With its sharp handling capabilities and high-quality interior design materials, the 2021 Mazda 3 is built to impress. While it is a bit more expensive than some of its rivals, you will get a lot of positives from this super cool-looking vehicle.
The 2021 Mazda 3 is powered by a base 2.0-L 4-cylinder engine that generates 155 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque. But this year marks the introduction of the turbo 2.5-L 4-cylinder that Mazda fans have all been waiting for. Th 2.0-L engine is front-wheel-drive only, but with the 2.5-L turbo 4-cylinder, you get standard all-wheel-drive - a huge bonus. This new engine generates a power output of 227 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, which gives it a massive boost over the 2.0-L engine.
Unfortunately, this still is not the revival of the Mazdaspeed 3 we were all hoping for. We have not seen a Mazda like that since its discontinuation in 2013. Its 6-speed manual transmission and upgraded limited-slip differential with a sport-tuned suspension made for a real doozy of a ride. The new 2.5-L turbo is definitely a big step up for Mazda with the 3, but it still struggles in comparison to what you find on some of its competitors.
But even with the lack of a really high-powered engine option, the 2021 Mazda 3 is fun to drive. While it has the typical hatchback problems (such as poor rear visibility due to the thick roof pillars and small rear windows and windshield), you get a lot of standard technology and your choice from two amazing sound systems.
Yet which trim is going to be the right one for you? The base trim level comes as either the 2.0 Sedan or 2.5 Sedan. But if that is not enough, you can upgrade to the Select, Preferred, Premium, 2.5 Turbo, or the 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus. With all of these choices in mind, it is time to give you our trim level comparison review of the 2021 Mazda 3. Be sure to stick it out until the end, which is where we will let you know which trim level we think presents the best deal to the average buyer.
Compare the 2021 Mazda 3 2.0 Sedan vs 2.5 Sedan. What is the Difference?
Seven trim levels to choose from? That can make for an intimidating buying process. To make things a bit easier for you, we will go trim level by trim level, starting with the 2.0 and 2.5 Sedans. The difference here should be pretty obvious: One gets the 2.0-L base engine while the other gets the 2.5-L engine that has been carried over from previous iterations. (You will find the new 2.5-L Turbo down further.)
Front-wheel drive comes standard on both engine options. Of course, fuel economies will differ since these are different engine sizes. The 2.0-L gets 31 mpg combined (with 28 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway) while these numbers drop on the 2.5-L to 30 mpg combined (with 26 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway).
Standard tech features on both vehicle options include Mazda Connected Services. This gives the Mazda 3 a free 3-year trial access to remote vehicle control functions and remote vehicle status. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay come on all trim levels save for the 2.0 Sedan, so drivers might want to skip over the base trim just to get standard smartphone app integration. Both trim levels get treated to the excellent 8-speaker sound system with the inclusion of Mazda Harmonic Acoustics for improved sound quality. Stop-and-go functionality is included with the Mazda Radar Cruise Control system.
LED headlights and taillights come standard on the front and rear fascias (respectively). Other exterior features include auto-on/off for the headlights and LED daytime running lights. The variable intermittent windshield wipers are able to sense rain, and the body-colored side mirrors are power-folding. The front grille is done in a matte finish, and the 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels come with all-season tires. While the 2.0 Sedan can only be ordered in Jet Black Mica or Sonic Silver Metallic, you can get the 2.5 Sedan in Jet Black Mica, Deep Crystal Blue Mica, or (for an additional price) Snowflake White Pearl Mica.
On the inside, the cabins of these trim levels will appear mostly similar. They both feature standard air conditioning, one-touch up/down on the power windows, speed sensitive auto locking on the power locking doors, cruise control and audio controls mounted onto the steering wheel, a push button start, remote keyless entry, a manual day/night rear-view mirror, one 12-volt power outlet, an electronic parking brake, extensions on the vinyl-covered sun visors, front map lights, and a light for the cargo area.
As far as storage goes, these trims both get a glove box up front, a covered storage compartment under the center console's armrest, storage pockets with bottle holders on the front doors, and a seatback pocket on the front passenger's seat.
There is seating capacity for five inside of the Mazda 3, and the seats in these two trims are done in black cloth upholstery. The rear seats are 60/40-split folding, and there are adjustable headrests for all seating positions. Hands-free Bluetooth connectivity is standard on both trims, as are 2 USB audio input jacks. The standard infotainment system is composed of an 8.8-inch touchscreen display, Mobile 911 automatic emergency notification, Sirius XM Satellite Radio, HD Radio, Pandora radio, SMS text messaging, Radio Broadcast System Data, voice command, and Multifunction Commander control. There is also a 7-inch LCD meter display, resettable trip odometers, and a trip computer.
Safety and security features are mostly similar as well. The 2.0 and 2.5 Sedans both have a dynamic stability control with traction control, smart brake support, a lane departure warning system, lane keep assist, high beam control, a rear-view camera, a tire pressure monitoring system, and an easy-to-use LATCH system for child car safety seats.
Compare the 2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Sedan vs Select Trim Level. - What is the Difference?
The Select is essentially the second trim level in the line-up. It too is equipped with the 2.5-L 4-cylinder engine, but you can opt for all-wheel-drive instead of front-wheel-drive on the Select. With AWD equipped, EPA estimates drop slightly to 28 mpg combined (with 25 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway). The 6-speed automatic transmission comes equipped.
One of the biggest upgrades on the Select is the addition of a blind spot monitoring system. There are some nifty exterior upgrades too. These include integrated turn indicators on the side mirrors, 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, and more metallic paint options.
Of course, the interior gets some upgrades too. These include a dual-zone automatic climate control system, the Mazda Advanced keyless entry and ignition system, cup holders built into the rear center armrest, leatherette trim on the sport seats, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shift knob.
Compare the 2021 Mazda 3 Select vs Preferred - What is the Difference?
The Preferred takes much of what you will find on the Select trim level and makes a few important additions. The front seats and side mirrors gain memory settings. The front grille is done in a gloss black finish, as are the decorations in the lower bumpers. There is also a power sliding moonroof that has a one-touch-open function and an interior sunshade. The visors gain illuminated vanity mirrors, and there is an overhead console with a sunglasses holder.
The Preferred's front seats gain 8-way power adjustability and power lumbar support. Also, they have a heating function. Instead of the black leatherette, you can also opt for a tan hue-d leatherette that is called Griege.
Compare the 2021 Mazda 3 Preferred vs Premium - What is the Difference?
The Premium still gives you the option of staying with FWD on the 2.5-L engine or going for AWD. The most exciting upgrade is the 12-speaker Bose sound system with Audio Pilot and Centerpoint 2 technology. Paddle shifters also get added into the mix, which is a nice touch of luxury. There are also upgraded Signature LED headlights and combination taillights, as well as a shark-fin antenna mounted onto the roof. A bright finish gets added to the 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels. The Premium also gets an aluminum speaker grille for the sound system.
Navigation gets made standard as well. You even get traffic sign recognition and a full-color Active Driving Display that projects onto the windshield. If you do not want the standard black leather upholstery, you can opt for white leather instead. There is also an adaptive front lighting system for the front fascia.
Compare the 2021 Mazda 3 Premium vs 2.5 Turbo. What is the Difference?
The standard 2.5-L engine is somewhat underwhelming now that Mazda has introduced the 2.5-L turbo 4-cylinder to the 2021 Mazda 3 line-up. This engine generates 250 hp and can only come with AWD. The 18-inch wheels have a black finish to them, and the steering wheel gains a standard heating function. This trim level does not come with built-in navigation or traffic sign recognition, but it does have the 12-speaker Bose sound system and the Active Driving Display. Like the Preferred trim level, upholstery can come as either the Black or Greige leatherette.
Compare the 2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo vs 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus Trim. What is the Difference?
The 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus takes the new 2.5-L turbo engine and pairs it with the Premium's features. However, it adds a few sportier features, such as the black rear lip spoiler. It has the same black finish on the wheels as the 2.5 Turbo. Additional features include smart brake support for the rear, a 360-degree surround-view monitor, and a traffic jam assist function.
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Which Trim to Choose?
The 2021 Mazda 3 has a solid line-up of vehicles that pack in a ton of features. But the price tags are steeper than some of the 3's competitors. The Mazda 3 is, however, a generally well-liked vehicle with a lot of positive reviews. The 2021 line-up should be no exception to this rule.
As far as the trim levels go, we think that the insertion of the 2.5-L turbo engine is going to shake things up for the Mazda 3. The other two engines are not terrible by any means, but the turbo is far more exciting and comes on two different trim levels. Many drivers will like having standard all-wheel-drive. You cannot go wrong with either of these trim levels, but if we had to pick one, we'd say go all-out and nab yourself the 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus. It has literally everything you could possibly want from a vehicle in this segment and just looks downright cool with the rear lip spoiler. And hatchbacks aren't exactly known for looking cool.
• Compare the 2020 Mazda3 Trim Levels