By Larry Lark, contributor
The Mazda3 has always looked the part of a sports car.
Now, with a Skyactiv-G, 2.5-liter, DOHC turbocharged engine, it acts the part as well.
Now in its fourth-generation, the 2021 Mazda3 with Premium Plus package and all-wheel drive, can be classified as a driver’s car. Enhanced performance, stylish exterior lines, and Mazda’s trademark “Soul Red Crystal Metallic” coat of enamel complete the all-around package.
My tester was the hatchback version. Mazda3 also comes in a four-door sedan variation. The exterior is spruced up with a black rear hatch spoiler and front air dam, 18-inch black alloy wheels, and front LED signature illumination.
The new turbocharged engine delivers powerful exhaust notes and spirited acceleration, cranking out an impressive 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque. Mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with sport mode, the smallish sedan seats four adults (five would be a squeeze) with adequate head and legroom.
Running on premium 93 octane fuel, the Mazda3 eked out close to 30 miles per gallon fuel economy with a range near 300 miles on a full tank.
The evolution of Mazda’s turbo engine brings a sense of refinement befitting the brand’s recent updates to its i-Activ all-wheel drive system. Te high-torque characteristic of the turbocharged engine paired with the predictive all-wheel drive creates harmony with the driver’s intentions – delivering greater responsiveness and confidence.
Corners are mastered at speed. Acceleration is brisk. And even at freeway speeds, when called upon, the turbo engine responds with passing power and speed to thrill.
The top-tier Premium Plus package ($1,075) introduces all-new i-Activsense safety technologies including “Rear Smart City Brake Support with Rear Cross-Traffic Braking which automatically applies the brakes when the vehicle is in reverse, if an obstacle or crossing vehicle is detected.
Other features include 360-degree view monitor with front and rear parking sensors. Traffic Jam Assist enhances radar cruise control by providing steering inputs at speeds under 40 miles per hour.
These advancements in safety technology build upon other features such as Mazda’s active driving display and adaptive front-lighting system, which help Mazda3 stand out among entry-level premium vehicles.
When it comes to creature comforts, this sporty hatch does not disappoint. Leather heated seats with driver lumbar support and memory, rear-seat armrest with cupholders, push-button engine start, heated steering wheel, and rearview camera get the party started.
Adding to the excitement is dual-zone climate control, navigation, Bose premium audio system with 12 speakers, power-sliding glass moonroof, HD radio, two USB inputs, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and front windshield heads-up display.
Completing Mazda3’s long list of standard safety equipment is blind spot monitoring, smart brake support, dynamic stability control, traction control, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, driver attention alert, and ABS with brake assist.
The 60/40 split fold rear seats are easily lowered. I lowered the 60 side which accommodated three golf bags and three passengers on a recent jaunt to Lake Padden Golf Course near Bellingham.
Base Price: $34,695
Price As Driven: $36,490