Date Posted: October 13, 2009
By Zack Spencer
The regular Mazda3 is an excellent car but the Mazdaspeed3 is something special. With a turbo-charged motor, better handling and added features, this is a compelling package, but expensive.
Mazda, in general, is a carmaker that puts emphasis on driving dynamics. From the legendary MX-5 Miata to the RX-8 and even practical family vehicles like the Mazda5 and CX-9, they make vehicles that are fun to drive and deliver a rewarding driving experience. The most popular Mazda is the Mazda3 and what set the Mazda3 apart from its main rivals when it was introduced back in 2004 was the availability of two engine choices, one for solid basic transportation and a larger engine for drivers that want a bit more power. Other auto manufacturers have emulated this formula but in my mind the Mazda has executed their winning plan the best. But what about drivers who want even more performance? The tuned, modified and turbocharged Mazdaspeed3 is the Mazda to get.
The Mazdaspeed version is instantly recognizable due to the large and functional air scoop on the hood, unique front bumper and fenders that make the ''smiley'' grill easier to take. Additional upgrades include standard xenon headlamps, fog lamps, lower stance, side-skirts, raised rear spoiler, LED tail lights and duel exhaust tips. The standard 18-inch wheels are slightly wider than the outgoing Mazdaspeed3 giving this car a solid stance. There is only one price for this car, it is fully loaded and costs $32,995. The only upgrade is $200 if you want a white car. It is a simple marketing solution but I would prefer the go-fast looks and drive but not fully loaded to keep the price down.
One thing that Mazda didn't need to tinker with is the high level of finish they have on all Mazda3 cars. This is the standout feature of this brand; it offers a level of interior style and quality that is usually found in cars costing much more. As mentioned the Mazdaspeed3 is loaded with standard features like push button start with keyless entry, information display with navigation system, sat radio, six disc changer and Bose stereo. Other interior touches include a Mazdaspeed tach, LED turbo boost gauge in the centre of the instrument cluster, aluminum pedals and scuff plates. There are a few interior items that some buyers might not agree with. First, the bolstered front seats are comfy but they are only available in cloth and for this price some might prefer leather. Second, in order to achieve the best possible body rigidity the sunroof was deleted. I prefer cloth seats for warmth in the winter and they are cooler in the summer, plus they grip better and I would never miss a sunroof.
You might be surprised to hear this in a world of ever escalating horsepower claims but Mazda decided to leave the output of the 2.3L 4-cylinder unchanged. Not to say they didn't improve the car, they just felt that it already had enough power. Mazda rates the turbo charged engine at 263hp and all that power goes to the front wheels through a 6-speed manual transmission. To even out the torque curve of the turbo, the addition of the intercooler has been placed behind the hood scoop. This along with direct injection makes the engine very responsive and has more usable power over a wider range, making the engine feel more potent. Torque is up by 10% over the older model. The transmission has been re-geared to exploit the most out of the turbo charger, basically keeping the revs up in second gear for better torque delivery. The body has been strengthened with strong but lightweight steel, this along with stiffer drive shafts makes the car more planted on the road. Granted, I drove the Mazdaspeed3 during warmer weather and true test would be on a cold wet day.
The Mazdaspeed3 is a very well executed car, taking the strengths of the last model and improving on the weaknesses. Even though the engine remains the same and power is unchanged, it does feel like a much more versatile car to drive. The torque is addictive and this car can get up to speed in a hurry. The exterior modifications set it apart from the base Mazda3 and if the truth were told make it is easier on the eyes. The glaring problem with the Mazdaspeed3 is that the main competition in this class have all-wheel-drive. The Subaru WRX or Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution put the power to all four wheels where this car can struggle to put the power down to just the front wheels. If you are looking for all out performance then there are better choices. If, however, you want a great car with better handling and power than the regular Mazda3, then this car has all of that and a host of luxury features.
The Good, The Bad
I wish more car companies took existing cars and instead of changing them wholeheartedly, keeping their winning formula and improved on the shortcomings.
As much as I enjoyed the excellent power delivery of this new Mazdaspeed3, an all-wheel-drive platform would better exploit its true potential.
Power: 2.3L turbocharged 4-cylinder with 263hp
Fill-up: 11.5L/8.0L/100km (city/highway)
Sticker price: $32,995