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August 10, 2010 > Auto Review: The Mazdaspeed3

Auto Review: The Mazdaspeed3

By Dick Ryan

The Mazdaspeed3 sits at the top of Mazda's family of 3 Series cars. It is designed as the "hot rod" of the clan to go fast and handle superbly without any thoughts of being a "boulevard cruiser." Mazda has made it a tremendous value in today's automotive market. Very few cars deliver this kind of performance at its low list price.

Mazda's engineers started with the 3 series' Sport 5-door body configuration. For power, they loaded an all aluminum, 2.3-liter, turbocharged & intercooled engine with direct spark ignition. This little package develops a whopping 263 HP and 280 foot pounds of torque. A 6-speed manual transmission (no automatics allowed here) with specially engineered gear ratios (to better utilize the 280 foot pounds of torque) was added to drive the front wheels through a torque-sensing limited slip differential.

Then the engineers added special reinforcements to the body structure to stiffen it with larger than stock stabilizing bars to keep the body steady under hard cornering loads. Special coil springs and shocks complete the handling package. To keep the Mazdaspeed3 in touch with the pavement, wider 18" Dunlop tires with more rigid sidewalls provide a direct steering feel. 12.6" ventilated front brake rotors and 11" rear rotors provide more than ample breaking performance. If you have the courage, its top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph.

This sounds like quite a package of goodies, doesn't it? It sounds expensive, but it isn't. It is almost hard to believe that Mazda can deliver one of these rockets for an MSRP of only $23,340 plus a delivery charge of $750. Our test car came with the only option, a $1,895 Tech Package that includes a 242-watt Bose 10 speaker sound system, a full color navigation system, 6-disk CD, Sirius satellite radio, and a few other goodies for a total of $25,880.

So how did it drive? The Mazdaspeed3 is a little quirky, and you need to realize that it will not perform like your father's Oldsmobile. It is a small car with all the positives and negatives of small size. For a tall person, it is hard to get in and out. And back seat? Fuggedaboutit. This is really a 2 adult car (kids will fit in the back seat). However, there is plenty of trunk space, way more that I would have thought.

It has a stiff; sports car ride that can be downright awful on bad roads, but the trade off is superb handling and turn in response. This little devil will go exactly where you point it!

It does torque steer... a lot, so be ready for some direction correction. Mazda engineers put a lot of time and effort into their torque correction system but still, as you hammer the throttle and the 263rd horsepower is delivered to the front wheels, the steering wheel wants to whip back and forth in a frenzied dance of madness. But boy is it fun!! Just don't do it in heavy traffic or a confined space the first few times. Practice on a wide open road to get the feel of what is to come, and you will scare yourself a lot less. Speaking of hammering the throttle, there is very little turbo lag in the blower system.

So what do you get for $25K or $26K? A 155 mph rocket ship that is more fun to drive than many German sports cars that cost two or three times as much.

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