2010 Mazdaspeed3 First Impressions

2010 Mazdaspeed3 First Impressions

Mosport, Ontario - The torrential rain that seemingly flushes our summer down the drain did not spare the Mosport International Raceway, near Toronto. It also affected my first contact with the all-new 2010 Mazdaspeed3, forcing me to use my entire bag of tricks and my good old racing reflexes in order to be able to push this sporty compact to the limit.

This addition to the hood has given more muscle to the nose of the car.

As I soon found out, though, the challenge was much easier than anticipated. Despite some lingering flaws, this new generation has become a little less extreme, more flexible and way more balanced. Plus, with Mazda sticking to a front-wheel drive configuration instead of all-wheel drive, the Mazdaspeed3 doesn't have to face direct competition from the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and Subaru Impreza WRX, meaning it stands alone atop its class.

For sure, it retained one of its biggest strengths; as a true member of the Mazda family, the 2010 Mazdaspeed3 is still among the best-handling Japanese cars on the road.

Inspired styling
I have to admit that the bold new design of this hot hatch really won me over. While it's true that the revamped front fascia and wide-open grille that looks like a big smile do not appeal to everyone, the striking hood scoop quickly makes you forget about it (in fact, it even reminded me of a certain Ferrari 512...).

This addition to the hood has given more muscle to the nose of the car and, interestingly, its design and positioning allow a more direct air intake than the old bumper-level scoop. The turbo couldn't be happier!

In the back, the prominent taillights use light-emitting diodes (LED) to help the car stand out at night, while the subtle yet effective roof spoiler adds to the sporty character of the silhouette.

Inside, the work by Mazda designers is equally satisfying. Smokey red accents contrast with the otherwise all-black plastics and seats. Sure enough, fit and finish is commendable.

The neatly-designed dashboard also scores points. In addition to basic vehicle data, you'll find a boost indicator displaying turbo pressure -- nice to have if you're a driving enthusiast. Another thing I liked is the tachometer circle that now spans 260 degrees instead of the traditional 180. This makes reading easier while adding a bit of life to the instrument panel since the tach needle has more room to play.

Sure enough, fit and finish is commendable.


As for the list of features, Mazda was very generous but did not commit any excess. And since the 2010 Mazdaspeed3 comes in single trim level only, the selection won't be a head-scratcher.

Power is delivered pretty quickly upon throttle input and is met with a sound that will excite drivers.

A revitalized powertrain

Of course, the top priority for Mazdaspeed buyers will always be performance - and rest assured the company knows it. That's why the small but enthusiastic 2.3-litre turbocharged engine resumes life under the hood of this 3. The direct injection system has been refined to improve fuel delivery and pressure, which results in maximum power, optimum combustion and greater cooling efficiency. On one hand, you benefit from 263 horsepower and 280 pounds-feet of torque, while on the other hand, my tester's average fuel economy hovered around 9.6 litres per 100 kilometres. Now that's a happy combination!

Power is delivered pretty quickly upon throttle input and is met with a sound that will excite drivers on the track. On public roads, however, the loud exhaust note becomes irritating over time and serves as a vivid reminder of the car's sporty aspirations.

The 6-speed manual gearbox (the only transmission available) is lively, direct and rewarding thanks to nicely-calibrated gear ratios. Add the engine's lack of inertia (revs go up and down in a hurry) and you got yourself the perfect tool to successfully perform heel-and-toe shifting.

As for the electro-hydraulic steering, it does a good job of transmitting feedback from the road. It also grants the driver plenty of freedom with no excessive interference.

The electronic driving aids are just as sharp and effective, knowing exactly when to step in i.e. as late as possible. They sure required some getting used to under the rain, though.

Finally, it's hard to overlook the excellent work done by Mazda engineers in the design and calibration of the suspension. The ride is pleasantly firm on the track (enough to keep body roll in check during slaloms) and ideally balanced for driving around town and on the countryside. Passenger comfort is not really compromised.

The 6-speed manual gearbox is lively, direct and rewarding thanks to nicely-calibrated gear ratios.


Time to hit the track!
Of course, the point of going to Mosport was to push the car's limits and defy the laws of physics. Despite the rain, I managed to evaluate all the handling, sprinting and braking characteristics of Mazda's pocket rocket.

My main observation was that the car is surprisingly sharp. It did take me a couple of laps to get my driving tighter and become fully aware of all the dynamics involved, not to mention attacking corners in lower revs to prevent wheelspin, but overall, the Mazdaspeed3 proved to be remarkably balanced and precise.

With a relatively-affordable price of $32,995, the 2010 Mazdaspeed3 is definitely a wise choice.

Braking manoeuvres were quick and linear, even on wet tarmac, and the pedal never felt spongy or anything. Torque steer at full throttle has been considerably reduced, further increasing precision and making the little kart easy to drive for almost anybody.

With a relatively-affordable price of $32,995, the 2010 Mazdaspeed3 is definitely a wise choice in a unique market segment. Sadly, the only thing missing is all-wheel drive.

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