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2010 Mazdaspeed3

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3 front-left view

2010 Mazdaspeed3. Note the WRX-like hood scoop

Photo © Mazda

The Bottom Line

What do the Guide Rating stars mean?

The 2010 Mazdaspeed3 is the hot-rod version of Mazda's fantastic Mazda3 compact. The Mazdaspeed3 features a 263 horsepower 2.3 liter engine with a turbocharger and direct fuel injection, 6-speed transmission (no automatic is offered), sport-tuned suspension, go-faster body trim, a unique red-and-black interior, and a very attractive price -- just under $24,000. The previous Mazdaspeed3 was one of the best sport-compacts on the market. Can the all-new 2010 Mazdaspeed3 uphold the old car's reputation? Read on.

Larger photos: Front - rear - dash - all photos

Pros

  • Fast!
  • Great value-for-money
  • Makes an excellent daily driver

Cons

  • Torque steer puts a damper on the fun
  • Suspension allows a bit too much body motion over bumps

Description

  • "Hot hatch" version of the Mazda3 compact
  • Price range (including options): $23,945 - $26,410
  • Price as tested: $25,840
  • Powertrain: 263 hp 2.3 liter turbo 4-cylinder, 6-speed manual transmission, front-wheel-drive, limited-slip differential
  • EPA MPG estimates: 18 MPG city/25 MPG highway
  • Observed fuel economy: 22.6 MPG
  • Best rivals: Subaru Impreza WRX, Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart, Chevrolet Cobalt SS

Guide Review - 2010 Mazdaspeed3

I spent my first few days with the Mazdaspeed3 just tooling around town, and I fell in love with the car. Handsome styling, great visibility, a light clutch and a fantastic stick-shift make it a delightful daily driver. Keep your foot out of the juice, and it's fairly easy to stick to the speed limit -- the 'Speed3 doesn't tug at the leash the way many sport-compacts do, although when you call on it, the 263 hp turbo engine hauls the mail like nobody's business. Factor in the comfy seats and big cargo bay, and the Mazdaspeed3 is the epitome of enjoyable, practical transportation.

But when I headed out to the About.com Cars Top Secret Curvy Test Road, it all came apart. I had lofty expectations; the previous Mazdaspeed3 is an old favorite and a past Best New Cars winner. But the new one is a bit disappointing. The biggest problem is torque steer, the tendency of a powerful front-wheel-drive car to pull to one side under hard acceleration. It's not bad on the highway; unlike the Dodge Caliber SRT4 and MINI Cooper S, which can change lanes with a prod of the gas pedal, the Mazdaspeed3 zips up to speed with little drama. But hot-rodding on the back roads requires a tight grip on the steering wheel, especially when feeding in the power coming out of a curve -- the ever-changing steering feel makes it difficult to stay on your side of the double-yellow. Mazda says they intentionally dialed in some torque steer to give the car a "raw" feel. BS, says I -- creative BS, but BS nonetheless. The torque steer puts a damper on what is otherwise an excellent driver's car.

Would I recommend the Mazdaspeed3? Depends. It's great for day-to-day driving, but if you plan to spend a lot of time on curvy roads, both the all-new 2010 VW GTI and rear-drive Hyundai Genesis Coupe do a better job for the same price. I'd pick either one over the Mazda. -- Aaron Gold

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