Mazda call the MAZDASPEED3 “The Wild Child“ – they even have a cool commercial that we’ve included at the end of this road test!
When I picked up the MAZDASPEED3, I’d just finished a week of terrorizing the neighborhood with the MAZDASPEED6. I was blown away with the 6, but I wasn’t expecting the 3 to be this much fun! Calling it a Wild Child describes this car perfectly. If you have a need for speed – this is your car!
Like the MAZDASPEED6, the MAZDASPEED3 is powered by a turbocharged version of the 2.3 litre four-cylinder engine that is used in a number of other Mazda’s. In its turbo reincarnation, it delivers 263-horsepower and 280 lb-ft. of torque, making the MAZDASPEED3 one of the fastest hatchbacks on the market today. Where it differs from the MAZDASPEED6 is in how all this power is transferred to the pavement. The MAZDASPEED3 is front-wheel drive as opposed to the AWD on the MAZDASPEED6, but this doesn’t stop it getting to 60mph in less than 6 seconds (according to Mazda). Starting the engine, there’s a deep growl from the tailpipe, and the snarling remains ever-present – at times you can even hear it over the sound system.
With lightning-quick steering and a very firm suspension, the MAZDASPEED3 feels like a go-kart. It’s very easy to keep the turbo on the boil so that whenever you need that sudden rush of power – it’s there – NOW! On several occasions I had to move quickly around a slower moving vehicle, and thanks to the turbo, I didn’t even have to gear down – just mash the go pedal – and off we went. When I did take the opportunity to drop down to 5th, the power came on with a huge rush which made passing not only faster, but more fun too!
With a curb weight of 3,153 lbs [1,433kg], the MAZDASPEED3 weighs considerably less than its larger stablemate – the MAZDASPEED6 (3,589 lbs [1,641kg]), and it really shows in how nimble it feels when tossed into tight bends, corners and up steep hills.
The rack-and-pinion steering (with engine-speed-sensing variable power assist) is perfectly weighted at low speeds, and continues to be communicative even as the speed rises. Similar to the MAZDASPEED6, the clutch and gearbox are very heavy, but the 3 is easier to modulate on initial launch. Smooth shifts from a standing start require concentration, as do shifts from first to second gear, but again it’s better than the SPEED6 which felt very tight. Once past the initial launch it’s extremely easy to modulate the clutch and gearbox for silky-smooth shifts right through to 6th gear. I found it was smoother to launch the car from stop lights in second gear. The car only had 1,500 miles [2,400 kms] on it, so it’s highly possible that it will smooth out once it’s been broken in a little more. My faster two runs to 60mph came in at 7.6 and 7.1 seconds with a little bit of wheel spin as the 215/45R18 performance tires struggled for grip, before the traction control kicked in to help out. Even after a week with the car, I couldn’t launch it with my usual smooth clutch/shift movement which I think is evident in the higher times than Mazda’s claim of less than 6 seconds.
The driver gets a very comfortable 8-way manually adjustable seat with height adjustment and lumbar support, while the front passenger has to make do with less controls and no lumbar adjustment. I found the cloth seats very comfortable, but my wife thought the passenger seat was uncomfortable right from the get-go. There are plenty of bolsters in the sides of the seats to keep the driver and passengers in place during sharp maneuvers. With the high thigh and shoulder bolsters the seats look like they’ve been taken right out of a race car. These seats should definitely be installed on the MAZDASPEED6 to improve its rather disappointing seating.
It’s impossible to drive the MAZDASPEED3 at anything other than full-bore – it’s as close to a rally car as you can get for the city streets. My wife commented that it’s the kind of car that less experienced drivers “racer-wannabes“will kill themselves in. The car is ON all the time and it’s only a matter of wiggling your toes to get it into illegal speeds in seconds. You just can’t go driving around in a leisurely manner – you have to go everywhere FAST! Fortunately, thanks to the Traction Control System (TCS) and Limited Slip differential there’s little to no torque-steer. Add in Dynamic stability control and you’ve got a comprehensive safety roster as well as go-fast aids that will hopefully keep you out of trouble.
Stopping is just as dramatic with the Anti-Lock Braking System and incorporated EBFD (Electronic Brake Force Distribution). If you’ve ever been in a panic-stop situation with a car that has EBFD, you never forget the sensation and the distance at which you scrub your speed when it kicks in. Think of it as a turbocharged braking system – it’s simply incredible.
Rear seat accommodation is generous and comfortable. There’s plenty of foot room under the front seats – although you wouldn’t think it when you actually look under the seats. Hip, shoulder and legroom are on par with similar cars – hatchback or sedan. Even with the driver’s seat pushed back there’s sufficient room for legs and knees, but some larger feet may find it a little awkward exiting. Outboard rear passengers are treated to a very comfortable seat angle and plenty of thigh support. Trunk space is plentiful with 16.5 cu-ft of luggage space, increasing to 43.4 cu-ft when the rear seats are folded flat. The rear seatbacks fold to allow more cargo capacity – again this is where a hatchback is superior to a sedan.
The standard 7-speaker (actually 4 speakers, 2 tweeters and a subwoofer) Bose AM/FM/MP3 6-disc in-dash CD changer is terrific and comes standard in Canada, but you have to step up to the Grand Touring model to get it in the U.S. (One thing of note: it doesn’t play MP3’s that are in folders.) There’s an auxiliary jack and power outlet inside the centre armrest for portable MP3 players.
Standard features on the MAZDASPEED3 include: 6-speed manual transmission; 18″ alloy wheels, tire pressure monitoring system; automatic climate control system, unique rear roof spoiler and aluminum pedals. The Grand Touring Model (U.S.) adds: a Theft-deterrent system; LED “Hanabi” Tail lights; cloth seats with leather bolstering; automatic on/off Xenon (HID) headlights; rain-sensing front windshield wipers; 6-CD Bose premium audio system with 222-watt digital amplifier, 7 speakers and a Subwoofer. In Canada there is only one model and that’s equivalent to the Grand Touring.
For more information visit: MazdaUSA or Mazda.ca
Bumper to Bumper for 3 years/ 36,000 miles [80,000 kms in Canada] as well as a 5 years/ 60,000 miles [100,000 kms in Canada] powertrain warranty. Roadside assistance is also included for 3 years.
The MAZDASPEED3 is a blast to drive. It turns mundane driving into a thrill a minute and gets the heart pumping. It doesn’t yell “look at me” but quietly goes about its business. Very few people even looked at this car – never mind a second glance – this is a true sleeper. My wife thought the snarl from the muffler/exhaust system was tedious – especially on the highway, but it didn’t bother me. It is always present though, so it should be considered before purchasing/leasing.
Pricing for the 2007 MAZDASPEED3
As tested: $24,690 [$31,095 Cdn]
Base price: $22,975 [$31,095 Cdn]
Destination & Delivery: U.S. – $635 / Canada – $1,325
Fuel Consumption: [Super Premium – 93 Octane, 91 Octane acceptable]
The Turbocharged 2.3 L 4-cylinder is rated at 20 mpg City [11.7 L/100 kms] and 28 mpg Highway [8.4 L/100 kms]
I averaged 24 mpg [9.9 L/100 kms] during combined, but mostly highway driving, and 36.2 mpg [6.5 L/100 kms] during 100% highway driving
Incredible surge of power from the Turbo, with a chassis, steering and suspension to match
The ultimate “pocket-rocket / GTI”
I had to give it back to Mazda
Would I Spend My Money On It?
Oh Yes!!! I loved the MAZDASPEED6, but this is even better – and cheaper too!
Back Seat Driver Test: 8 out of 10
“It’s a little tight getting in and out, but it’s very comfortable.” “The seats are very firm, but still comfortable, with the seat angle just about perfect.”
Acura CSX Type-S, Audi A4 2.0, BMW 128/135, Dodge Caliber SRT4, Honda Civic Si, MINI Cooper S, Mitsubishi Lancer GT, Subaru Impreza, Volvo S30 T5, VW GTI
By The Numbers:
Powertrain: 2.3L MZR Turbocharged DOHC 16-valve inline 4-cylinder; 6-Speed Manual; FWD
Horsepower: 263 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 280 @ 3,000 rpm
0 – 60 mph: 7.1 seconds
Top Speed: 155 mph /240 km/hr
10 – Quality
10 – Noise, Vibration & Harshness (NVH)
9 – Cargo Area/Trunk Space
7 – Special Features (Sat Nav/Heated Seats/ Sunroof etc)
10 – Ease of Entry/Exit
10 – Front Roominess
8 – Rear Roominess
10 – Driving Position/Controls
8 – Drool Factor
10 – Fit & Finish
10 – Engine
9 – Transmission
10 – Ride & Handling
10 – Bang for the $$
10 – Fuel Economy
141 Total / 150
Copyright © 2007 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text / Images: Iain Shankland
Also Published at: PaddockTalk