The 2007 to 2009 MazdaSpeed3 stands as one of TheCarConnection.com’s favorite hot hatches, providing pulse-quickening thrills for the backroads—or weekend track forays—without sacrificing too much practicality for everyday commuting.
And at well below $25k, all said, the Speed3 provides more performance than the Honda Civic Si, the Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V, or even the Volkswagen GTI (soon to be replaced by an all-new model), while costing significantly less than the Subaru WRX or Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart.
But the outgoing 2009 MazdaSpeed3 isn’t without its flaws. Although it’s more refined than the Dodge Caliber SRT4, which has a crude tuner feel, its powertrain is still a little too buzzy and harsh at times while the interior is a bit noisy. And while the cabin is fashionable and stylistically unified, at first glance, it can disappoint in the details.
We had the chance to scrutinize the new MazdaSpeed3 up close today, and drive it on some challenging canyon roads in California’s Monterey Peninsula; we’re scheduled for track time tomorrow and will report on how the Speed3 delivers for enthusiasts, but in the meantime we’re looking at its overall appeal.
While the proportions of the new MazdaSpeed3 are just as good as ever, the new front-end styling of the 2010 Mazda3—already polarizing—works a bit better with the new MazdaSpeed3’s hunkered-down stance and more aggressive bodywork and wheels than it does with lesser 3s—especially the base sedan; we still see the snout as locked in a grimace, albeit a menacing one. You might see a grin.
Outside of the snout, we see the proportions of the new MazdaSpeed3 as being even better than before. There’s a body-color rear spoiler along with a bright-tip sport-tuned exhaust and 18-inch lattice-design alloy wheels (a lot like those on the RX8 R3 sports car) and sticky Y-rated Dunlop SP Sport tires.
Inside, the Mazda3 gets a fresh design theme, with materials that are primarily black but accented with a red graphic design—a field of red dots, as we saw it—plus red stitching throughout, front seats with more lateral support, and an LED turbo boost gauge that sits between the speedometer and tach.
Specs remain unchanged for the 2.3-liter, direct-injection (DISI) turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which produces 263 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, with a six-speed manual gearbox and front-wheel drive; though drivability has improved thanks to a new functional hood scoop and intercooler duct, along with revised gear ratios. The last-generation Mazdaspeed3 could accelerate to 60 mph in around six seconds, according to instrumented testing from several sources.
The MazdaSpeed3’s standard safety-feature list has been given a boost for ’10, with active front head restraints now added. As before, anti-lock brakes and Dynamic Stability Control are all standard, along with side-curtain airbags and seat-mounted side bags.
Our test car was equipped with the MazdaSpeed Tech Package, which includes a 242-watt, ten speaker Bose Centerpoint sound system (with Sirius Satellite Radio), full-color compact nav system (located nicely in the line of sight), pushbutton start, a perimeter alarm, and advanced keyless entry, costs just $1,895.