2024 Mazda3 Turbo Sedan Should Have Been A Sport Compact Car. Sadly, It’s Too Restrained - SUV VEHICLE

2024 Mazda3 Turbo Sedan Should Have Been A Sport Compact Car. Sadly, It’s Too Restrained



  • Premium feel with high-quality materials and refined design.
  • Turbo engine is fast but requires 93 octane fuel for full power.
  • Fun to drive with quick steering and rewarding cornering abilities.

Ever since the Mazda3 replaced the Protegé in the early 2000s, I’ve been a huge fan of the car. Even in its darkest moments when wearing that goofy face during its second-generation, the Mazda3 remained one of the crown jewels of the compact car segment.

It’s always been the model that prioritized driver enjoyment and compelling driving dynamics over the more utilitarian approach of a Toyota Corolla or even a Honda Civic. That old “Zoom Zoom” marketing campaign was no joke, kids. Mazdas are fun to drive.

There was even a hot-rodded Mazdaspeed version, which lasted for two generations. It was known for its knuckle-destroying torque steer, but also embodied the entire concept of what a hot hatchback should be: affordable, easy to own and way faster than it ought to be.

Which brings us to the current, fourth-generation car, introduced on our market for the 2019 model year. While still putting the emphasis on sportiness and driving fun, it’s arguably the most mature and understated Mazda3 to date.

That’s because Mazda prides itself on having grown out of the Zoom Zoom days. It now wants people to perceive it as a premium brand. This is why the 250-horsepower Turbo sedan pictured here isn’t wearing a Mazdaspeed badge or even looks any different from the regular model. But I’m here to say that the time is more than ripe for the Mazda3 to truly spice this thing up again.

2024 Mazda3 Turbo Sedan Front Three Quarter
2024 Mazda3 Turbo Sedan

The Mazda3 is one of the most popular small cars in North America due to its affordability, reliability, and wide range of different configurations. There’s a Mazda3 for everyone; a sedan, a hatchback, front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive and there’s even a rather quick Turbo model. But it’s the Mazda3’s focus on driver enjoyment that makes it a more desirable compact car than some of its rivals.

Turbo Sedan

Turbocharged 2.5L Four-Cylinder

250 (on 93 octane fuel)

320 LB-FT (on 93 octane fuel)


0-60 MPH
5.6 Seconds
  • Looks and feels like a true, premium product.
  • Way faster than it ought to be.
  • Fun and engaging to drive.
  • Lazy automatic transmission.
  • Tight cabin and trunk.
  • Requires 93 octane fuel to unlock its full potential.

The Mazda3 Turbo sedan pictured here is a press unit that belongs to Mazda Canada. The car was delivered clean and with a full tank of gas. I assumed all fuel expenses while I had it. For detailed insight into testing procedures and data collection, please review our
methodology policy

2024 Mazda3 Sedan First Impressions

Five years into this car’s design, I still find that the Mazda3 looks adequately modern. While some carmakers, like the Hyundai group, would rather use the chess piece approach to design, meaning that each car comes with its own unique styling, Mazda rather prioritizes the Russian tea doll philosophy where all vehicles link to a common family design theme.

In this case, it’s Mazda’s now ubiquitous Kodo design language which has been ongoing since the early 2010s. It puts the emphasis on minimalism, purity and sensuality, values which have allowed the Mazda3 to look like one of the more grown-up of the small cars.

2024 Mazda3 Turbo Sedan Front Fascia

Although I’ve always found that, when looked at from the side profile, its front end comically reminds me of Santa’s Little Helper, I still find this to be a beautifully understated little car, in both sedan and hatchback forms. But I would personally not get the Mazda3 in white, especially if wearing those black wheels. I just find the wheels get lost in the wells. Mazda’s iconic Soul Red would look better with this set.

It’s also worth underlying that the car pictured here is a Canadian-market exampled called the GT. From an equipment standpoint, it’s the equivalent to a Premium Plus in the US, except, in this trim level, American cars cannot be fitted with the Snowflake white paint and the red leather interior combination.

Exterior Dimensions


183.5 in.

Width (including mirrors)

70.7 in.


56.9 in.


107.3 in.

Front Track

61.7 in.

Rear Track

62.2 in.

Curb Weight

3,124 lb.

Driving Impressions And Performance

2024 Mazda3 Turbo Front Side

The Mazda3 Turbo’s performance, or rather, the way its performance feels, is the reason I say it needs to let its hair down. For instance, its engine – this car’s signature feature – has all the ingredients of a good sports compact car/hot hatchback. It’s a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder that’s good for a Golf R-rivaling 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque.

Unfortunately, this drivetrain also comes with a series of compromises that prevent the Mazda3 Turbo from being a true Golf R or Civic Type R contender. Those horsepower and torque figures, for example, are only achievable when feeding the car with 93 octane fuel. Anything under that will drop things to 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft.

2024 Mazda3 Turbo Engine

Add to that the fact that 93 octane fuel is scarce in some areas of the world and, well, expensive, and you start wondering why Mazda didn’t just engineer the car in a way that it can generate its maximum output no matter the type of fuel used.

Then, there’s the six-speed automatic transmission, which is the only gearbox available for this engine, as well as all-wheel drive. Now, while I do stand among those individuals who would have preferred seeing a manual transmission option here, a solely automatic layout isn’t always a bad idea. Remember, as of next year, the Golf R will only come with its dual-clutch setup.

My gripe with this transmission is that it has no desire to perform. The gears are incredibly long, which means the engine really needs to be winded up until you start feeling what it has in stock. The gearshifts themselves are also never energetic, nor particularly quick. At least, not as quick as Volkswagen’s DSG.

2024 Mazda3 Turbo Transmission-1

And that engine is not exactly rev-happy, nor does it sound particularly great. Rather, it’s a torque-loaded, mid-ranger that, while allowing the Mazda3 Turbo to move fast, feels more like a premium feature to allow its driver to overtake with ease instead of an actual tool that transcends satisfaction to its driver.

Mind you, it’s not that the Mazda3 Turbo isn’t fun to drive, because it is, a lot. But that mostly has to do with its exquisite chassis and suspension calibration, as well as one of the quickest-reacting steerings on this side of a Porsche 718. Mazdas always excell at making you feel like you’re connected to the machine at all times, an ethos taken straight out of the MX-5 Miata.

And in that respect, the Mazda3 never disappoints. Throwing it hard into a corner will always be highly rewarding. Point it where you want it to go, and it behaves with as much precision and maturity as a BMW.

2024 Mazda3 Turbo Side Profile

It’s all even more impressive when you consider that Mazda ditched the independent rear suspension setup of the previous generation car for cost-cutting. That’s right; this Mazda3 makes do with a good-old-fashioned torsion beam. But except for some occasionally felt wheel hop during seriously hard cornering, it’s all rather buttoned down and refined. That’s a feat only the masters of chassis tuning could have accomplished.

But that turbo engine never quite seems to do it for me. It feels too tame, too understressed and not eager enough to perform. It’s just an engine bolted onto the same gearbox as a CX-50. That’s all a shame considering that, on paper, the all-wheel drive Mazda3 Turbo will hit 0-60 MPH in 5.6 seconds. Imagine what it could do if its engineers would let it stretch its legs.

Performance Specifications


Turbocharged 2.5L Four-Cylinder


250 HP / 227 HP


310 LB-FT / 320 LB-FT




6-Speed Automatic

0-60 MPH

5.6 Seconds

Top Speed

134 MPH

2024 Mazda3 Turbo Sedan Fuel Consumption

2024 Mazda3 Turbo Sedan Grille

Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that I was constantly trying to have a good time behind the wheel of the car, or because I was driving the Mazda3 Turbo during colder than average spring weather in Canada, but I couldn’t get close to the EPA’s official fuel economy numbers.

My best average after a full week and 590 miles with the car was 24.5 MPG. Mind you, I was driving it with a mix of 91 and 93 octane fuel. It’s also worth noting that the EPA’s results come from regular gasoline. See below for reference.

Fuel Consumption Data




EPA Rated Fuel Consumption

23 MPG

32 MPG

27 MPG

Fuel Consumption As Tested

24.5 MPG

Interior Design And Comfort

Where the Mazda3 truly stomps its competition is the way it looks and feels inside. Mazda isn’t joking when it says it wants to be perceived as a premium brand.

In the Mazda3 GT/Premium Plus that I was driving, this quest was immediately recognizable by rich-looking and feeling materials, well-applied and thick-looking paint, impeccable build quality and a general sense of refinement you don’t get from most small cars in this price bracket.

The red leather seats of my example really helped enforce this premium feel, although I’m not sure if I could live with them on a long-term basis. They were, however, very comfortable during my time with the car, offering plenty of lumbar and lateral support for a tall driver such as myself, but the thigh area is a little too short for my liking.

2024 Mazda3 Turbo Full Dashboard-1

But while everything in a Mazda3 looks and feels of good quality, and good old-fashioned physical knobs and dials made operating and seeing all the car’s features without frustration, this is also a car that’s plagued with several ergonomic issues.

For starters, it always feels cramped in there due to how the car is shaped. The thick A pillars are so aggressively raked, that you feel as though they’ll hit you in the eye. I also always felt like I was sitting too high up in the cabin, even when I lowered my seat to its minimum.

2024 Mazda3 Turbo Rear Seats-1

Finally, the rear legroom remains a tight squeeze in a Mazda3. I could barely fit my feet back there with the front seat adjusted to my height and size. I also needed to move the passenger seat forward quite a bit to fit the child’s seat.

Interior Dimensions




38 in.

37.3 in.

Shoulder Room

55.7 in.

53.5 in.

Hip Room

54.6 in.

50.9 in.


42.3 in.

35.1 in.

Technology And Ease Of Use

Mazda keeps marching forward with its semi-touch-operated/knob dial setup for its infotainment system. It’s a very similar layout as BMW’s iDrive interface, but with much less complexity. Over time, Mazda has given it some incremental updates to improve some of its short-comings.

For instance, wireless Android Auto (in my case) is now standard equipment and it connects fast. Cycling between it and Mazda’s own interface is also a breeze. That knob dial prevents you from getting your eyes off the road, which is great.

2024 Mazda3 Turbo Knob Dial-2

Generally speaking, the system is quick to react, and its graphical interface looks clean and up to today’s standard. Unfortunately, accessing some of the car’s features, like removing its rather intrusive safety systems, will require you to dig deep into some menus, which can be distracting and confusing if you’re not familiar with these kinds of systems.

Some features, like radar cruise control, reset each time you turn off the car, so you’ll need to dive back into the infotainment system if you want it off again.

Cargo And Storage Space

2024 Mazda3 Turbo Cargo Space

In terms of cargo space, the Mazda3 sedan sits at the bottom end of the segment, offering about the same amount of available trunk space as a Corolla sedan (13.1 cu-ft), but considerably less than a Civic (14.8 cu-ft).

That last bit of information is odd considering that there’s only a 0.4-inch difference in wheelbase length between each car. The Civic sedan is also only 0.5 inches longer than the Mazda3 overall. See the Mazda3’s official cargo space numbers below.

Minimum Cargo Capacity (Rear Seat In Place)

13.2 cu-ft

How The 2024 Mazda3 Turbo Sedan Compares To Its Competition

2024 Mazda3 Turbo Logo

The Mazda3 sedan sits in the highly popular compact car segment where it faces stiff competition. Main rivals include, of course, the Honda Civic, the Toyota Corolla, the Nissan Sentra, the Kia Forte, the Hyundai Elantra and the Volkswagen Jetta.

However, in Turbo form, the Mazda3 sedan is sort of unique on its rock, slotting between the regular crop of compact sedans and the more performance-focused offerings such as the Hyundai Elantra N. Hyundai does have the slightly toned down Elantra N-Line, Honda has the Civic Si and Volkswagen sells the Jetta GLI, but they’re all front-wheel drive and nowhere near as quick and polished as this Mazda. Knowing that, I reckon that the Mazda3 Turbo sedan’s only true rival is the Subaru WRX.

2024 Mazda3 Turbo Sedan Versus 2024 Subaru WRX

Blue 2024 Subaru WRX TR

I never thought I would one day compare the Subaru WRX to a Mazda3, yet, here we are. For the money spent, it’s impressive to see how closely matched these two cars are. For starters, they both kick off at a similar MSRP, $31,750 for the Mazda and $32,735 for the Subaru.

While the Mazda 3’s cargo space is on the low side versus its main compact car rivals, it’s still a tad better than the WRX’s, which stands at 12.5 cu-ft. But the WRX makes up for it by offering a bit more rear legroom, 36.5 versus 35.1 inches.

2024 Subaru WRX TR

Then there’s the performance each car offers. On paper, the Subaru’s 2.4-liter turbocharged Boxer engine puts down more horsepower than the Mazda; 271 HP, but less torque at 258 lb-ft. Interestingly enough, although the WRX can be paired with a six-speed manual transmission, its 0-60 MPH time is only 0.1 second faster than the automatic Mazda3 Turbo (5.5 seconds). The CVT-equipped WRX lowers that number down to 5.4 seconds.

It’s also worth underlying that Subaru’s all-wheel drive system is a predictive type, meaning it’s always on versus Mazda’s system which is reactive, meaning it only activates when slippage is detected. If you live in a northern climate where snowfall is frequent, then you might prefer the WRX.

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2024 Mazda3 Turbo Rear Side

On paper then, the 2024 Mazda3 Turbo holds its own versus the queen of all-wheel drive performance sport compacts, the Subaru WRX. The problem is that from behind the wheel, it never feels as engaging or as entertaining as that Subaru.

I do wish Mazda had a bit more fun with this thing. I don’t know, slap a wing on its trunk, give it a more aggressive front bumper and fit it with a performance exhaust for added character. A manual transmission option would also help solidify Mazda’s claims of focusing on driver involvement.

2024 Mazda3 Turbo Rear Three Quarter

As for the car itself, it’s still a fabulous little sedan. You’re definitely getting a lot of performance and quality for your dollar, all while being able to hang with turbocharged little rascals at the drag strip.

If your priorities have changed and need to wear a suit and tie to work every day, but still want something fast and fun that flies under the radar, then Mazda has the turbocharged compact sedan you need.


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