I was one of the first journalists in the world to drive the original MAZDASPEED3 back in 2007, and it was a classic case of love at first sight. ?This is your next Mazda,? is what I wrote at the time. In the years since then, I?ve never found a reason to revise that opinion. For me, having the new 2010 MAZDASPEED3 to drive for a week was a chance to rekindle an old love affair.
Sports car enthusiasts the world over owe a debt of gratitude to Mazda. This company is serious about providing a sports car experience at an economy car price. Whether it?s Mazda?s ever-popular MX-5 Miata roadster or the 2010 MAZDASPEED3, this company really gets the sports car idea. It?s no surprise that when you meet the people who work at Mazda, you find that they are active racers, autocrossers, and performance enthusiasts who live their passion at work and at the race track. And I?m not talking about powerless flunkies ? Mazda?s Senior Vice President for Product Development, Robert Davis, is an active racer, and the same is true for many other Mazda people who make the decisions on what gets built and taken to market. And it shows in the product.
From a distance, the MAZDASPEED3 may look like a standard MAZDA3, but one minute behind the wheel will prove otherwise.?The SPEED3 (as I like to call it) starts with a 263-horsepower turbocharged engine, with 280 pound-feet of torque and a 6-speed manual transmission.
But sheer speed isn?t enough to make a sports car. You need handling as well. And that?s where the 2010 MAZDASPEED3 has made great strides over the original. A new body shell design for this year strengthens the most important parts of the car?s structure. The new stiffer chassis allowed Mazda to give the SPEED3 a firmer suspension tuning without compromising ride comfort. Combined with wider performance tires, the new suspension tuning offers state of the art car control and a comfortable everyday ride at the same time. Mazda has also improved the brakes with a new electronically-controlled braking system.
A good sports car should look like a sports car, and the SPEED3 is easily distinguished from a standard Mazda3. The hood features a prominent intercooler scoop to improve engine power, and the front fenders are flared to contain the car’s wider tires. Up front, a lower air dam and round fog lights frame an organic, metallic-black grille.
Oh, um?the grille. OK, look, I admit I have a fanboy love affair with the MAZDASPEED3, but I have to say that Mazda didn?t do themselves any favors with the new Nagare-inspired front end treatment. I admit that I?m 46 years old and I have certain set ideas about pretty. However, from what I hear, the new front end is popular with the youth of today, so I?ll shut up. Now get off my lawn.
Speaking of the youth market, the 2010 MAZDASPEED3 is loaded with all the goodies a young driving enthusiast wants. The optional Tech Package offers keyless entry, push-button start, a compact full-color navigation system, Sirius satellite radio, six CD changer, and BOSE sound system. I?m feeling younger already?
So what?s the bottom line? If you?re wishing for a high-end sports car, but you?re shopping an economy car budget, the MAZDASPEED3 starts at $23,340. That?s a great price for a solid sports car with amazing performance.