It’s official. The Mazda 3 now comes with a turbocharged powertrain. There were rumors about this last month, and if you’ll allow us to toot our horns a bit, we predicted this a year ago, even if we got the name wrong. And this Turbo 3 isn’t just a way to carry on the traditions of, say, the 323 GTX or Mazdaspeed 3. It’s really one of the few new cars today that feel like the wonderful sport compacts Japan gave us in the 80s and 90s.
The engine output was leaked by Mazda Mexico ahead of the global reveal on Monday. As expected, it is the same 2.5-liter SkyActiv-G turbo four found in other Mazdas like the 6 sedan and CX-5, generating 227 horsepower and an astonishing 310 lb-ft of torque. However, like in those other cars, that’s the rating for 87 octane fuel.
But, Mazda’s unique SkyActiv technology can seamlessly adapt to 91 octane gas, squeezing 250 horses and 320 lb-ft on premium fuel. It does so by using a combination of incredibly high 13:1 compression ratio, super-long 4-2-1 headers, and specially shaped pistons that allow for more efficient ignition than conventional gasoline mills.
Keep in mind, this is the same engine used to haul around the 3-row CX-9. Combined with the Mazda 3’s truly stellar handling and the feel of a pre-drive-by-wire steering feedback, we feel confident saying that it will be a better driver’s car than the Audi S3 (288 horsepower, 280 lb-ft), and probably cost $10,000 less to boot.
Plus, it comes with a whole suite of modern safety features like radar cruise control, 360° view monitor, rear cross-traffic alerts, and more. The interior is also one of the best driver’s cockpits in the automotive industry today.
The Turbo 3 will come in both sedan and hatchback guises, and with AWD. One thing i won’t come with, though, are is a stick shift. That in particular is a deal breaker for many, we know, but all we can say is go try both out.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. We’ve driven both 6-speed standard and automatic versions of the 3, and it is really the first car we’ve ever tested where we prefer the automatic. It’s not that the automatic is some kind of dual-clutch wonder; it’s not. It’s just that the manual suffers from the same lack of feel and soft pickup point that plague all modern manuals. It’s tuned to keep you from making a bad shift and the third pedal acts more like an on/off switch, and it doesn’t let you modulate the clutch like old school transmissions do.
Pricing hasn’t been announced yet, but expect the turbo to be available only on the upper trim levels. It’s not going to be cheap, but considering the other options for true driver’s cars in the market today, it’s the only game in town. The Mazda 3 is as close as you can get in a modern machine to favorites like the Acura Integra, Nissan Sentra SE-R, and Subaru 2.5 RS. With the turbo, the best compact money can buy right now just got a whole lot better.