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December 5, 2007 > Auto



Here is another fun car form Mazda. This time it is their hot hatchback, the Mazdaspeed3. Mazadaspeed is the hot rod division of Mazda's operations. They get to hop up various Mazda models that are then sold through the dealership network.

The Mazda3 was originally launched as a 2003 model. For 2008, it comes in a 4-door sedan (starting at $14,530) and the 5-door hatchback (starting at $18,560). The base 2.0-liter motor puts out 148 HP (135 foot pounds of torque), and the optional 2.3-liter motor is rated at 156 HP (150 foot pounds).

As we move up to the Mazdaspeed3, it comes only in the 5-door hatchback and starts at $22,975. Its 2.3-liter motor gets a turbo charger and intercooler to put out an additional 100+ HP (263 HP to be exact) and 280 foot pounds of torque. Its EPA numbers are 18/26 on premium gas. This unit was on Ward's List as one of the 10 best engines for 2007.

The Mazdaspeed3 has won many awards, and the motorsports press has heaped all kinds of praise on it. Standard features include a 6-speed manual transmission (no automatic is available), limited slip differential, and special interior and exterior trim. The Grand Touring Mazdaspeed3 adds a few things like automatic headlights, rain sensing wipers, xenon headlights, neat LED tail lights, a premium Bose sound system, security system and starts at $24,690.

Our GT test car loved to accelerate. Second and third gear acceleration was great fun and would leave other cars in the dust. In first gear, it revs so fast that you need to focus on the tachometer to keep it from hitting the rev limiter, an electronic control that slows the engine down so you don't spin it too fast and break it.

At first, I didn't like the shape and look of the Mazdaspeed3, but after a few days, it really grew on me. I grew to love its cute, impertinent look. It seemed to say, "No, I'm not a 'normal' car and you must give me respect." It will do 0-60 mph in 5.8 seconds, and the top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph.

The Mazdaspeed3 is a front-wheel drive car whose torque sensing limited slip differential does a good job of controlling torque steer. It has a great, tight shift linkage; 18" wheels are fitted with 45 series high performance tries and carries a Bose audio system with seven speakers and 6-disc CD changer as standard equipment.

The Mazdaspeed3 does have a few shortcomings. First, I don't think the suspension design is the same high caliber as the drive train. I couldn't really figure out what it was, but when I used the drive train hard on twisty roads, the suspension didn't live up to my expectations. It just didn't stick to the road like I hoped it would.

Next is an issue common with "smaller" cars. If the front seat occupants are over 5' 11" or so, don't expect an adult human to be comfortable in the back seats. Lastly, this is one of the few cars that I had trouble "heeling and toeing" on downshifts. Heeling and toeing is a technique that you use to rev the motor for a smooth downshift while you are braking at the same time. I tried a few different methods but never found a comfortable one.

All Mazdas come with 24-hour roadside assistance, a 3-year, 36,000 mile "bumper to bumper" warranty, and a 5-year, 50,000 mile power train warranty.

The Mazdaspeed3 is a great, cost-efficient hot rod. Performance like this is not normally available for $23K.

By Dick Ryan
Freelance Automotive Journalist
Member of the Western Automotive Journalists

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