Mazda joins the ranks of automakers offering tuned-up versions of their popular small hatchbacks with its 2007 Mazda Mazdaspeed Mazda3. Mazdaspeed takes its place amongst GTI and Si as an indicator that the car it's emblazoned on is designed for low-end sport driving. Mazdaspeed took the Mazda3, an already peppy and fun little hatchback, and tightened the suspension, dropped in a turbocharger, and gave it a limited slip differential.The result is a car with a great-sounding engine growl and some of the best handling we've seen in a front-wheel-drive configuration. But all isn't perfect in Mazdaspeed land--acceleration suffers from turbo lag, torque steer is a factor, and the stereo is a complete mess. And you won't be upgrading the sound system, as the dashboard configuration isn't suitable for easy stereo replacement. We like the look of the car, though some might not care for the tuner-look elements, such as the rear spoiler and the big exhaust tip. Mazda's design language combines the right amount of curves with more modern, smoothed out elements on the sides, hood, and roofline. The front is particularly interesting, with Mazda's new tiny grille above the bumper, and an extralarge honeycomb intake below. The fog lights also float in their own slots on either side of the grille. But with its four doors and hatchback, it remains as practical of a car as the Mazda3 on which it is based. Test the tech: Running to 60
After reviewing the Volkswagen GTI, a reader e-mailed us that the Mazdaspeed Mazda3 is a worthy competitor. So, as we had tested the GTI by doing zero-to-60mph timed runs, we decided to do the same with the Mazdaspeed Mazda3. However, the drivetrains of these two cars are very different. The GTI had Volkswagen's fast-shifting direct shift gearbox (DSG), while the Mazdaspeed Mazda3 has a regular six-speed manual. The Mazdaspeed Mazda3 should regain the edge with its 2.3-liter intercooled and turbocharged engine. The GTI's engine is also turbocharged but only 2 liters. When we tested the GTI, we had four people in the car. We decided not to repeat that test, only having two people in the Mazdaspeed Mazda3. These tests aren't all about getting the best time from zero to 60mph--if we wanted to do that we would only have one person in the car and we would do our best to destroy the clutch in the process. While we try to get a respectable time, we also want to see how the car handles under hard acceleration.
With its sport seats and metal pedals, there's no mistaking the Mazdaspeed Mazda3 for the regular old Mazda3 when you get behind the wheel. The seats are manually adjustable, but an extra lever lets you change the height. They are covered in a grippy material that keeps you from sliding around during hard cornering. The steering wheel is a three-spoke design with embedded buttons for cruise control and the audio system. The materials, fit, and interior look is all very good. A navigation system is available for the Mazdaspeed Mazda3, but we didn't have it on our test car. If it's anything like what we saw in the Mazda CX-7, it's a worthwhile option. Bluetooth cell phone integration isn't available in the Mazdaspeed Mazda3, so that leaves us with the stereo. The standard system in our Grand Touring trim level Mazdaspeed Mazda3 has a six-disc in-dash changer, an auxiliary input in the console, seven Bose speakers, and a 220-watt amp. We also had the Sirius satellite radio option.