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Mazda 3 hot hatch returning with 2.5 turbo, Australian release uncertain

8 months ago

It didn’t take long after the fourth-generation Mazda 3 was revealed in late 2018 for hot hatch enthusiasts to start asking: when’s the turbocharged version coming out? In the intervening months, polite requests for the return of a high-performance Mazda 3 have turned into baying calls – calls that will soon be satiated, with the Japanese manufacturer confirming they will be shoehorning a turbocharger onto the Mazda 3’s 2.5-litre Skyactiv-G engine in the near future.

Senior executives at Mazda denied that a hot version of the current 3 small car was in the works on multiple occasions in 2019 before conceding later in the year that a turbocharged version of the Mazda 3 was indeed under consideration – but that the development of the company’s new lean-burn Skyactiv-X engine had to come first.

Mazda will turbocharge the 3’s 2.5-litre engine for North America. Will Australia follow?

With the Mazda 3 X20 Skyactiv-X already available in Europe and ready for release in Australia, this Japanese marque did what they said they’d do. While the 2021 Mazda 3 Turbo isn’t intended to be a direct replacement for the former hi-po Mazda 3 MPS – think of the incoming car as more of a grand tourer than a stiff-riding, flat-cornering weapon – it will no doubt excite the hot hatch crowd.

The 2021 Mazda 3 2.5T will produce up to 186kW of power and 434Nm of torque when fuelled with premium-octane fuel in the United States. Just as on the CX-9 large SUV, engine management software will detect lower octanes and limit power and torque to 170kW/420Nm. For reference, the second-gen Mazda 3 MPS hot hatch produced a boosty 190kW of power and 380Nm of torque from its 2.3-litre engine.

2019 Mazda 3 G25 Astina red side
The new Mazda 3 2.5T will focus more on grand touring than hot hatch handling.

Upwards of 430Nm of torque would make the turbo-petrol Mazda 3 an incredibly muscular addition to the performance hatch landscape in Australia – but Mazda’s executives here are downplaying the idea that the new engine will come down under, telling Chasing Cars that the announcement is “United States only” at this stage.

The Mazda 3 2.5T would enter the market to compete as a more lushly-specified alternative to the Ford Focus ST (2.3-litre turbo, 206kW/420Nm) and Volkswagen Golf GTI (2.0-litre turbo, 180kW/370Nm).

2019 Mazda 3 hatch black leather interior
Mazda Australia have a history of pushing for turbocharged models.

If we were the types to place bets, we’d say Mazda Australia are giving the new Skyactiv-X addition to the Mazda 3 some room to breathe. Announcing two new Mazda 3 engines at once would be distracting.

That being said, Mazda Australia have a history of strongly arguing that premium, turbocharged engines are right for the Australian market. Mazda Australia successfully pushed for the CX-9’s 2.5-litre turbo engine to be added to the CX-5 range in 2018.

If we’re going to see the turbocharged Mazda 3 for 2021 announced for Australia, we’d expect to hear more news later this year. If the 3 2.5T does end up coming to Australia, the engine would likely be added as an optional extra on top of the 2.5-litre naturally aspirated unit that produces 139kW/252Nm – a similar strategy to that used for the CX-5 SUV.