2010 Mazda MAZDA3
You have to love factory tuner cars and the companies willing to sell them. They put their reputation on the line, slapping their badge and warranty on big-winged, look-at-me designs that boast bloated horsepower numbers and raspy exhaust notes. With some automakers, you know you aren’t looking at much more than some fatter wheels wrapped in ultra low-pro rubber and a fake hood scoop, so it’s hard to get excited. But when Mazda gets involved in the factory tuner game – a company where Zoom-Zoom conveniently works both as a catchy marketing riff and a to-the-death engineering mantra – you know good things are just around the corner. Bizarro two-tier semantics aside, Mazda got a lot right with its first shot at the Mazdaspeed3
back in 2007. Wisely then, they aren’t fiddling with the recipe too much. Crammed into the shell of the new 2010 Mazda3
is the same drivetrain as the last Mazdaspeed3, which would be a 263 horsepower turbocharged engine, six-speed manual transmission and a limited-slip front differential. And because Mazda is mindful enough to keep a North American engineering staff on hand to fine tune vehicles for our market, we get the most hardcore version of them all. Front-drive hoons have never had it so good.
What's to Like
Hatchback versatility and turbocharged firepower have long been the norm overseas, and with so few options on this side of the pond it’s nice to see Mazda stick to their guns and only offer the Mazdaspeed3 in five-door form. The options list is about as simplistic as they get, being limited to one line for the tech package.
What's Not to Like
We didn’t like Mazda’s tiny 4.1-inch MID nav screen the first time around in the 2010 Mazda3, and not surprisingly it hasn’t grown on us since then. Its diminutive size and steering wheel-mounted controls make it too difficult to see, and passengers can’t even use it (unless you don’t mind them clawing at the wheel, that is). The new “smiley” styling of the Mazda3 has proved rather polarizing thus far, and we expect the same learning curve to affect the Mazdaspeed3.
DriverSide Driving Impressions
You’ll know this car is aiming high from the first bump in the road. While not quite Evo-harsh, it isn’t far off. This means body roll is kept to a minimum and the car’s attitude is easily adjusted with the throttle and brakes. The turbo doesn’t truly come on boil until engine speed is beyond 3,000 rpm, and taking advantage of the engine’s burly midrange is the best way to make rapid progress. Power drops off noticeably above 6,000 rpm where the engine outruns the turbo, so unlike the rev-tastic RX-8
it’s best to short-shift as you climb through the gears. Completely deactivating most modern stability control systems can require anything from a series of illogical button presses to 15-second-long holds while the vehicle is not in motion, which can make life quite tedious for the enthusiast. But this is a Mazda so there’s no such nonsense here, and one quick press of the DSC button sends the electronic naysayers packing, leaving you to flirt with fate, physics and the competency of the local authorities. A clever torque management system looks at the steering angle in gears 1-3 and limits engine output, but with 280 lb-ft to play with at just 3,000 rpm, torque steer remains doggedly present. Why? Because Mazda engineered it in to keep the car fast. Like we said, this time around we get the most hardcore version of the Mazdaspeed3. Plan on a bit of wheel wrestling.
Engine and Drivetrain
The 2010 Mazdaspeed3 gets the same 2.3-liter inline four-cylinder DISI turbocharged engine as the outgoing model, which produces 263 horsepower and a muscular 280 lb-ft of torque. Power is driven to the front wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox that gets revised (wider) ratios to take advantage of the engine’s torque-laden output.
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options
Standard features are abundant in the Mazdaspeed3. Dual zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth wireless communication, a tire pressure monitor system, steering wheel mounted audio controls and a digital turbo boost gauge are all included on every Mazdaspeed3.
Key Technology Evaluation
With only one option package on offer, the Tech Package, car buying doesn’t get much simpler than this. The package includes keyless entry with push-button start, Mazda’s diminutive MID information and nav screen and a 10-speaker Bose stereo system with Sirius satellite radio and a six-disc changer. For $1,895, it’s kind of a no-brainer.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
At 18 mpg city, 25 mpg highway the Mazdaspeed3 is a bit thirsty for a four-cylinder, though there are more gluttonous four-pots out there (we’re looking at you, Evo). It has also been given a ULEV emissions rating.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
Like the Mazda3 it’s based on, the cockpit of the Mazdaspeed3 is a driver-oriented affair, with all of the controls within easy reach of the pilot. Aluminum pedals, red stitching, Mazdaspeed scuff plates on the doorsills and some rather heinous red and black faux-carbon trim are all treatments exclusive to the Mazdaspeed3.
It’s all about the smiles with the new Mazda3 lineup, and that’s no different with the Mazdaspeed3’s new front fascia. The new happy face has the added effect of increasing airflow to the engine bay, and the hood scoop feeds the intercooler plenty of outside air. 18-inch RX-8 style wheels wrapped in low profile rubber and a larger rear wing add to the car’s aggressive stance.
Market Segment and Pricing
With a base price of $23,945 (including destination charges), the new Mazdaspeed3 is only $455 more than the outgoing car, and remains a lot of car for a reasonable price. While it’s a different story across the pond, here in hatch-phobic North America, the car has no true apples-to-apples competitor. The closest opposition remains the $23,830 Volkswagen GTI 4-door
, while the all-wheel drive Subaru Impreza WRX
comes in at $25,495. Mitsubishi’s new Lancer Sportback Ralliart should cost north of $28,000 with destination charges.
What We Think
Mazda was right not to mess with the Mazdaspeed3 formula. They told us 300 horsepower and all-wheel drive were seriously considered during the car’s early development, but we’re glad they kept the drivetrain simple and the price low. While font-wheel drive dynamics are definitely present in the driving experience, they are by no means a deal breaker, and the Mazdaspeed3 remains one of the fastest, most entertaining point-to-point five-doors on the market.