What's New for 2007
The 3 gets the hot-rod treatment from the company's in-house tuners to become the 2007 Mazda Mazdaspeed 3. Highlights include a 263-horsepower turbocharged engine, a six-speed manual gearbox, a lowered suspension with sport tuning and 18-inch wheels.
One of the few non-premium brand automakers to offer all-out "tuner" style versions of its cars, Mazda once again gives serious (but not seriously wealthy) driving enthusiasts another reason to rejoice. For 2007, Mazda has given the full Mazdaspeed treatment to the 3 to create a giant-slayer called the Mazdaspeed 3. In short, Mazda has taken a car that already earned our adoration for its athletic sport sedan manners, tight build quality and versatile hatchback body style not only to the next level, but a couple of levels beyond that.
A healthy power infusion comes by way of transplanting the same turbocharged engine found in the midsize Mazdaspeed 6 into the compact 3. In this application the force-fed 2.3 makes "only" 263 horsepower versus 274 for the Mazdaspeed 6. Appropriately, a six-speed manual with a limited-slip differential is the only available transmission -- as we said, a car for serious enthusiasts. Other chassis enhancements include a tightened-up suspension, 18-inch wheels wearing sticky performance tires and bigger brakes.
Of course, the Mazdaspeed has the requisite visual tweaks that are fortunately subtle enough to be tasteful, yet distinctive enough to let car buffs know this isn't just a standard Mazda 3. In addition to the big wheels, there are unique front and rear fascias, a rear spoiler atop the hatch, a chrome exhaust tip and a slightly raised hood. The cockpit features aggressively bolstered sport seats and aluminum pedals.
With pricing starting in the low-$20K range, the 2007 Mazda Mazdaspeed 3 is an intriguing choice for a performance car. Compared to the Honda Civic Si sedan and four-door Volkswagen GTI hatchback, the 3 provides better performance for about the same price. Alternately, one can view the Mazdaspeed 3 as a fully viable and less expensive competitor to small sport sedans like the Subaru WRX and Mitsubishi Evolution. Overall, the Mazdaspeed 3's combination of blistering performance and an easy-to-live-with personality make this hyperactive hatchback one of our favorite driver's cars for 2007.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2007 Mazda Mazdaspeed 3 comes solely as a four-door hatchback in two trim levels. The base version is called the Sport and comes with automatic climate control, full power accessories, keyless entry, sport seats, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a CD stereo with an audio input jack, 18-inch wheels with 215/45 performance tires, sport-tuned suspension and foglights. The Grand Touring adds leather seat bolsters, Bose audio with a six-disc CD changer, xenon HID headlights, trip computer, rain-sensing wipers, LED taillights and an anti-theft system. The sole option is a navigation system, which is only available on the Grand Touring.
Powertrains and Performance
The Mazdaspeed 3's 2.3-liter turbocharged, direct-injection four-cylinder engine pumps out 263 hp and 280 pound-feet of torque. All that power is sent to the front wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox (the only transmission available) while a limited-slip differential and an electronic torque limiter (which regulates the torque based on gear selection and steering position) put the power to the ground. The shifter, which doesn't like to be rushed, has effort appropriate for the job, but feels a bit disconnected compared to some of its competitors. Acceleration is exhilarating, with the 0-60-mph sprint taking just 5.9 seconds and a blast down the quarter-mile taking only 14.2 seconds. EPA fuel mileage estimates are 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway.
Antilock disc brakes, traction control, stability control, a tire-pressure monitor, front seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags are all standard. In NHTSA frontal-impact crash tests, the standard Mazda 3 scored four stars (out of five). In IIHS testing, the standard Mazda 3 received a "Good" rating (the highest out of four) in frontal-offset impact tests. Those agencies also conducted side-impact crash tests, but those involved a standard Mazda 3 without side- and side-curtain airbags.
Interior Design and Special Features
As with the other Mazda 3 models, the 2007 Mazdaspeed 3 boasts a cabin with a distinctive and upscale design. It also shares the same large, clear gauge layout, precise controls, high-grade materials and tight build quality. Unique touches for the Mazdaspeed edition include more aggressively bolstered front sport seats, aluminum pedals, a red and black color scheme and Mazdaspeed floor mats. Accommodations up front are first-class, as even taller folks are easily able to get comfortable. The well-shaped and supportive backseat is fine for those under 6 feet tall, but taller passengers will feel pinched for legroom. Cargo capacity stands at 17 cubic feet behind the rear seats and expands to 31 cubes when it's folded.
Fling the Mazdaspeed 3 down a ribbon of road filled with sweeping bends and you'll find it carrying almost as much speed as an Evo or WRX STI -- provided that ribbon is smooth. Damping feels adequate on smooth roads, but tighter and rougher roads work against the car's near 3,200-pound curb weight and cause the Mazda to feel a bit out of its element. For that reason, the Mazdaspeed 3 is better suited to smooth roads with sweeping corners rather than rough roads with tight switchbacks. It can certainly handle the latter, but loses some of its otherwise excellent poise. Still, the 3's steering is exceptionally responsive just off-center, which makes flicking through transitions as easy as it is quick. Braking performance is outstanding, with a stop from 60 mph taking only 116 feet, a number that would do a $60,000 sport sedan proud.