What's New for 2010
The 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 has been completely redesigned. In addition to gaining the same changes as the regular 2010 Mazda 3, the new Mazdaspeed version benefits from suspension changes that improve its handling abilities over the previous-generation car.
Since being introduced in 2007, the Mazdaspeed 3 has thumped all who have dared to take it on. Its combination of power, handling, practicality and value has proved to be unbeatable in the various Edmunds comparison tests it's participated in over the years. For 2010, the champ has reloaded in the off-season. Like the late '90s Yankees, the redesigned 2010 Mazda Mazdaspeed 3 maintains the bits that made it a champion while bolstering the rest of its roster.
Like the redesigned Mazda 3 upon which it's based, the 2010 "MS3" has softer styling than its predecessor, including a happy (some would say goofy) new face. The Speed version differentiates itself with a nicely integrated hood scoop for its turbocharged four-cylinder's intercooler and a few other subtle body modifications. The 3's interior is also new, and it features improved materials and a more visually interesting design. As before, standard equipment is generous, and luxury features like keyless ignition/entry and a Bose surround-sound stereo are available.
The previous MS3 was already our favorite high-performance hatchback, but Mazda's engineers felt that its suspension was in need of an overhaul, as it had a tendency to get unsettled over bumps and around pockmarked corners. The result of their efforts is impressive: Not only does the 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 ride noticeably better than its predecessor, it also slithers through our slalom cones a whopping 4.6 mph faster.
Under the hood, however, it's more of the same, with a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that cranks out 263 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque -- unchanged from the last MS3. There are a few minor tweaks, though, including a new electric power steering pump, a reworking of the manual-transmission gear ratios and new controls in place to mitigate the car's still prodigious torque steer.
Overall, these changes add up to a more refined and capable car than the previous model. Though the Mazdaspeed 3 is a performance hatchback intended to compete with other such vehicles, it's good enough to take on rear-drive sport coupes as well, earning our nod over a Hyundai Genesis Coupe in a recent comparison test. Only time (and a full comparison test) will tell whether the 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 can maintain its champ status against the Chevy Cobalt SS, Mini Cooper S, Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart, Subaru WRX, VW GTI and whatever other contenders may come its way. But we're guessing it's safe for Mazda to make room in its trophy case.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 is a four-door hatchback available in one trim level known as Sport. Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, high-performance summer tires, a limited-slip differential, foglights, full power accessories, cruise control, keyless entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, front sport seats, leather and cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a digital turbo boost gauge, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a six-speaker stereo with CD player, auxiliary audio jack and steering wheel controls.
The Mazdaspeed Tech package adds keyless ignition/entry, an integrated compact navigation system and a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound stereo with satellite radio and a six-CD changer.
Powertrains and Performance
The Mazdaspeed 3 is powered by a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 263 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. All that thrust is sent to the front wheels through a six-speed manual transmission equipped with a limited-slip differential. In performance testing, the Speed 3 went from zero to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds -- midpack for its class and a bit slower than the old car. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined.
Standard safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. The 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 itself hasn't been crash tested, but the government awarded the regular Mazda 3 five out of five stars for driver and front passenger protection in a frontal crash, five stars for front side protection and four stars for rear side protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the 2010 Mazda 3 its highest possible rating of "Good" in its frontal-offset and side crash tests, and the title of Top Safety Pick.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Mazdaspeed variant differs from the regular 3 with its upgraded gauges and standard black leather upholstery with red pattern cloth inserts. Otherwise, it boasts the same class-leading interior design, quality and feature content as the regular 3. Despite its relatively low price and single trim level, the MS3 greets its owner with high-quality materials, comfortable sport seats, ample space and easy-to-reach controls. The optional navigation system is saddled with a small screen, but it's mounted high, easy to use and cheaper than other systems.
The front seat offers a wide range of adjustment (though no power adjustment is available) and the tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel is a welcome feature. Some may lament that no sedan body style is available, but the standard hatch allows for a greater level of practicality. The trunk provides 17 cubic feet of space with the seats raised and expands to 42.8 with them lowered.
Routing 280 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels is usually a recipe for annoying amounts of steering-wheel-tugging torque steer. This phenomenon is certainly present in the 2010 Mazdaspeed 3, but a revision of the engine's torque-limiting software help keep torque steer under better control than last year. In any case, there's no doubt that the MS3 is one of the best-handling and most entertaining hot hatches on a winding road.
Another nice change is that pavement imperfections that would have flummoxed the old car are now handled with grace by the retuned suspension. Pin-sharp as ever, the steering provides plenty of communication and faithfully transmits road information like few front-wheel-drive cars can. Throw in a feisty 263 hp and you've got one fun little hatchback.
Read our Mazdaspeed 3 Long-Term 20,000-Mile Test