Mazdaspeed, the tuning brand from Mazda, takes the already peppy little Mazda3 hatchback and gives it new performance parts, including a turbocharger and a six-speed manual.
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As one Mazdaspeed styling cue, a big air intake is added below the bumper, ostensibly to feed the turbocharger. We like how the fog lights float in their cutouts.
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Based on the Mazda3, this is an attractive car, although some might not care for the more obvious performance cues, such as the rear spoiler.
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It's also a practical body style, with room for four and a little cargo space, or with the rear seats folded down, two seats and lots of cargo space.
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We like the materials and the fit of the interior. It's a comfortable cabin with elements that contribute to sport driving.
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Mazdaspeed adds these performance seats, with grippy surfaces that keep you from sliding around. They also have a height adjustment.
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Metal pedal covers contribute to the performance look.
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As we've seen on other Mazdas, there is a dial for changing the light level. If the car is carrying a heavy load, you can tilt the light up just a bit to compensate.
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The stereo interface is poor, with the center, higher knob controlling volume. The left knob, traditionally for volume control, handles channel selection. The right knob lets you fine-tune the audio.
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We were very unimpressed with the satellite radio interface. With the display showing the channel, as in this picture, you can't change stations. You can only change stations when the display shows the channel number.
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The car has seven Bose speakers powered by a 220-watt amp, but we weren't that impressed with the quality. It sounds OK, but doesn't really push the highs or the bass.
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This three-spoke steering wheel is a great design to control the car's excellent handling. The buttons for audio and cruise control are smoothly embedded in the spokes so as not to interfere with driving.
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With the car off, the gauges are completely black. Once you turn the car on, the numbers light up.
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The six-speed manual shifter snicks neatly into place for each gear. But we like the close ratio manual transmission in the Honda Civic Si better.
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With an intercooler and a turbocharger, this 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine puts out 263 horsepower, substantially more than its hot hatchback competitors.
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