Pulling Out All the Stops: Can a Turbo Revive the Mazda 3?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
pulling out all the stops can a turbo revive the mazda 3

The redesigned Mazda 3 arrived for 2019 with upgrades in both looks and cabin refinement, elevating the sporty compact sedan and hatch to a level of class it never occupied before. Also new was optional all-wheel drive to temp those who like a little tail action in sandy corners (or just getting through the winter).

Unpredictably, the new 3 landed with a resounding thud.

Launched with too high an entry price in the U.S., the attractive model’s sales plunge was swift and jarring, forcing Mazda brass to re-think the whole effort. They’re still thinking, and it seems the latest move will bring moar power to the little KODOmobile.

Per dealership model codes seen by Jalopnik, it seems a 2.5-liter turbo four-cylinder — the same mill recently added to the Mazda 6 and CX-5 lines — will make an appearance further down the food chain come 2021. It’s something Mazda 3 fans have wanted for years, but the question of just how many of these fans actually exist remains unanswered.

The dealer codes show the turbo option mated only to all-wheel drive, meaning a relatively cheap front-drive Honda Civic Si/Volkswagen GTI rival is out of the question. It’ll still have the power with which to compete (in other applications, the 2.5L turbo makes 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque), only with more hardware in tow. At the same time, anyone looking to put that forced injection to work through a six-speed manual is out of luck. It’s an automatic-only proposition.

That takes a bit of air out of the balloon, for sure. However, a mystery lies in the exact nature of a “HB PP” model listed on the dealership intranet for 2021; HB means hatchback, but what’s the true nature of PP? While it might simply be a reference to a typical Mazda equipment package (Preferred, Premium), it could herald something more exciting. “P” just might stand for performance.

In its first full year on sale, Mazda 3 sales fell more than 21 percent. Some tweaking was done to the model’s equipment and pricing for the 2020 model year in an attempt to boost the model’s value proposition. Sales fell nearly 46 percent, year over year, in January, despite every other model in the Mazda stable posting an increase. February brought a 32-percent decline.

Of course, we all know what March brought to residents of the United States, so there’s no point in exploring the Mazda 3’s sales performance from that point on. Compact mainstream cars have been one of the worst-hit segments during the ongoing pandemic, and the unlucky 3 followed suit.

As the industry gets back underway both here and overseas, only time will tell whether the 3 — turbo or no — can recover in an even more challenging marketplace.

[Images: Mazda]

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2 of 61 comments
  • IBx1 IBx1 on Jun 09, 2020

    Pathetic automatic scum. Mazda can die.

  • Mpolans Mpolans on Jun 13, 2020

    I had a Mazdaspeed3 and loved it, though I was scared of the zoom-zoom-boom issue. That said, I was seriously shopping a used Mazda3 against the WRX wagon I eventually bought. I loved the 1st and 2nd gen Mazda 3s for combining a cavernous cargo area with pretty good handling, decent performance in class, a pretty good manual transmission, and pretty good looks. They were fun to drive and held a lot of junk. The 3rd gen kept most of that, except it cut down on cargo area. I was really hoping that the 3rd gen would come out with a turbo AWD version with a 6-speed, but no luck. Then I was hoping the same for the new 4th gen. Instead, it came and it looked bland. Totally unexciting. And the cargo area looked smaller. Hooray for an AWD option...until you find out it's not available with a manual transmission. Frankly, the 4th gen Mazda3 appears illustrative of how Mazda has lost its way...it's drifted pretty far from the "zoom-zoom" days, when it could be counted on for being the most fun to drive without breaking the bank.

  • Cprescott I remember when Fords were affordable.
  • Cprescott As a once very LOYAL FORD buyer, I had to replace my 22 year old Ford (bought new in 1997) once it finally started to have problems at 180k miles. I would have gladly purchased something like this from Ford but they abandoned me as a car buyer. Oddly, Hyundai still builds cars in a variety of flavors so I became a customer of theirs and am very happy. Likely will consider another once this one gets up in mileage.
  • SCE to AUX A friend once struck a mounted tire that was laying flat in the middle of her lane on the PA Turnpike. She was in a low late-90s Grand Prix, and the impact destroyed the facia, core support, radiators, oil pan, transmission, subframe, and suspension. They fixed it all.
  • Dukeisduke Lol, it's not exactly a Chevrolet SS with Holden badging.
  • Dukeisduke Years ago, I was driving southbound along North Central Expressway (south of Mockingbird Lane, for locals), and watched a tire and wheel fall out of the bed of a pickup (no tailgate), bounce along, then centerpunch the front end of a Honda Accord. It wasn't pretty.