Recently voted Canadian Car of the Year by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) for the second year in a row, the 2021 Mazda3 offers AWD and 250 horsepower, the only vehicle in the compact car segment to do so.
The compact car segment continues to shrink, as consumers turn to crossovers. But it remains the largest ‘car’ segment in the country. Civic, Elantra, Corolla all continue to sell in big numbers. None of them offer all-wheel-drive and anywhere near 250-horsepower.
Mazda has carved out a niche in this segment by making the all-season security of AWD on the Mazda3 as well as a turbocharged engine producing class-leading horsepower and torque.
For second year in a row, Mazda3 wins Canadian Car of the Year, a feat never before accomplished.
The Mazda3 got a thorough upgrade last year with a new platform, new sheet metal and a new interior. My fellow Canadian auto scribes voted it the Canadian Car of the Year. Twelve months later, despite little change, the Mazda3 became the first repeat winner of the prestigious AJAC award.
The reasons are many and simple.
The Mazda3 combines the must-have features of compact cars – value, reliability and quality; with like-to-have features like style, performance and personality. The Mazda3 is available as a four-door sedan or a five-door hatchback called Mazda3 Sport. There is little else to differentiate the two.
Mazda3 and Mazda3 Sport virtually the same except for that hatchback.
The test vehicle was the Sport in GT trim with a turbocharged engine and full-time all-wheel-drive. The hatchback offers greater versatility and cargo space than the sedan, but the thick C-pillars hamper rear visibility. The now industry-standard rear-view camera helps to erase that drawback.
The Mazda3 Sport, like all Mazdas, offers a blend of performance and personality missing from most competitors. The styling is unique and the combination of all-wheel-drive, lots of power and an exceptionally well-tuned suspension are rewarding for those of us to like to drive.
For the rest, where driving is simply a means of getting somewhere, the Mazdas3 Sport does that as well as any, quite content to provide a supple and quiet ride.
The drivers among us will appreciate the sharpness of response to any input – throttle, steering or brake. Those less sensitive to such issues, will appreciate the fact it goes, stops and steers exactly as directed.
Inside, the 2021 Mazda3 Sport is pleasant, comfortable with upscale touches.
What the Mazda3 offers all is an extremely pleasant interior that would be equally at home in a much more expensive vehicle. Fit, finish and material quality are top notch. So too are ergonomics and design. Soft touch surface abound, and where hard plastic exists it is disguised with a high-quality piano black finish.
Getting in and out of the Mazda3 is relatively easy thanks to doors that open nice and wide.
The sleek shape and steeply shaped windshield make it necessary to duck upon entering the front seats. The upside is that the sharply raked windshield provides easy viewing of overhead traffic lights in the city.
The infotainment screen is perched atop the instrument panel and inclined toward the driver. It is controlled by a large rotary knob on the centre console. It does lag behind some of the more recent efforts of some competitors but is devoid of gimmickry and easy to navigate.
There is a separate – thank you – volume knob on the centre console.
The instrumentation is clean, clear and highly visible with simple graphics.
A large speedometer is centered between a tach and fuel/temp gauges. HVAC controls are centered on a separate level within easy reach. They too are conventional in layout and easily operated with minimal effort.
There are controls on the steering wheel for the infotainment system, screen choice and volume. The spoke on the opposite side provides control of the lane keep and cruise control functions. Thanks to the abundant power of the turbocharged engine it has no trouble maintaining pre-set speed on steep hills.
Special mention for the excellent, self-levelling LED headlights and the slick placement of the windshield washer nozzles.
The driving info display projected onto the lower portion of the windshield allows you to stay informed without taking your eyes very far from the road.
Another really slick and useful touch is the way the windshield washer nozzles are embedded into the leading edge of the wiper arms. Instead of spraying a swath of fluid across the entire windshield, much of it doing little good, this one applies the cleaning fluid on the glass immediately in front of the wiper blade. Super effective!
Ahead of the pack for 15 years and now with all-wheel drive!
For 15 years the Mazda3 has stood apart from the pack because of more sporty driving dynamics. It has also become more upscale and refined than the competition in recent iterations.
The 2021 Mazda3 Sport boasts a premium interior and stand-apart styling. It remains more fun to drive than the others, and adds the worry-free all-season security of all-wheel-drive to the mix.
Car of the Year indeed!
FACTS & FIGURES – 2021 Mazda3 Sport GT Turbo AWD
As tested: $37,550 including freight
22-cm wide color display with Mazda Connect, HMI Commander, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 12-speaker Bose audio system with five-year subscription to SiriusXM Traffic Plus and Travel Link® services and three-month subscription to satellite radio.
Advanced Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Radar-based Cruise Control with Stop & Go function, Smart Brake Support front and rear, Lane-keep Assist, Lane Departure Warning, automatic High Beams, Traffic Jam Assist, front and rear park sensors.
Automatic, adaptive and self-levelling LED headlights, leather-trimmed upholstery, 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support and memory function, exterior mirrors linked with memory seat , heated front seats and steering wheel, remote keyless entry, navigation system, power-operated sunroof, automatic dual-zone climate controls, exterior mirrors with reverse tilt-down
Polymetal grey paint, $200; AWD, $2,000; Premium package, $1,700 (light grey, high lustre 18″ alloy wheels, windshield-projected colour Active Driving Display, Smart Brake Support Rear, Rear Crossing alert, front and rear parking sensors, front wiper de-icer, auto-dimming rearview mirror, HomeLink® wireless control system, auto-dimming exterior mirror (driver’s side), exterior mirrors with reverse tilt down function, piano black front grille, 360° View Monitor, Traffic Jam Assist.)
Turbocharged 2.5-litre four-cylinder, 250-horsepower, 320 lb.ft. of torque – 93 octane fuel; 227 horsepower, 310 lb.ft. of torque – 87 octane fuel. Six-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel-drive
Length, 4,662-mm; wheelbase, 2,726-mm; weight, 1,533-kg
Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Nissan Sentra, Subaru Impreza, Toyota Corolla, Volkswagen Golf.