Road win: the 2022 Mazda3 Hatchback Turbo is a semi-hot car every day | South Lake Tahoe

The Road Beat previews the 2022 Mazda3 Hatchback Turbo. Is it a real hot hatch?

What is that?

The nice, cool Mazda 3 (and yes, Mazda spells it as one word: Mazda3, not the Mazda 3), but in a hatchback form rather than the common sedan configuration. The hatchback adds what should be better practical as well as swoopy looks that resemble a Giugiaro-penned (read: sexy designed) Alfa Romeo Brera. This model also has a 2.5-liter inline-four that’s turbocharged with up to 250 horsepower and 310 pounds of torque. Add to it all-wheel drive and this 3 hatchback becomes a tempting everyday possibility that may be able to carve its way to true stardom.

what is good

Sharp, jagged body panels that wind their way to the rear make this vehicle attractive in the eyes of this reviewer. I know others who thought it ugly, but having been a huge fan of the Alfa Brera I once saw in Scotland, I dig the looks of a hatchback, especially on the attractive sedan. Because it’s a Mazda, and this just happens to be the premium Premium Plus cabin, the interior is a gorgeous, luxurious interior for any car under $40,000. Red leather has a special flair and makes a statement about its intended appeal. Many people simply do not understand this: Mazdas makes the most beautiful interiors for the money. The quality of the leather and various textures with a soft feel is better than the competing brands. Let’s say, however, that this example is the heyday of Mazda3s, so the cars wouldn’t be the least impressive. But it will make you want to reach for that top shelf item.

Quality aside, the best part about any Mazda is probably how composed and natural it feels on the road. Steering is natural in response and weight, and there’s a hint of feedback even. Navigate some corners and the three flow through a fluidity not found in most competitors. The increased speed and balance contained in the chassis can be achieved, with minimal steering and a urge to drive faster. The poise and composure bring back memories of E46 BMW cars like the 330i, and that’s a big compliment.

Power is there when you need it, because thanks to the turbocharged engine, it does 0-60 mph in six seconds, with four-wheel-assisted grip to get you moving with little fanfare. There’s turbo lag if you try to shift yourself via the motorized stick or paddles, but there’s a delicious platter of mid-range hits from 3,000 rpm and up that even beeps well for four bands. Fuel economy is respectable when tested at 32 mpg on the highway and an overall average of 26 as well. However, similarly powered BMW 3 Series these days will do more than 40 on the highway with a turbocharged four-cylinder.

why not…

As good as the Mazda3, it’s not as sharp as the Golf GTI. Steering is slow, for example, needs heavy input and doesn’t feel “pointy” like its sportier German counterparts, and there’s more body roll that prevents tire sticking from rising. It’s great steering, but this isn’t the sports car a proper hot hatch could be; Just lacks overall cunning and participation. As a daily punch with energy, it works wonders, but the fizz isn’t quite there.

Make no mistake, this is a small car, and the rear seat and headroom space aren’t particularly lively. Adult travelers can go back there, but it’s not exactly a happy place. As in the cargo area, which despite being a practical hatchback holder, the interior volume isn’t much better than the 3 sedan, although you can fit some taller items inside, the sloping rear windshield precluding the overall utility. Oh, and blind spots are definitely here because of the thicker C-pillar/rear quarter plate area.

Despite the power ratings, the Mazda3 Turbo never really feels that fast, and it has me wondering and questioning the alleged power ratings. The last Jetta GLI I drove, with less power on paper, felt faster, and so did the Golf GTI. Perhaps the reason for this is the aging, but still smooth, six-speed automatic. The eight tightly spaced ratios are sure to unleash additional acceleration and increase fuel mileage.

And I have to bring the infotainment system, because while it’s been improved over previous model years, some functions can be tedious, like scrolling through even radio stations. You really have to take some time to set up some presets or else it will be an endless cycle of actions. Finally, for a small car, the price is anyway, but with the MSRP we tested it’s $35,810.

So should you?

The most obvious alternative is the Volkswagen Golf GTI (the Golf R is much more expensive), and while the German is a real hot hatch and a hustle to drive, the Mazda has a much nicer interior quality, and looks to actual luxury. I like the Mazda 3 Hatchback more than the sedan myself simply because I like the “shooting brake” design that harkens back to some Italian styling. It is somewhat more practical than the sedan although it is not so in the real world. But I digress. What we have here is a nice hatchback with steering pieces to back it up. Just don’t expect it to be a very light sports car.

2022 Mazda3 2.5 Turbo AWD Hatchback Premium Plus
Price tested: $35,810
Pros: Gorgeous interior, great to drive
Cons: Expensive, lacks the sharpness and tactility of a true hot hatch
Verdict: Not the hot slot that would have been, but the cool daily slot

Author Mitchell Whitsman is a native of El Dorado County and has been a car and racing enthusiast since he was able to walk. A graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara, he loves being able to combine his passions for writing, photography and the automotive world. His personal dream car is the 997 Porsche 911 GT3.

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