There are few new cars more hotly anticipated around the JNC offices than the Mazda 3 Turbo. The non-turbo is already an absolute hoot, and on paper the forced-induction version looked to be even better, with 250-horses, 320 lb-ft (on 93 octane fuel, 227 horsepower, 310 lb-ft on regular), but we feared that the boosted 2.5 SkyActiv-G would bump the price too high. Well, now Mazda has announced that it will start at an extremely reasonable $29,900.
That puts the Mazda 3 Turbo at on par with its closest competitor in the sport compact class, the upcoming Mk8 Volkswagen GTI. However, the Mazda will offer 9 more horsepower and a whopping 47 more lb-ft of torque. The next closest, the Hyundai Veloster N, equals the 3 in horses but generates 60 fewer lb-ft of torque while costing $2,300 less. Then there’s the Subaru WRX, which costs $2,200 less, and has a 16 more horsepower but is down 52 lb-ft. All of these come in a manual, which the 3 does not, but as we have argued before, that doesn’t affect the driving experience of the 3.
However, we will be the first to tell you that numbers don’t tell the whole story. We haven’t driven the GTI, but the Hyundai Veloster N is an incredibly visceral hot hatch. It’s extremely tossable, and charges like an eager puppy. In contrast, the Mazda offers a more mature driving experience. A non-car nerd might be embarrassed to be picked up for a date in a Veloster N, but you might actually get points for the 3.
Where it counts, the Mazda can still take turns brilliantly and aggressively, but smoothes out the Hyundai’s rough edges with more graceful motions and less turbulence. Plus, the Mazda 3 Turbo is AWD, offers a downright gorgeous interior, and has probably the most driver-friendly cabin in its class — which brings us to its true marketplace rivals, the Big Drei.
Against them, there is absolutely no contest. A Mercedes-Benz A220 has only 188 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque while costing nearly $4,000 more ($6,000 with AWD). The Audi A3 delivers just 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, and costs an eye-watering $7,600 more. The BMW 228i xDrive has the same specs as the Audi and costs nearly $8,600 more. Plus, the Mazda will run circles around these cars in terms of driver engagement. Sadly, these will probably all outsell the Mazda because of the badge.
The Mazda’s $29,900 base price nets you the sedan, while a turbo hatch will cost you $1,000 more. All are available with optional 18-inch BBS wheels, a front air dam, side skirts, and rear diffuser. Additionally, the hatch can be optioned with a roof spoiler. We’d probably forgo these aero bits, which end up costing a little over $2,500.
The launch video sums up Mazda’s car-building philosophy nicely. To the untrained ear, it sounds like a bunch of marketing mumbo jumbo because, frankly, every automaker spews similar pick-up lines. But for Mazda, statements like, “For every vehicle we put on the road, if it is going to be called a Mazda, it must make you feel something you can’t feel in any other car,” are actually true. We’re just glad there’s one company that still speaks to those who enjoy driving. There’s some great footage of the Mazda North America basement and cars like the Cosmo Sport and 767B as well.
The Mazda 3 Turbo is scheduled to go on sale later this year.
Images courtesy of Mazda.