First Drive: 2021 Mazda3 GT Turbo Review & Specs

Turbocharged power has returned to the Mazda3 lineup for 2021, marking the first time since 2013 that the company has offered a turbo engine in its entry-level four-door model.

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The Mazda3 continues to be a vehicle that does double duty for the automaker. It sells incredibly well and is highly respected, winning its fair share of awards and accolades (including the World Car Design of the Year Award and the 2020 Canadian Car of the Year).

This is tantamount to an artist having a hit album, which also receives high praise from Pitchfork and wins a handful of Grammy Awards. 

Mazda isn’t content to simply run it back for 2021, though. Instead, the automaker is offering its SKYACTIV-G 2.5L Turbocharged engine on its top-tier GT trim. This now transforms the Mazda3, which I contend is one of the best looking vehicles in its class, into an entry luxe-performance vehicle. Or, as I found out, a sleek vehicle that has a welcomed mean streak when you hit the pedal. 

New Mazda3 GT flirts with luxury competitors

A quick note on the “luxe” part, which we will revisit in the coming weeks. Mazda has tweaked and fiddled with its trim levels over the years, with the GT tier now demanding the attention of buyers who are looking for premium features. 

2021 Mazda3 GT Turbo Sedan
2021 Mazda3 GT Turbo Sedan. Photo: Mazda

The Mazda3 Turbo engine is only available on the GT trim. This ensures customers experience Mazda’s most stylish ride—complete with everything from Mazda’s new 360-degree view monitor to a very sexy frameless rearview mirror—paired with its most exciting powertrain. 

Performance: how does the new turbo-powered Mazda3 GT sedan perform?

The new 250 horsepower 2.5L engine

The Mazda3 Turbo engine has 250 horses and up to 320 lb-ft of torque when you’re fueling it with 93 Octane. Those figures drop to 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque when using 87 Octane. It’s a nice-to-know tidbit, so you can plan ahead based on your driving for the week (and your budget at the moment). 

Full performance and footwork specs listed below.

On the road: driving impressions

I tested the 2021 Mazda3 GT Turbo sedan.

The power from the Turbo engine is palpable. Stomp the gas pedal and be prepared to get pushed back into the driver’s seat. Not a vicious shove from the acceleration force, but definitely enough to really notice the difference in power. The same thing happens with Sport mode on—this time, though, the Mazda3 shoots off in much more of a hurry, and handling and road feel becomes stiffer.

Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control Plus comes into play with Sport mode on. This results in smoother, more intuitive handling around corners, as it won’t downshift mid-turn. 

Mazda’s i-Activ AWD system is standard, which distributes more torque to the rear wheels (up to three times more than the previous system, according to Mazda). The result is a drive that pulls you closer to the ground. A strong connection to the road is clearly felt, but without it becoming overbearing. 

…they made the bold choice to not have a manual transmission. Or, perhaps it’s the smart choice, with manual transmissions in major decline, and younger drivers caring about other features more than shifting gears.

Two things you’ll notice missing from the Mazda3 GT Turbo: a manual transmission and a seven- (or eight- or nine- or 10-) gear transmission. 

Mazda says they built the Mazda3 GT Turbo to be an everyday vehicle; one that you’ll want to drive during your stop-and-go commute and for your weekend getaway. With that in mind, they made the bold choice to not have a manual transmission. Or, perhaps it’s the smart choice, with manual transmissions in major decline, and younger drivers caring about other features more than shifting gears.

The rationale for a six-speed automatic is the same. More gears equals more shifts, which equals more interruptions to your drive. Less is more, in Mazda’s eyes, resulting in a smoother experience. 

Takeaway: is the 2021 Mazda3 GT 2.5L Turbo worth it?

2021 Mazda3 GT Turbo Sedan
2021 Mazda3 GT Turbo Sedan. Photo: Mazda

The Mazda3 GT Turbo is a winner if you’re looking for a vehicle that combines premium features and an intuitive, sporty drive. It’s flashy in all the ways you want it to be, without being ostentatious. 

If a bigger roar and manual transmission is your thing, then definitely look elsewhere. This is not for you.

I suspect, however, most buyers who want more power and an engaging daily ride, will find everything they desire in the Mazda3 GT Turbo. 

2021 Mazda3 GT Turbo Specs:

GT 2.5 turbo exclusive features:

  • Chrome lower bumper inlet decoration
  • Increased diameter exhaust outlets
  • Exterior mirrors in Jet Black Mica
  • Turbo badge on trunk
  • Turbo badge on engine cover
  • Gloss Black front grille

Performance:

  • Engine: SKYACTIV-G 2.5
  • Valve train: DOHC 16-valve
  • Cylinders: 4 / in-line
  • Drivetrain: all-wheel drive
  • Displacement: 2,488 cc
  • Horsepower: 250 @ 5,000 rpm (with 93 octane fuel); 227 @ 5,000 rpm (with 87 octane fuel)
  • Torque: 320 @ 2,500 rpm (with 93 octane fuel); 310 @ 2,000 rpm (with 87 octane fuel)
  • Transmission: 6-speed automatic (manual with turbo)

Chassis and Footwork:

  • Chassis: Independent, MacPherson Strut type coil spring and stabilizer bar
  • Wheels (standard): 18″ alloy wheels
  • Tires: 215/45R18
  • Brakes: Power-assisted with dual diagonal hydraulic circuits; 295 mm ventilated front discs, 265 mm solid rear discs
Travis Persaud
Travis Persaud has contributed to a number of magazines across North America, including enRoute and Exclaim! He loves variety and it shows in the wide range of topics he’s covered: automotive to music, technology to travel, beer to real estate. He’s currently the editor of WHERE Ottawa (city travel guide), beer columnist for Ottawa Magazine, a frequent contributor to CAA Magazine and the former associate editor of Zoomer Magazine.

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