Remains great little vehicle despite plummeting sales
Roseville, CA- From this vantage point, the Mazda3 remains a great little vehicle. Yet sales figures paint another picture.
Sales of the once popular compact sedan/hatchback have plummeted the past five years in the U.S. And this year will be the all-time worst with projected sales of roughly 35,000. The perky Mazda3, which debuted in 2004, had a sales high of 123,361 in 2012 and remained between 95,000 and nearly 108,000 the next four years.
So, what’s the issue with the Mazda3, formerly a darling among U.S. car buyers? The hypothesis here is there’s nothing wrong. The problem lies with the increasing popularity of subcompact and compact sport utility vehicles. Seemingly everyone who is looking for a smaller vehicle that is fuel efficient is purchasing an SUV. Sedans and hatchbacks – not so much.
Looking for an answer to give it a bounce in sales, the 2021 Mazda3 has added two additional engines to the mix – a new standard engine and a turbocharged one. The turbo model comes standard with all-wheel drive (AWD). The new engine options might not be enough to create a rebound in sales, but give Mazda credit for adding something new and appealing.
Mazda had already been searching for new answers with its 2020 version of the 3. It added AWD as an option and did an overhaul – inside and out. The Mazda3’s length increased and it added a long aerodynamic hood and a wide body. Note that the sedan is nearly 8 inches longer than the hatchback.
For anyone seeking performance, the turbo engine is the choice. Borrowed from the Mazda CX-5 and CX-9 SUVs, it’s a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder that produces 250 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque. It’s no surprise that the turbo model is the fastest of the three – 0-60 mph in 5.9 seconds. It has lots of power and gets solid fuel economy (23-31 mpg) as well.
The standard Mazda3 engine is now a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder that produces 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. It’s the best of the three in fuel economy (28-36 mpg).
Moving from the standard engine to the middle version is the 2.5-liter, four-cylinder that delivers 186 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. It’s quick, smooth and has good acceleration, clocked at 0-60 mph in 7.5 seconds. Fuel economy is good at 23-35 mpg.
The Mazda3 also receives solid marks for how it performs. It handles with great precision when navigating tight turns, providing the driver with a high level of confidence. A drive along mountain passes and some challenging roads near Lake Tahoe did not overwhelm the Mazda3.
- Performance: 2.0-liter, four-cylinder, 155 horsepower; 2.5-liter, four-cylinder, 186 horsepower; turbocharged 2.5-liter, four-cylinder, 250 horsepower
- Mileage estimate: 28-36 mpg; 23-35 mpg; 23-31 mpg
- Estimated price: $21,600 to $30,500
- Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; drivetrain: 5 years/60,000 miles; roadside assistance: 5 years/unlimited; corrosion: 3 years/36,000
On the interior, the 8.8-inch touchscreen is controlled solely by a console-mounted rotary knobs, a preference here. Getting acquainted with the new system does require some time – not everything is intuitive. We found the audio system setup more confusing than it needs to be.
Yet the well-designed cockpit is better than most compacts. The front seats provide good support, comfort and adequate head and leg room. But the rear seats are not as gracious with space, especially leg room. The sedan has 13.2 cubic feet of cargo space and there’s 20.1 cubic feet in the hatchback. A drawback is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability are not standard in the base model.
The addition of the two new engines gives the 2021 Mazda3 even more appeal. And it remains high quality, a sophisticated and upscale sedan/hatchback. The lingering question is that enough to help sales rebound?