This hot hatch is Mazda’s answer to the Ford Focus that was first introduced in 2007. It is a bit ironic though that Mazda’s answer to the Focus is …. another one?? A lot of parts on the Mazdaspeed3 are shared with the Focus such as brakes, engine components, and chassis. But did Mazda build a glorified Focus or a better hot hatch?
Performance – “Holy torque steer Batman!!” This car has a 2.3L turbocharged inline 4 that develops 263hp and 280 ft-lbs of torque, all of which go to the front wheels. Now in a rear wheel drive or all wheel drive car, this would be more than plenty of power, but in a front wheel drive car it becomes just plain dangerous if you’re not careful. Despite the fact that it comes standard with a limited slip differential, when you give it full throttle the car “dances” from left to right as you try to accelerate in a straight line. Through the corners, it’s actually surprisingly good for a front wheel drive car. If you’re gentle with the throttle and steering wheel, you can set lap times that come very close to its nearest all wheel drive or rear wheel drive competitors such as the Subaru Impreza WRX and Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart. However if you drive it aggressively like a 17 year old trying to show off to a girl, the car will understeer going in to a corner and under hard acceleration, the torque steer will also make the car understeer coming out of a corner.
One thing I didn’t like about the Mazdaspeed3 is the feel of the clutch and shifter. The clutch has a heavy feel when depressed and it has a very short engagement point which makes it hard and easy to stall when setting off from a stand still. Shifting between the gears is very smooth but this is a sports hot hatch, it’s supposed to feel like a precision tool not like I’m churning butter.
Comfort – The interior is almost identical to the standard Mazda 3 GT. There are subtle differences such as the bolstered front seats, Mazdaspeed decals, and….. that’s about it. In all seriousness though, it is just as comfortable in terms of space, seating, and gadgets as the standard Mazda 3. There is however slightly more noise in the cabin due to the sportier exhaust that all Mazdaspeed3’s are equipped with, but it’s not a bad sound and it makes sense to have it on a sporty hot hatch.
Odds and Ends – As I’ve said before, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and for me the styling is “meh”. It doesn’t excite me in any way but it’s also a fresh look. However the new styling is more functional than the previous generation Mazdaspeed3. This 2nd generation has a functional hood scoop to force feed cold air to the top mount intercooler. One new gadget that I really like is the digital boost gauge that is mounted in between the tachometer and speedometer. It’s like playing a video game from the 1980s trying to get the boost to build up as quickly as possible. Of course this is very distracting and therefore very dangerous because I always found myself looking at it instead of the road… I guess I should have switched it to display boring fuel economy statistics instead.
If you’re a person that wants the room for a family but the fun of a sports car with a price of less than $30,000, then this car should be at the very top of your list.