combined good headroom, legroom, and hip room with lovely white perforated- and stitched-leather upholstery; there was stitched black leather on the gear shifter and heated steering wheel; and stitched white and black leather on the door interiors and white leather on the dashboard.

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2021 Mazda3 backup camera
Jerry Kronenberg


The Mazda3 Premium Plus features a big analog tachometer and a large digital speedometer, along with smaller digital fuel and temperature gauges. The vehicle also offered an 8.8-inch LCD screen linked to the car’s navigation systems and premium AM/FM/SiriusXM/Pandora/Bluetooth Bose stereo with 12 speakers and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto capability. Additionally, the car featured the SiriusXM Travel Link system, which provided live updates on traffic, weather, sports scores, nearby gas prices, and more. (That said, the Mazda3’s LCD isn’t actually a touchscreen; you control the vehicle’s systems using buttons and knobs in the center stack. And I didn’t find those controls to be especially intuitive to use.) On the plus side, my test model boasted a great backup camera, plus a heads-up display that projected speed and other travel information on the windshield, allowing you to keep your eyes on the road while driving.

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2021 Mazda3 rear seats
Jerry Kronenberg

Rear Seats

The Mazda3 Premium Plus’ rear seats have the same beautiful leather upholstery as the front seats, as well as good headroom and hip room for two adults. I found the legroom decent but not incredible, and a little twinge in my lower back told me I’d probably want to ride back there for only an hour or so. While the rear seats can theoretically accommodate three adults, hip room would be tight, and the center spot’s legroom is a bit lacking for all but city trips. On the other hand, there’s a nice armrest with cupholders in the center spot when there’s no third passenger back there.

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2021 Mazda3 trunk
Jerry Kronenberg


The Mazda3 offers a modest 13.2-cubic-foot trunk, which is pretty much in line with most compact sedans. You can fit a fairly bulky item back there, such as a window air conditioner — or perhaps a combination of one large suitcase, two medium-sized ones, and two backpacks.

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2021 Mazda3 grille
Jerry Kronenberg

Road Test

The Mazda3 Premium Plus’ 227-horsepower four-cylinder turbocharged engine, six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive combined to produce a very sporty ride for a compact sedan. It also corners and brakes well, and its excellent turbocharged engine shot up from zero to 60 mph in an impressive 6.7 seconds while revving to just a modest 5,500 rpm. As for fuel efficiency, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rates the Mazda Premium Plus 2.5 Turbo AWD at 23 mpg/city, 32 mpg/highway and 27 mpg/combined. I logged 30.5 mpg/combined during a weeklong test drive.

The vehicle’s well-designed windows and windshields provide good sightlines; that rear-view camera is excellent, and makes backing up and parking fairly easy.

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2021 Mazda3 Exterior
Jerry Kronenberg


The base Mazda3’s very affordable $21,645 with destination fees is a bit above the $20,655 Hyundai Elantra and $21,020 Toyota Corolla, but below the $22,695 Honda Civic and $24,190 Volkswagen Golf. My top-of-the-line 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus SWD test model came with a $32,450 base price, with premium paint and destination fees taking that to $33,890. That’s not bad for a nicely equipped model, and Mazda was offering 1.9% five-year financing as of this writing.

The bottom line: The 2021 Mazda Mazda3 brings lots of performance and stylishness to what’s often not a very high-performance or stylish vehicle category. Compact-sedan shoppers should definitely check this model out.

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