First Drive: 2010 MazdaSpeed3 Page 2

August 20, 2009

2010 Mazda MazdaSpeed3

The MazdaSpeed3’s powertrain is brash but reasonably well behaved. The engine has completely different tuning compared to the CX-7, where it’s also used, with a focus on high-end power in the Speed3. It accelerates the 2010 Mazda MazdaSpeed3 with authority, provided you mind the boost characteristics; don’t expect much torque below 2000 rpm, and from 3500 rpm all the way to redline the engine works itself to a rip-roaring yet smooth frenzy. There can be a bit of a delay coming out of corners, waiting for boost, if you land in too high of a gear, but most drivers will adapt quickly as the clutch is light and shift linkage is about as good as it gets. Overall, the MazdaSpeed3 accelerates just as rapidly, though because of noise and vibration improvements, doesn’t sound or feel quite as dramatic in doing so. And as we’ve noted with the new 2010 Mazda3, there’s far less road noise and impact harshness in general. You’ll still feel the bumps, but the new model won’t induce as much fatigue whether on the daily commute or longer trips.

Dynamically, the Speed3 is out to prove that all-wheel drive isn’t a necessity for this much power in a front-wheel-drive car. A torque-sensing conical limited-slip differential means that you won’t spin the inside wheel coming out of corners. Torque-management electronics keep too much of a shock from being sent to the front wheels, but there’s still a bit of a tradeoff in sending that much twist through the front wheels of a small hatchback: When surfaces get rough, rippled or uneven, you’ll still have to hold on tight to the steering wheel, though.

Otherwise, the MazdaSpeed3 is well-tuned dynamically for real-world roads, with a completely retuned sport suspension and larger front and rear stabilizer bars compared to the other 2010 Mazda3 models. The suspension is firm but has some give for larger heaves, and when pushed to the limit it rebounds in a nice, controlled way so as not to lose composure.

What matters most in summing up the new MazdaSpeed3 is that when you’re not tapping into all that power and torque, just crawling in traffic or cruising on the highway, it’s nearly as comfortable as the standard Mazda3, while leaving the potential open for more excitement when the road opens up. Or track time.

We’re curious to get the MazdaSpeed3 out for some track time at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, to see how its slightly more civil manners on real-world roads will translate on near-perfect tarmac. Stay tuned for TheCarConnection.com’s enthusiast word on this hot hatch, along with our full Bottom Line assessment.

High Gear Media 
attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.

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