Motoring: Mazda's much improved flashy and full-tilt trifecta
Keeping within its curious theme, the changes to the Mazda's fit and finish are definitely an improvement. While the interiors on these cars have always been spacious and comfortable, now you're also getting toys like a built-in navigation system (mind you, its screen is tiny and using the steering-wheel mounted controls to set it up is not ideal).
Taking this car on long-hauls won't tire you, or the vehicle's engine, out either. With a fuel-economy that averages just over seven-litres/100km, driving on the highway is incredible. Considering the Mazdaspeed3's real purpose is to go fast (really fast), this is especially astonishing.
Fitting with the speed3's modus operandi is its 2.3-litre, inline-four cylinder motor that's saddled up to a massive turbo-charger, capable of producing 15 psi of boost pressure. The end result is a max output of 263hp, and a truly incredible 280 lb/ft of torque. That, my friends is a lot of power, and since all that force is directed solely to the Mazda's front wheels, suffice it to say this car can be a bit of a handful at times.
While she comes equipped with a traction and stability control system onboard, the speed3 still suffers from torque-steer, which is especially noticeable on wet tarmac. In the handling department, however, the new set-up is softer and more predictable than that of the prior model's, but performance enthusiasts needn't worry as this car still dashes very well. If you hook her up properly you'll get her to jolt from zero-100km/h in 5.4 seconds making the Mazdaspeed3 quicker than the Ford Mustang GT, a muscle car built with acceleration runs in mind.
Other areas of improvement include the car's chassis and gearbox. Much more well behaved than the one featured on the previous model, the Mazdaspeed3's chassis takes everything you throw at it without much protest. Undoubtedly, one of the finest front-wheel drive cars on the road today, doing performance runs in this vehicle are a lot of fun thanks to its fantastic six-speed manual gearbox (the only transmission on offer). In addition, you're much less likely to stall this car as compared with its previous version because the 2010 model comes outfitted with a seriously improved clutch.
With all that said however, I must point out that the Mini Cooper JCW is still far nimbler than the Mazdaspeed3 and as a bonus, the JCW produces a slicker noise from its exhaust. But the Mazdaspeed3 does have its own defining claim to fame: it is the fastest production hatchback currently sold in North America with an unrestricted top-speed of 250km/h; that makes it as fast as a $150,000 BMW M6!
At only, $32,995 (plus all the usual pre-delivery fees), this little pocket rocket is quite the steal. An astonishing car for not a whole load of money…is it worth its weight in coin? I certainly think so.