Back over the summer when TheCarConnection.com first drove the 2010 MazdaSpeed3, around California's Monterey Peninsula, we declared it "a joy to drive, even when the surfaces are far less than ideal."
But that was in warm summer weather, both on lightly trafficked canyon roads and on Mazda's own Laguna Seca racetrack.
Even though we were eager for a second drive of the Speed3, in real, daily-driving conditions rather than on Mazda's hand-picked surfaces, we hadn't anticipated such an extreme test. As our week arrived we were faced with some of the coldest days of the year in the Pacific Northwest, when steady drizzle was turning into sheet ice overnight and leaving roads constantly damp. This editor had more than a little trepidation over whether the high-powered, front-wheel-drive MazdaSpeed3 and its summer performance Michelin SP Sport rubber, in 25-degree weather, would be up to the task in keeping up with the WRXs that are so common.
You see, when driving the MazdaSpeed3, even on those summer backroads, we had noted more than a little torque steer and unpredictability out of tight corners when really goosing the throttle pedal and the pavement was anything short of perfect. And that’s considering that a torque management system already puts a cap on torque in first through third gears, on this hot hatch, and Mazda even went to far as to tell us that it intentionally didn't reel in the Speed3's ragged edges as much as it could have—or as much as it does in the version that Europe and its home Japan market gets—to give it a little more character and keep with the car's edgy tuner persona in the U.S.
Fun, but not too squirrelly
Turns out we had nothing to worry about. The front wheels seldom came loose in any significant way, and when they did the electronic stability control very gently nudged us toward composure, with the electric power steering bringing excellent feedback from the road surface.
While we couldn't test ultimate grip to the degree we did at Laguna Seca, the experience allowed us to focus on what matters to daily commuters—powertrain refinement, road and wind noise, and ride comfort, along with things like fuel economy and interior functions. Overall, drive the 2010 MazdaSpeed3 like a granny and aside from the slightly boomy exhaust note you won't realize you're in such an edgy vehicle. The clutch is light and takes up neatly, the shift lever snicks cleanly between gears, and although the wide tires tramline a little bit with the curve of the road, the cabin isn't overly loud. The ride is firm but not too much so.