2021 Mazda3 Gallery

The Mazda3 may be the automaker's smallest car, but that doesn't mean it's missing out on the driving dynamics the automaker is known for. 

Available as both a hatchback and a sedan, it kicks off at under $21k (plus destination) and looks like it should cost significantly more. Mazda has a good selection of alloy wheel designs in a variety of sizes, depending on whether you prioritize ride comfort or style. 

Regular models get a 2.0-liter engine and a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The latter leaves the Mazda3 unexpectedly capable in states where winter weather is a given, and could help keep drivers out of compact crossovers and SUVs. 

Mazda keeps delivering for enthusiasts, with the option of a manual transmission on select trims and drivetrains if you prefer. Alternatively, Mazda's automatic gearbox has six speeds and paddles behind the steering wheel. 

There's also the Mazda3 2.5 Turbo, dropping the 2.5-liter turbocharged gas engine under the hood for a big uptick in power. Figure on 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque, as long as you pump it with 93 octane fuel. Sadly the manual transmission isn't on the menu. 

AWD in the Turbo is standard, as is a high level of standard kit inside, and a fairly restrained exterior styling treatment. It might not look like a hooligan, but from behind the wheel there's a whole lot to like, particularly since you don't sacrifice practicality in the process.

Inside, Mazda's reputation for punching above its price point in cabin design and technology continues to hold true. Premium-feel materials and a clean, sleek aesthetic single the Mazda3 out from rivals.

Mazda's tech story isn't quite so compelling, however. The automaker continues to avoid touchscreens, preferring instead to have drivers interact with features like navigation and Apple CarPlay via a rotary knob that doubles as a joystick in the center console. 

A drive mode switch shifts the Mazda3 from normal to Sport mode. That encourages the automatic transmission to hold lower gears for longer, as well as making the throttle tip-in more aggressive. 

The end result isn't going to be so beguiling on the road as a Miata might be, but then again the diminutive two-seater doesn't have the same practicality as the Mazda3. That includes a decent-sized rear bench, which folds down to expand the already-reasonable trunk. 

As for driver assistance technology, Mazda offers a full suite of systems including adaptive cruise control with automatic lane-keeping assistance. There's also blind spot monitoring, keeping track of what might be creeping up in the adjacent lane.

On the economy front, the hatchback is rated for 23 mpg in the city, 31 mpg on the highway, and 26 mpg combined.