~ A DriveWays Review ~
by Frank A. Aukofer

It’s unusual to assign aspirations to a fine example of engineering like the 2023 Mazda3 2.5 Turbo AWD. Yet that’s how the Japanese manufacturer has been describing its mainstream products for years: they aspire to be identified as premium performance cars.

Aside from the Mazda MX-5 Miata two-seat sports car and half a dozen crossover SUVs, the compact Mazda3 is the only typical passenger car left in the lineup. The midsize Mazda6 has been dropped. For 2023, the 3 comes as a four-door sedan or a four-door hatchback with a fastback profile, reminiscent of some Audi models.

Sales languished in 2022 as crossovers surged. Dealers sold 27,767 Mazda3s, though that was overshadowed by the 151,594 sales of the CX-5 crossover.

Still, not every prospective buyer is entranced by the utilitarian crossovers, and the 3 Hatchback is eye candy with its own claim to practicality and a premium identity.

Driven for this review was the Mazda3 2.5 Turbo with all-wheel drive and the marque’s Premium Plus package, a comprehensive load of desirable safety, convenience and luxury features. It arrived with snazzy “Soul Red Crystal Metallic” paint set off by black alloy wheels and a black interior.

The Premium Plus add-on augments the standard automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist, dual-zone climate control, high definition radio, Android Auto, Apple Car Play, Bluetooth connectivity, motorized glass sunroof, and power driver’s seat with lumbar support and memory.

Among the safety items: head-up display, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, blind-spot monitoring, driver attention alert, rear cross-traffic alert with automatic braking, traffic sign recognition, and front and rear parking sensors. Also in the premium package: Navigation system, SXM satellite radio, leather-trimmed seats and 360-degree surroundings camera.

The tested Turbo all-wheel drive had a starting price of $36,365. That included the Premium Plus package. With a few additional options, the bottom-line sticker came to $37,095. That can be daunting for some buyers, but it is shy of the nearly $50,000 current average price of a new car in the United States.

All of the 3’s Turbo models come with all-wheel-drive standard. Providing the power is the company’s SkyActiv 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It makes 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, delivered to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually with steering-wheel paddles.

An auto hold function can be activated with a touch of a console mounted button. It keeps the Mazda3 in place after a stop without having to keep a foot on the brakes, enabling quicker jumps off the line.

Zero to 60 miles an hour acceleration has been clocked in the five-second range, accompanied by a hearty growl from the engine, which it also voices in passing on the highway. Relaxed cruising, on the other hand, is mostly muted and benign, allowing enjoyment of the Bose premium audio system.

As tested, the Turbo 3 proved itself to be an easy rider. Handling on twisting roads is relaxed with tactile steering feedback as long as you don’t get too deep into the accelerator pedal. The ride is composed over most surfaces shy of the pothole variety.

Front seats and outboard back seats feature prominent bolstering to hold the torso in place during spirited driving. Outboard rear seats deliver ample head room but are a bit tight on knee room. As is usual in most vehicles in this era, the center-rear seat is a cramped perch compromised by a large square floor hump. It also takes a bit of athleticism to enter and exit the back seats because of a less than generous door opening.

Visibility to the rear is compromised by broad swatches of body metal, called C-pillars in the industry, on both sides of the back window. However, visibility can be improved with proper adjustment of the outside mirrors to eliminate blind spots. The mirrors have memory settings and are motorized and heated. Windshield wipers are rain-sensing and also de-icing. Analog instruments are clear and easy to read.  

There are seven versions of the hatchback, starting with the Base at $23,615, including the destination charge, and progressing through Select, $25,015; Preferred, $26,615; Carbon Edition, $28,265; Premium, $30,215; Turbo, $33,515, and the tested Turbo Premium Plus.

For true believer enthusiasts, the Mazda3 hatchback also can be equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox. However, stick shift versions are not available with the all-wheel drive.


  • Model: 2023 Mazda3 2.5 Turbo AWD Premium Plus four-door hatchback.
  • Engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 227 hp, 310 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 8 inches.
  • Height: 4 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 93/20 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,400 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 23/31/26 mpg. Regular gasoline.
  • Range: 330 miles.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $36,365.
  • Price as tested: $37,095.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review. Photos © Mazda