2023 Mazda3 Turbo AWD Premium Plus Hatchback
A week in Palm Springs with the 2023 Mazda3 Turbo Premium Plus Hatchback.
By Reed Berry
Mon, Mar 13, 2023 02:23 PM PST
All images by Reed Berry
I'm having a great week. Not only am I in one of my favorite cities in California, Palm Springs, I'm driving a cool, sporty car that fits right into the active lifestyle of this upscale desert oasis, the 2023 Mazda3 Turbo Premium Plus Hatchback.
I like Mazda vehicles. They've grown on me over the years. Admittedly, when they introduced their less-than-fancy rotary engine RX3 back in the early 1970s, all I could think was, "What the hell is that?" I was a teenager at the time and, like most teenagers, I wasn't looking at basic econo-box type vehicles. I had my eye on bigger, more eye catching rides that would impress friends and possibly attract dates. Well, fast-forward to 2023 and the Mazda I'm road testing now, some 50 years later, is certainly an attention getter. And I'm still trying to get a date.
This car is so sleek and sporty that it's almost hard to believe that this is actually a four-door vehicle. Seems like a great way to blend sportiness with practicality in a car that's ready for just about anything. The drive down here from L.A. was a blast. The car has plenty of power to pass slower moving vehicles, and the ride is quiet and super smooth. Plus, at just under two hours from L.A., driving to Palm Springs doesn't wear me out. I'm ready to cruise Palm Canyon Drive, see the sights, eat some great food, and mingle with the rich and famous.
I can describe the exterior styling of this vehicle in two words: on point. This car looks sharp! I'm sure this vehicle in it's standard state would look just fine, but our test vehicle has been fancied up quite a bit with such features as a black rear hatch spoiler, black side sill extensions, and black rear bumper skirt. The rear hatch spoiler is part of the Premium Plus Package included with this vehicle, while the side sill extensions and rear bumper skirt are part of the optional Appearance Package. The bold black front grill, black side mirrors and big 18-inch black alloy wheels add to the car's good looks, especially against the snowflake white pearl exterior color. The shark fin antenna is a nice touch, too.
The interior of the car is quite impressive, as well. There is plenty of space for both front and rear seat occupants, and the leather-trimmed seats are quite comfortable. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is heated for comfort in cold weather but, since I'm enjoying sunshine and temps in the high 70s this week, I won't be availing myself of that added warmth right now. The interior is nicely equipped and appointed, and there is a power sliding-glass moonroof that I wasted no time opening in order to let some of today's SoCal sunshine in.
As usual, I have overpacked for what is going to be a rather quick getaway to Palm Springs but it certainly doesn't pose a problem in this car. Not only is there a generous amount of room in the passenger compartment, there is ample cargo space, as well. There’s plenty of room for luggage, sports equipment, and groceries with room to spare. 20.1 cubic feet of cargo volume with the rear seats up (47.1 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down) is fairly impressive for a car this size. The rear seating area looked a bit tight at first glance, but I popped back there for a minute and found it quite comfortable.
An array of entertainment features make the drive enjoyable. The Bose Premium 12-speaker audio system sounds amazing, and my entertainment choices are almost limitless with SiriusXM Satellite Radio, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay as well as HD Radio for crystal clear sound when listening to terrestrial radio stations.. There are two USB inputs for additional devices and Bluetooth connectivity as well. I must say that it was much easier to pair my phone to this car than some of the other vehicles I've driven in the recent past. All entertainment controls are conveniently placed within easy reach on the center console or steering wheel.
Mechanically, everything seems to work very well together in this car. Mazda's 2.5-liter SKYACTIV-G turbo engine gets the job done nicely and it's paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and Mazda's i-ACTIV all-wheel drive. 227-horsepower with regular unleaded fuel and 250-hp with 93 octane premium unleaded. The car offers quick, hesitation-free acceleration (zero to 60 in around six seconds) and is remarkably agile. The rack-and-pinion steering with electric power assist is quite responsive. The car handles beautifully and cornering is quite sharp while, at all times, I have a good feel of the road.
Would I like to have a manual transmission in a car like this? Sure, but it's not available on this model. A manual transmission is available on the front-wheel drive 2.5 S Premium, one of the seven trim packages of the Mazda3 hatchback. If I want to kick the experience up a notch, switching to sport mode will stiffen everything a bit and enhance performance, and there are paddle shifters on the steering wheel that work quite efficiently.
This is not an EV. But fear not, driving the Mazda3 will not break the bank. It actually gets pretty decent gas mileage for a car that performs this well. 23 MPG in the city and 31 on the highway, with combined city/highway of 26 MPG. I don't exactly have a lead foot. I tend to drive a little more safely and conservatively than many drivers on the road and, at least so far, my fuel economy seems to be mirroring those EPA estimates.
Like most newer cars, the Mazda3 is loaded with safety features, including SBS (Smart Brake Support,) which is a forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking system. Among the standard safety features are lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert. Included in the Premium Plus package is rear Smart Brake Support, traffic jam assist, and parking sensors in both the front and rear.
Yes, some may consider all the flashing lights and alerts a bit of an annoyance while driving but, since they're designed to keep you safe on the road and possibly save your life by avoiding collisions, I'm ok with the sensory overload they tend to produce.
Another interesting feature on this car, although I'm not entirely sure we really need it or should be too dependent on it, is Traffic Sign Recognition. Apparently, its designed to recognize traffic signs and project them on the Active Driving (aka Head-Up) Display in front of the driver in case you don't see them. Personally, as a former traffic school teacher, I think if you're too busy doing other things to identify road signs on your own and you're relying on a car feature to do it for you, you may want to pick another time to drive when you can properly focus on the task. I guess it may come in handy, however, if your attention is drawn to something else on the road, or if your mind wanders for a brief moment.
Overall, I am quite impressed with this car. Who wouldn't love it? The exceptional styling and solid performance may be enough to sell someone on this car but there is so much more - the interior comfort, respectable fuel economy for a sporty turbo, and, in my opinion, a very reasonable price. Even with the add-ons that our test vehicle is equipped with, the price comes in at just under $37,000.
Bear in mind that this car is at the top of seven trim levels so, if you can do without some of the fancy features and the added power of a turbo engine, you can still get a Mazda3 Hatchback that fits your budget. The 2.5 S has a base price of just $23,550 and our 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus starts at $35,300, with five nicely equipped models in between.
Regardless of the driving conditions or road surfaces I've encountered so far, this car has handled them like a champ. And driving the Mazda3 is just plain fun! So, even if you're the type of car buyer that is dead set on a Honda, Hyundai, VW, or some other brand that you've always been faithful too, the Mazda3 Hatchback is definitely worth a look. Personally, I've never owned a Mazda automobile but, after this experience, I would certainly give it serious consideration.
Mazda's old slogan popped into my head and seems to fit during my drive through sunny Palm Springs -- "Zoom-Zoom!"
About The Author
Known professionally as "The Traffic Guy," Reed Berry has been a driver safety educator for over 30 years. Reed has conducted traffic school classes and suspended license workshops throughout California, and has served as keynote speaker at safety conferences and corporate events across America. He has appeared on radio and television programs both in the U.S. and internationally to discuss safety-related issues. A contributor to LA Car since 2003, Reed Berry is a member of Motor Press Guild, the Los Angeles Press Club and SAG-AFTRA.