These carmakers have never forgotten their enthusiasts, regardless of how small a percentage they represent in the business' bottom line. I'm thinking GTI, GLI, SE-R, 240SX, Z, Impreza RS or WRX, Mustang, Civic Si and MX-3s, MX-6s and all Speeds from the Protegé on.
|Certainly, the Speed3's got just enough visual oomph to let you know that this is not your neighbour's 3. (Photo: Sébastien D'Amour/Auto123.com)|
These days, affordable performance cars are far easier to find compared to only 10 years ago. Chrysler, Hyundai, Kia, General Motors and Mitsubishi have all joined the party and believe me, I'm having a jolly good time doing my job.
Mazdaspeed is now synonymous with “good time”. From the first Protegé Mazdaspeed to the latest Mazdaspeed3, these cars hit all the right buttons. Let's ponder these buttons for a moment...
Certainly, the Speed3's got just enough visual oomph to let you know that this is not your neighbour's 3. The most obvious indicators that the Speed3 will take you to the mall and back faster than said neighbour's automatic GX sedan are the roof-mounted spoiler, 18” wheels, side sill extensions, twin-tailpipes, deeper and more aggressive front and rear fascias as well as delectable hood scoop. It's got enough show for most, but I'd drop the sucker an inch or two and slap on some serious gunmetal-coloured alloys, for starters.
The Speed3 can only be had in one of four colours. My tester was draped in Velocity Red which, along with Crystal White Pearl, are the only two shades to consider. Black Mica has only one advantage where it partially camouflages the 3's questionable front-toothed grin, otherwise it kills all definition in the generally well-pleated body panels. And if you want to murder your Speed3's resale value, get Celestial Blue.
Aboard, the Speed3 is not a far cry from what you get in a typical 3 GT. The most noticeable differences are the sport seats which are a must in such a car. The remainder of the details entail red stitching on leather bits such as the steering wheel and shifter. Other goodies include the alloy perforated pedals and foot rest, and Mazdaspeed scuff plates.
|Aboard, the Speed3 is not a far cry from what you get in a typical 3 GT. (Photo: Sébastien D'Amour/Auto123.com)|
So, what you get is a snug, cockpit-like front row and a decent rear bench for a further two adults. The entire week I had the car, I lugged family members to and from (others having car problems) and on a few occasions, I had three-wide back there. On a short drive, it was OK, but no more than that.
The principal issue with the car was its ride. This is after all a Speed3 and it requires a sport-tuned suspension. I've taken the Speed3 on a track a few times and have always found the car's behaviour to be well honed for this type of activity. But, unlike a Civic Si or GTI, the downside is a fair amount of punishment when the track is left behind.
|The principal issue with the car was its ride. unlike a Civic Si or GTI, the downside is a fair amount of punishment when the track is left behind. (Photo: Sébastien D'Amour/Auto123.com)|
My rear passengers found the ride to be harsh and unpleasant. I must admit that if I was to spend any amount of time back there, I'd have found the same. This is the only thorn in the Speed3's side when considering it as a family vehicle.
For daily doses of fun, this car is all smiles and pleasure—if you can handle it. The turbocharged MZR 2.3L 4-pot is like a Gremlin; aggressive and bursting with energy. And energy it has, in droves! The engine pumps out 263 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. Managed or, otherwise manipulated by, a 6-speed manual gearbox with short throws, the Speed3 requires all the driver's wit and concentration.
Not only does the car pull hard—front and side-to-side—despite the presence of a torque-sensing conical limited-slip differential, but in order to get the max out of the available power, some gear rowing has to take place. The real juicy part of the powerband is fairly narrow and flies by between 4,000 and 6,000 rpm. The mill redlines at 6,700 rpm. There is no sense on holding a gear to the top as you'll only be wasting fuel.
Once throttle and clutch control is managed, you'll be glad to know that the oversized front discs brakes (discs all-round, FYI) and electro-hydraulic steering are on your side. Both work well and allow you to go a little nuts when possible. And let me tell you that you will let your hair down at every available opportunity. The Speed3's burble-y exhaust note and rush of boost are nothing short of addictive.
|The turbocharged MZR 2.3L 4-pot is like a Gremlin; aggressive and bursting with energy. And energy it has, in droves! (Photo: Sébastien D'Amour/Auto123.com)|
The Mazdaspeed3 has much going for it, including a decent base price of $29,695, that is as long as you do not go to Mazda USA's website. One way or another, the price gets you quite a bit, especially when compared to some of its similarly-priced competition like a $28,875 Volkswagen GTI or even a less-expensive $25,990 Honda Civic Si coupe.
|The Mazdaspeed3 has much going for it, including a decent base price of $29,695. (Photo: Sébastien D'Amour/Auto123.com)|
The question is: Are you gung ho enough to deal with the ride in exchange for the power?