2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Finally, A Real Drive
June 28, 2010
I hadn't realized how much I'd missed driving sport compacts on Glendora Mountain Road until Saturday afternoon with our 2011 Mazdaspeed 3. What a perfect car for this road. Oh, certainly, the front end gets squirmy as you're turning into corners, because, well there's a lot happening up there. But, between the sharp steering, mongo grip and juicy torque band, there aren't many civilian cars that can go down this road faster -- certainly not for under $26K.
And despite all the flak the MS3 has taken for its goofy grin on this blog, this car gets a lot of respect on GMR and surrounds. People, including the owners of that blue MkI Mazda 3, see the hood scoop coming, and know what the car is and what it can do.
The only thing that bugged me about the Mazdaspeed 3 on this (very fun) drive was the six-speed manual transmission. As we've written in official road tests, you just can't rush shifts in this car, and while I rarely find this a problem in normal driving, it was an issue on GMR. Between the clutch takeup and the slightly gooey shifter, I quickly realized a little extra care and attention was needed on the 2-3 upshift.
It's not a big problem once you're attenuated to how the car wants to be driven, but it can hang you up if you're trying to do things fast. Another option would have been just to leave the Mazdaspeed 3 in 3rd gear, which works fine on most roads, but I got greedy going into tight turns and wanted maximum torque for corner exit. In any case, the transmission is the weakest link on the MS3.
I also noticed a creak from the driver seat as cornering forces built up. The creaking persisted into Sunday around cloverleaf ramps. It's just a little reminder that the MS3 is still an economy car, just a really quick one, so there will be compromises (and evidence of cost-cutting) here and there. Perhaps we can find a way to lube the seat.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 12,744 miles