Mazda has always been a brand to cleverly inject sportiness into mainstream vehicles but retained a certain level of premium appeal with sleek and attractive styling. For 2022, such a tradition continues in vehicles like the latest Mazda3 hatchback which received a redesign for the 2019 model year and offers up a potent 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that touts as much as 320 lb-ft of torque for class-leading performance.
The Mazda3 hatchback has long been a vehicle that’s overlooked by many but has a loyal following and newfound appreciation when people discover such a vehicle. The new Mazda3 hatchback offers a choice of two engines, the base naturally aspirated 2.5-liter 4-cylinder with 186 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque, and my top-trimmed test vehicle’s 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that’s good for up to 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque with premium fuel. Without premium fuel, the engine outputs 227 horsepower but still manages to have a substantial 310 lb-ft of torque figure. Mazda has hung onto what works in mating the turbocharged engine to a proven 6-speed automatic transmission that feels direct without much use of its torque converter, which is one of many sporty traits of the Mazda3.
The Mazda3 Hatchback 2.5 Turbo in the top Premium Plus trim is quite the eager vehicle with a respectable sporty attitude from its turbocharged engine. The turbocharged engine has a strong surge of torque without much lag combined with a firm and responsive driving characteristic that’s welcoming for enthusiasts. That sporty character may not be for everyone mostly due to the firm ride quality that’s unique to the Mazda3 Hatchback, which can become a bit bouncy at times.
Out on the road, the Mazda3 Hatchback Turbo is lively and tends to avoid settling at a steady speed, somewhat due to the turbocharged engine having so much torque and just 6 gears to play with. The Mazda3 hatchback is mostly compliant, and some will enjoy what feels like a sport mode that’s always active even though it has a separate sport drive mode that keeps the gearing low and revs higher even though it only has the 6 gears to work with.
Thanks to the remarkable SKYACTIV-G technology, Mazda can get respectable fuel mileage out of the Mazda3 with the turbocharged engine even though it has power numbers coupled with all-wheel-drive and a 6-speed automatic transmission. The EPA estimated figures for the new Mazda3 2.5 Turbo Hatchback with its all-wheel-drive come in at 23 mpg city, 31 mpg highway, and 26 mpg combined.
Having all-wheel-drive and a G-Vectoring control plus system that electronically adjusts power delivery to shift the power load to the proper wheels needed is a nice touch to help balance the expected front-wheel-drive bias of the Mazda3. Taking off from a stop by power braking is fun even though there’s no dedicated launch control mode. The front wheels may break loose just after a hit of turbo lag, but the Mazda3 pulls strong and dashes to 60 mph from a standstill in just 5.5 seconds.
The interior of the Mazda3 in the top-level Premium Plus trim is near-luxury where Mazda doesn’t skimp on attention to detail and a nice contrast of colors that are pleasing to the eyes. The cabin is tidy and somewhat minimalistic in a way with the proper physical controls for the automatic dual-zone climate control. The gauge cluster with a center area digital screen blends well with the large analog gauges on either side. The 8.8-inch center infotainment screen, which is no longer a touchscreen when the vehicle is stationary (a common characteristic in Mazda vehicles in previous years), also has a minimalistic approach to its menu sets and has a slight learning curve to operate from the controller knob and function buttons behind the gear shifter. The system operates somewhat like BMW’s iDrive, which isn’t a bad thing.
The seating area is decent, but you only have the confines of a compact hatchback to work with. Thankfully, the front heated seats have a large amount of adjustability and prove to be comfortable yet supportive in the right places for a sporty compact hatchback. In the back, the seats are limited on space but offer just enough room for two adults provided they are not 6 feet tall or more. The cargo room is short and somewhat smaller than its competition but versatile if you choose to fold down the rear 60/40-split seatbacks. Overall, the interior is a level above the Mazda3’s competition with a premium environment that’s laced with several soft-touch areas and a limited number of hard plastics.
The sporty appeal of the Mazda3 Hatchback doesn’t’ end with its endearing driving quality but extends to the unique styling, which is quite attractive and appealing to enthusiasts from its darkened trim, dark front grille, rear hatch spoiler, and black 18-inch alloy wheels. There’s even a neat touch to the way the LED blinker lights illuminate with a subtle fade-away.
To add to the premium theme, the Mazda3 Turbo Premium Plus can be had with leather-trimmed seats, a 360-degree view monitor camera system, navigation system, color heads-up display, and a plethora of active safety features including the standard features of radar cruise control, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, driver attention alert, and high beam control for the adaptive LED headlights.
The Mazda3 has been one of my more surprising test vehicles in the past year considering the amount of equipment that’s wrapped up in a sporty compact hatchback package that also brings its premium traits to the forefront. The price of the new 2022 Mazda 3 Hatchback starts at just $22,750 with the less-powerful base engine but can climb to $36,010 including a $1,015 delivery fee for my loaded test Mazda3 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus AWD test vehicle.