2007 Mazda Mazdaspeed Mazda3 review:

2007 Mazda Mazdaspeed Mazda3

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  • Body style wagon
  • Trim levels Grand Touring

Roadshow Editors' Rating

7.8 Overall
  • Cabin tech 6
  • Performance tech 9
  • Design 9

The Good The 2007 Mazda Mazdaspeed Mazda3 is the best handling front-wheel-drive car we've tested. Its engine puts out good power and makes a satisfying growl, all while delivering decent gas mileage. The car looks good and has practical interior space.

The Bad The stereo system interface is terrible, and worse, the dashboard isn't aftermarket-friendly. The aux jack in our test car didn't work and the disc changer wouldn't play MP3s. Turbo lag is an issue in hard acceleration.

The Bottom Line Although the 2007 Mazda Mazdaspeed Mazda3 looks good and seems like a lot of fun at first, a few problems start to reveal themselves. While we never tire of good handling, a good stereo would also be nice.

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 our performance computer in place, we drive out to our testing ground.

We hooked up our performance computer and went out to our drag strip. Editors Wayne Cunningham and Kevin Massy each made a couple of runs, of which we took the best. We found that, to get a fast launch, we needed to rev up the engine with the clutch in so the turbo would be engaged, which seemed to be at about 2,500rpm. Take-off in first gear caused predictable front-wheel spin before the car would really get up and go. But wide gear ratios meant a significant rpm drop during the upshift to second, causing the acceleration to flatten out, then pick up as we overcame this second stage of turbo lag. We also had to contend with torque steer when the power kicked in, in both first and second gears. The upshift from second to third was smoother, and necessary, as the car would redline in second above 40mph.

In our zero-to-60mph times, Wayne Cunningham received 7.28 seconds; and Kevin Massy received 7.12 seconds

We were surprised that these times averaged out to only marginally better than what we got in the fully loaded Volkswagen GTI. The Mazdaspeed Mazda3 has 263 horsepower, much more substantial than the GTI's 200 horses. The GTI is also about 60 pounds heavier than the Mazdaspeed Mazda3. Our conclusion from these differing times and vehicle stats are that the Volkswagen's DSG and better management of turbo lag are enough to give the GTI an acceleration edge.

In the cabin
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.

Three knobs is one too many. This is probably the worst stereo interface we've seen.

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