2010 Mazdaspeed3 Review

2010 Mazdaspeed3 Review
December 10, 2009 2010 Mazdaspeed3 Review By Mathieu St-Pierre
I'm young, dumb and full of... well, you know, residual teenage angst. I may not like video games or online poker but I surely do appreciate fast cars. I don't got much money so I can't go out and buy myself an Audi R8, a Porsche Cayman (although I would sell everything I own to make a small down-payment for one) or even a Chevrolet Camaro. So when I get to drive cars that are quick, snappy and affordable, I tend to get excited.

Although the pricing and the front-end styling irk me, I have to say that I Love, with a capital “L”, this car.

The Mazdaspeed story began, in Canada, with the 2003 Mazdaspeed Protegé. This 170-hp 2.0L turbocharged 4-pot transformed what was otherwise a decent daily commuter. A few months later, the enticingly sweet 178-hp Mazdaspeed Miata (just over 5,400 were assembled) tantalized our taste buds. Next came the 274-hp Mazdaspeed6 with AWD and shortly thereafter, the Mazdaspeed3. Needless to say, all of these cars spoke volumes to me.

Some show and all go!

The latest Speed3 is manifestly based on the updated and upgraded for 2010 Mazda3, which is itself an evolution of the original Mazda3 launched in 2004. Rave reviews have always surrounded the Ford-Volvo-Mazda developed platform that continues to dutifully serve the S40, V50 and the Focus. At one point, it was safe to say that all three makes had handsome products (European Focus, people...) however the jury is out on the new smiley-faced 3.

This is in fact the only negative comment I could make on the car: “If we could only wipe that smile off its face...”. Otherwise, it's business as usual with the big 18” wheels, the hatch-mounted spoiler, the side sill extensions and best of all, the functional hood scoop. Draped in crystal white pearl and with twin exhaust pipes out back, the car looks stunning and perfectly represents and caters to the boy-racer in me...and you!

Go I said!
What makes the Speed3 tick is the now-famous MZR-DISI turbocharged 2.3L inline 4-cylinder. This same powerplant saw service in the Mazdaspeed6 and is currently used in the CX-7. Gushing out 263 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque, the Mazdaspeed3 is currently the second most powerful FWD compact car behind the Caliber SRT4. The argument could be made that the SRT4 is such a rare site and questionable choice that it doesn't really count, not to mention that it is quite an awful drive...

The Mazdaspeed3 is currently the second most powerful FWD compact car.


And so it goes that a hot-hatch such as this must have a taut suspension, chassis reinforcements, big brakes, a quick steering rack and some large rubber. The Speed3 has all of this, for better or for worse. Find a bad road (easy in Montreal) and I guarantee that you will avoid it at all costs next time around. Conversely, locate and attack your favourite country lane and I guarantee that you will return... or never leave.

It's actually quicker to the buck mark than the more potent SRT4, 6.1 seconds vs 6.2 seconds.

For the enlightened
The Speed3 is an on/off switch. The relatively narrow power band between 3,000 and 5,000 rpm means that much rowing from cog to cog is required if you want to get the most from the Warner-Hitachi turbocharger and its 15.5 psi of boost. By the way, the digital boost gauge is fairly useless as it only reads to 15 psi and the gradings are in half-bars. Now, back to our show... If you get it just right, the turbo 3 is one massively fast little car. In fact, it's actually quicker to the buck mark than the more potent SRT4, 6.1 seconds vs 6.2 seconds.

A proper launch from a standstill requires two hands on the steering wheel, and although Mazda says that its torque-sensing, equal-length driveshaft equipped limited-slip differential minimizes the effect of torque steer, keeping one hand on the shifter could prove to be a mistake. Now, although many have complained about this issue, I for one absolutely love the challenge of taming this micro-monster. Mastering all of these elements translates into pure fun and satisfaction. I've taken the little beast out on two tracks thus far and both times I thought the car was brilliant.

Where it hurts

If the outer shell of the Speed3 is essentially a carryover from the regular, the same can be said about the cabin. Obviously, the bits that set the Speed apart are the large race-like front seats, the black with red accent dash and door trim, the aluminium pedals and some red stitching here and there. The remainder is standard 3 fair. In actuality, the Speed is the equivalent of the Sport GT with the GT-E package and odds and ends from the Comfort and Luxury packages.

What this all means is that we must buy a Speed3 with all the bells and whistles for a whopping $32,995. Our neighbours to the south can opt for a base car at only $23,945! I frankly find this unfair and I'm willing to bet my cat's dinner bowl that Mazda would deliver an extra 25% to 35% more Mazdaspeed3s if we could purchase the equivalent car for around 26k.

If the outer shell of the Speed3 is essentially a carryover from the regular, the same can be said about the cabin.


In the end
Although the pricing and the front-end styling irk me, I have to say that I Love, with a capital “L”, this car. Much like the AJAC, I would select a GTI over the Speed3 if only for its more refined drive and supremely cosseting interior. In a straight line, the 3 smashes the GTI but on a track, the VW's more forgiving suspension setup and agile chassis would keep the Mazda in its sights, always.

The other dilemma arises in the form of the 2010 Subaru Impreza WRX. An extra $400 gets you AWD and a few extra hp but less equipment and a less enticing driving environment... Wow, that's tough... I got it! A Speed3 for summer and a WRX for winter. OMG, I'm in Heaven!

In a straight line, the 3 smashes the GTI but on a track, the VW's would keep the Mazda in its sights, always.



photo:Matthieu Lambert


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