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.
I expect pricing to be in Civic TypeR territory.
I sure hope not!
I have a 3 and it does handle great (and could use more power!), but it sure isn’t worth that kind of money.
So, it’s a Golf GTI that knows the soy sauce goes on the meat…
But seriously, I get why they’re doing it this way. I think though they’d get a bigger splash if they announced they were selling the MX-30 and figured out how to give that 40% more range…
David’s comment that “it is not worth that kind of money” is one that small manufacturers like Mazda struggle with all the time to overcome. A company spends many dollars and years branding an image and when that image is challenged some people cannot accept it. This is why Toyota, Honda and Nissan all created separate Luxury brands. I remember back before Lexus was formed a neighbor of mine bought a 92 Cressida with the lovely 7M-GE engine and one of his friends when he heard how much he paid exclaimed “You paid that for a Toyota?”
In the early 90s Mazda had plans to create its own luxury division called Amati but wisely called it off when it was obvious the economy was not in their favor. Mazda sees the future and knows it will never have a luxury division, so to increase the profit margin per vehicle it needs to put more luxury and performance into the models it currently produces. This unfortunately conflicts with the branding of the make, and in this case the model. If the new Mazda3 Turbo performs as well or better than a Civic Type R (or Golf R) then it is certainly worth the same kind of money. It is the perception of that worth that Mazda has to work hard on.
Seeing as the Civic Type R has over 50 more BHP than the Mazda3 Turbo, and no doubt weighs less, and has a manual gear box, there is no way that the Mazda product should be in the same price realm as the Type R.
Oh, yeah, no manual, no sale…
I am surprised that there is no manual or no AWD. If it were AWD I’d 100% understand no manual. Maybe they don’t have a manual gearbox that can hold the power?
I’d be interested to drive one and see what it’s like, but the top level mazda 3 now starts near 30k so this will probably be mid 30s?
This is probably the only car that makes sense to buy new for me (if it only had a manual).
Just to keep things in perspective, Honda sold over 325,000 Civics in the USA in 2019 while Mazda sold just a tad under 51,000 Mazda3s. The Type R represents around 1% of total sales or about 3,200 a year. If you applied the same percentage to the turbo Mazda3 with a manual that would be only 500 cars a year. By offering an automatic which they already have developed they up the percentage of sales. As they do not offer a manual for AWD applications there is no way they would spend the development money required to install one for such a low volume of sales. I expect Mazda is looking at a possible manual for use in the 3 and the 6 awd models but are prudently waiting to see if these models have good sales first.
My 70-year old mom still has her 2010 Mazdaspeed3 and loves it. She was shopping for a replacement and got tired of waiting for Mazda to bring back the Mazdaspeed, so she bought a new 2019 Civic Type-R instead. Since the new turbo 3 only comes in automatic, and she’s hardcore manual, it looks as if she made the right choice. I think it’s cool that Mazda is building an AWD turbo 3, but it’s being done in the exact same lukewarm way that made me completely overlook the Mazdaspeed6 when I bought my Evo VIII back in 2004.
not a bad effort from mazda but this will inevitably cost as much as a gti or golf r with options. so why not include a manual? manual+dct options could have appealed to a broader demographic tbh
Only 227hp out of 2.5 liters while Ford gets 350hp out of 2.3? Okay, it’s not all wheel drive, so I’ll give them that.
250 BHP on premium fuel, and I’ll wager the Mazda is not a hand grenade with a loose fitting pin, unlike the Ford.
As a long time Mazda owner (2005 rx8, 2008 3, 2016 cx5 + 2012 ms3….I can say I’m looking forward to a new turbo 3. It doesn’t need to compete with all the usual suspects….it just needs to be quick, and practical with some aftermarket support (corksport has announced as much). Type R is cool in name only (beauty in the eye of beholder), RS (European), GTI / R….meh… So far, Mazda keeping true to their long term plans. Good for them! I’m waiting on the 6 coupe with inline 6!