If you want to feel the wind in your hair, learn to love the t-word.
I don’t usually think much about torque and horsepower. Not that they aren’t important, but the terms have a different context in my world. Too much torque = carsick kiddos. Too much horsepower = unwanted attention from the highway patrol. I want enough torque to confidently merge on to the highway and enough horsepower to maintain a decent cruising speed even when the car is loaded to the roof with passengers, luggage and holiday presents.
But sometimes you find yourself alone, in a post-mom car or helping your teen pick out her dream car, and boom: torque and horsepower are an important thing.
And this is what is so impressive about the 2021 Mazda 3 Turbo. Fun to drive just got more fun.
Pick Your Torque and Horsepower
It’s actually levels of more fun: the Mazda 3 Turbo adds 41 horsepower and about 65% more torque– an additional 124– to the redesigned Mazda 3 we all fell in love with last year. In fact, a lot of people did; it was selected as the World Car Design of the Year for 2020. It’s elegant in the sedan version, sporty in the hatchback version, and has a premium look and feel. The Soul Red paint color is like driving your favorite gel manicure: It’s deep, reflective and hard to look away from, it’s so gorgeous.
But then, if you pony up for premium gas, you can increase the horsepower to 250 and the torque to 320. And you’ll feel every bit of it. It’s a blast to drive.
Grown Up, Elegant, Driver-Focused Fun
I’m a fan of the ‘hot hatch,’ a fast, agile, easy to drive hatchback that has the best of a sedan — the drive experience— and the best of a wagon: flexible cargo space. But so often these cars are designed for 20 year old men who care more about driving fast than driving elegantly. The Mazda 3 Turbo takes the hot hatch idea and adds a bit more elegance with leather seats, head up display and a nicely edited selection of driver assistance and infotainment features.
T Also Stands for Top of the Line
The Mazda 3 Turbo comes in two trims: Better and Best (kidding). It’s only available in the two top-tier Premium and Premium Plus trims, both with all-wheel drive standard. The hatchback is a $1,000 upgrade, and the model we drove came to about $33,290 including the delivery charge and $595 for the Soul Red paint (and worth every penny). Our tester had heads-up display with road sign display, premium audio, navigation, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and a smart key. It also had the full suite of driver assistance and safety features, including a new one called Traffic Jam Assist, which brings the car to a full stop and restarts it in heavy traffic.
The only things I’d have added are at least one more USB port (there are two) and an interior hatch release (one on the key would be good, too). The only way to open the hatch is to tap the button under the badge on the liftgate.
Just Try to Make those EPA Estimates
I challenge you. The Mazda 3 Turbo is estimated to get 31 MPG combined, which is not bad; for all that added power, it’s only 3 MPG less efficient than the conventional SkyActive model. However, you’re probably not driving it the way it’s intended to be driven if you’re really getting 31 MPG. I averaged 25 MPG, which felt fair for all the fun highway on-ramps I found during my test drive.
Because the story here is the torque. Why let all that lovely power —and the fun it produces — go to waste?
Disclosure: Mazda provided the Mazda 3 Turbo for this test drive; all opinions are my own.