Mazda has now fully revealed its new Mazda3 2.5-litre turbocharged, all-wheel-drive flagship hatch and sedan derivatives in North America. The powerplant is more powerful and torquier than expected... and here's how its outputs compare with those of benchmark hot hatches.
Last month, Mazda signalled its intent to introduce the 2.5-litre 4-cylinder turbopetrol-engined (and all-wheel-driven) Mazda3 hatchback and sedan in the new-vehicle markets of the United States, Canada and Mexico. At the time, Japanese firm stated the 2.5 Turbo's peak outputs as: 186 kW and 434 Nm (when the Skyactive-G engine runs on 93 RON).
If buyers opt for the Premium Plus package, a purposeful front airdam and tailgate spoiler are added on.
Torque is sent to the i-Activ all-wheel-drive system via a 6-speed torque-converter automatic transmission and, while we were hoping for claimed performance figures – which are critical for hot-hatch bragging rights – Mazda hasn't revealed any (we anticipate a 0-to-100 kph time of about 6 sec). However, the Hiroshima-based firm has presented a complete view of the 5-door version and released details of optional sporty exterior addenda that can, if specified, distinguish the 2.5 Turbo from its more affordable siblings.
Given the local market's predilection for hot hatchbacks, which explains why the Volkswagen Golf GTI has outsold its lesser 7.5-generation siblings by a ratio of about 4 to 1 and Hyundai and Honda offer the i30 N and Civic Type R in South Africa (but no other derivatives of those cars' respective ranges) it stands to reason that Mazda would be well served by introducing a hot-hatch version of the Mazda3 in the local market – if at all possible. Hot-hatch aficionados would surely welcome the 2.5 Turbo 5-door in our market, where the Hiroshima-based firm previously sold both the 2.3-litre turbocharged, all-wheel-drive 1st-generation- and 2.5-litre turbocharged 2nd-generation MPS derivatives.
If buyers add on the Aero Kit, the Mazda3 2.5 Turbo gains an additional rear diffuser as well as subtle side-sill extensions.
Now for the proverbial tale of the tape. In its maximum state of tune, the Mazda3 2.5 Turbo produces more power than the current (7.5) and Volkswagen Golf 8 GTI, although it's not quite as punchy as the Honda Civic Type R, Hyundai i30 N or either the Renault Megane RS 280 Lux/Cup or RS 300 Trophy. However, its peak torque figure eclipses those of all the current (admittedly front-wheel-drive) hot hatchbacks. To put those numbers in context, here's a breakdown of what the market's headlining hot hatches produce:
|Peak Power||Maximum Torque|
|Mazda3 2.5 Turbo AWD||186 kW||434 Nm|
|Volkswagen Golf 7.5 GTI||169 kW||350 Nm|
|Volkswagen Golf 8 GTI||180 kW||370 Nm|
|Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR||213 kW||380 Nm|
|Hyundai i30 N||202 kW||353 Nm|
|Renault Megane RS 280 Lux/Cup||205 kW||390 Nm|
|Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy||221 kW||420/400 Nm (manual)|
|Honda Civic Type R||228 kW||400 Nm|
The handsome BBS 18-inch gloss black forged alloy wheels are also optional in North America.
From the initial announcement, it was clear Mazda didn't want to position the Mazda3 2.5 Turbo as a hot hatch per se – think of it more as a luxuriously-equipped flagship 5-door derivative with a sporty bent. Remember that in some markets, the Mazda's all-wheel-drive configuration could improve its selling proposition (such as in North America's harsh winter climate) and its torque gain (by virtue of turbocharging the larger-capacity 4-cylinder engine) should improve drivability, in-gear acceleration and touring ability.
As standard, the 2.5 Turbo's exterior execution features automatically activated LED headlights with DRLs, hints of black exterior detailing (such as the mirror housings), subtle Turbo and AWD badging and slightly-bigger exhaust tips, but there are no elaborately flared wheel arches. However, if buyers want addenda such as a front bumper with gaping air intakes, wing-tipped side skirts, a rear bumper with an integral diffuser, a tasteful tailgate spoiler, as well as 19-inch gloss-black alloys, Mazda offers them at extra cost.
The 2.5 Turbo might not have a track-tuned suspension, but it produces a bit more torque than the Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy.
In its highest spec, the newcomer's cabin features leather trim, a sunroof, heated sports steering wheel with shift paddles, a frameless auto-dimming rearview mirror, an 8.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system (with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) reverse-view camera and rear PDC. In terms of safety, the flagship derivatives are equipped with radar-guided cruise control with stop-go functionality, Smart Brake function, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and lane-keeping assist.
The new flagship Mazda3 produces more power and torque than the upcoming Golf 8 GTI, but its product positioning is very similar.
Right now, the 2.5 Turbo is exclusive to North America, which is a pity, because Mzansi has to make do with the 2.0-litre naturally aspirated motor in the top-of-the-range 2.0 Astina, which produces "only" 121 kW and 213 Nm. Other right-hand-drive markets (such as Australia, for example) have requested that Mazda consider making the range's new flagship more widely available, so there's a glimmer of hope. As for the MPS badge, that's highly unlikely to return given Mazda's product push into the premium space.