2010 Mazda Mazdaspeed3 Long-Term Road Test

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Last Drive (with Video)

November 29, 2010

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You'll recall that I was all excited about going for one last drive in our long-term 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 over the Thanksgiving holidays. Well, I'm happy to report that I did indeed make the drive to Mt Palomar in San Diego County, California, and that readers stovt001 (2006 MX-5 Miata Sport) and liquoredonlife (2010 Mazdspeed 3 in Liquid Silver) were able to join us. Another reader and Miata owner, rdryder, had planned to drive with us but ran into a scheduling conflict due to my last-minute planning. Sorry, Mark. Randomly, we ran into another Liquid Silver MS3 on the mountain.

It was a cool day, but Mt Palomar is only about 5,500 feet at its summit so the roads (Highways S6 and S7) up to it were clear of snow, with just a hint of white stuff at the top. The S6 (aka, Palomar Mountain Road) is pretty much non-stop curves for 7 miles from California Highway 76 to the S7. It's not as tight and technical as our local playground, Glendora Mountain Road, so in a Mazdaspeed 3, you can pretty much use 3rd gear the whole way.

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Traffic-Friendly Clutch

October 28, 2010

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Last night, the streets and highways around our Santa Monica offices were a mess. A truck driver had a medical emergency at the wheel and plowed into 18 cars on the 405 Freeway. On the other side of the same highway, there was yet another pileup. Surface streets were clogged as a result and I was stuck in the Mazdaspeed 3. Back in March, I noted how I disliked the MS3's touchy clutch, but I'd like to revise my position on this particular subject.

Chalking it up to acclimation or muscle memory, I've made peace with the Mazdaspeed's clutch takeup. Having the engagement point so close to the floor proved an asset in bumper-to-bumper-to-bumper-to-bumper traffic. It meant that my leg didn't have to travel as much to nudge it forward and the effort itself was fairly light in this range.

It took me about two hours to travel the 7 miles to get home. That made it the third worst commute, behind the President's visit back in August and when a massive crane fell across the same stretch of the 405 back in 2007. Next time, I'm taking a motorcycle home.

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2010 Mazda Mazdaspeed3: Jiffy Pop

September 29, 2010

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I think our Mazda Mazdaspeed3 is a blast to drive. It has the right balance of hatch practicality, a great engine that makes you feel alive when you roll on the gas and a lively suspension.

The Mazdaspeed3 is set up just so that you can really get a feel for what the car is doing without being a full on rock hard race suspension. Sometimes the suspension can be a little too lively. When you drive over a rough freeway at speed, things tend to bounce around the interior like kernels in Jiffy Pop pan.

Driving back from the studio in Long Beach, I hit a stretch of the 405 that had plenty of bumps and gaps in the pavement. I could feel all the fat in my love handles when I look over and see the guy in the luxo-boat sailing on calm waters.

Don't get me wrong, I think think the positive aspects outweigh the negative by a big margin. I'll take the bouts of fat deposit self-consciousness because I'd prefer to have that feeling of road communication.

Where do your tastes lay on the suspension spectrum? What cars' suspension have you enjoyed the most?

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: The Difference of 10,000 Miles

September 15, 2010

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Back in February, I took on our long-term 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 on a near-1,000-mile road trip and wrote, "The ride quality is very good for a hot hatch -- it's composed, rarely harsh and completely acceptable for long-haul trips."

Ten thousand miles later, it's not so easy to stand by that statement. For sure, the ride quality is still tolerable and I certainly wouldn't pass the Mazdaspeed 3 over for a road trip. But in addition to the ride gittin' noisier as Chris wrote, it has also gotten less compliant as the 40 sidewalls (of the stock 225/40R18 Dunlop SP Sport 2050 tires) don't have the give that they once did over seams and ruts. That's not much of a problem over a road like this (above), but last night on the freeway, I definitely noticed it.

Of course, this is what happens with all tires as they age -- it's just more noticeable with summer tires.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 18,886 miles

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Illuminating Thoughts

September 09, 2010

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Here's how the instrument panel appears on the Mazdaspeed 3 every time I climb behind the wheel for a long drive home after dark. Notice anything peculiar here?

I'll help after the jump.

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Half Inch vs. 1,000 Miles

August 31, 2010

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It's hard to believe, but sometimes a half inch makes a difference in 1,000 miles. In this case, it's the distance between my hip and the throttle pedal of the Mazdaspeed 3, which is a half inch too short for me to be able to drive 1,000 miles.

When you're on the road all day, an automobile's driving position becomes more than just an abstraction. You encounter the layout of the controls, the placement of the seat and even the way the pedals work in the most physical way possible, and the slightest ergonomic miscues become physical aches and pains and even compromise your ability to drive the car effectively.

So if the driving position doesn't fit, you notice. And the driving position of the Mazdaspeed 3 doesn't fit me.

It's not really Mazda's problem entirely. Every company has its own set of human factors that determine the typical driving position in its cars, a combination of dimensions related to safety and comfort that are set down in its big engineering book of standards and practices, the recipe book for building a car that every automobile company compiles over time. And one element of the determination of a car's driving position is the size of the people expected to drive it. That's why the driving position of the Honda Fit and the Volvo S80 are entirely different.

And the Mazda 3 from which the Mazdaspeed 3 is derived is scaled for someone just a bit shorter than me. That's all well and good, because a driver seat is adjustable for just this reason. The trouble is, you can't move the pedals, too. So the gas pedal is just half inch too close for me. This shouldn't be more than an annoyance, but in a car like the Mazdaspeed 3 it's a disaster.

There are general issues of comfort, of course. You have to consciously pull your foot a little farther off the gas when you're decelerating. You have to readjust your internal calibration that tells you where the brake pedal is in relation to the gas pedal. Instead of easily articulating your ankle, you find yourself moving your leg. And as you inevitably tire over the course of a long day on the road, your foot gets lazy and you're leaning on the gas pedal all the time.

With the Mazdaspeed 3, a little weirdness with the gas pedal also leads to some weirdness in your driving. The light-effort action of the throttle pedal really bothers me anyway, because it ends up artificially giving you big throttle responses even when you're trying to be precise. So with the throttle pedal a bit too close, I find myself zinging the throttle like a fool at low speed because I'm trying to coordinate the snappish clutch pedal. And the fact that the relatively big turbo comes on boost with a bang is one more thing that conspires against my ability to find balance in throttle inputs at high speed.

So it turns out that a half inch difference in where the Mazdaspeed 3's throttle is placed makes me drive like an idiot when I'm going fast and feel painfully clumsy and out of sorts when I'm driving slow. A tilt/telescoping steering wheel would help a little bit, but probably I won't be happy until Mazda changes its standards and practices to incorporate a driving position scaled for slightly larger people, much as Nissan did when it designed the 350Z.

All in all, it's a reminder that the ergonomics of a car's driving position have more to do with your ability to drive than you realize.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 17,954 miles.

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Sojourn to Solvang

August 26, 2010

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Suffering from big city burnout (chronic crowds and traffic), my girlfriend and I decided to take a little road trip. The destination? Solvang, CA, which is about 130 miles up the coast (and about 15 miles inland) from Santa Monica. A quaint Danish town located in Santa Ynez wine country, Solvang makes for a nice one-nighter get-away. We sampled Danish pastry, visited the Solvang motorcycle museum and checked out the Gainey vineyard. The long-term car choice was between our two Mazdas; I opted for the MS3.

Follow the jump for notes and pics of the trip.

The 'speed 3 had most of my basic requirements for a road trip vehicle -- firmly supportive seats (especially for my lower back), navigation, satellite radio, Bluetooth, generous cargo capacity, effortless power and a decent ride. Although its display is rather small, the navi worked fine with clear visual and auditory prompts. We left L.A. at 10 am to minimize traffic and were able to cruise at 70-75 for most of the way up there on the 101. My only notable gripe with the MS3 was the abundance of road noise that had me cranking the stereo's volume to 30 (forget "11"). To be fair, said noise was/is "optimized" via the grooved concrete superslab that makes up much of the freeways around these parts.

The MS3 averaged 24 mpg for the trip, not too bad considering ambient temps were 90 to 105 degrees, the A/C was on if the car was, I enjoyed the curvy parts of the 154 and the EPA highway estimate is 25 mpg.

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2010 Mazda Mazdaspeed 3: Gittin' Noisier

August 16, 2010

It's been a while since I've driven our MS3. First of all, it's still fast, responsive, and still a blast in general. But when I had to take my wife and daughter to the airport the other day, they both noticed just how loud it was. We've seen this sort of thing before when performance tires age and harden up over time. A good example was our departed 2008 Subaru Impreza STI that began to receive similar reviews at about the same mileage mark.

It's one of those things you learn to ignore or just crank up the radio instinctively to compensate for when you're alone, but y'know what? They were right. Here are a few videos shot this morning on my way in that attempt to (what's the aural equivalent of "illustrate" anyway?) allow you to hear what I'm talking about. I know this post is all about audio, but tese were all shot with a compact digital camera with a so-so mic, so gimme a break on the audio.

The one above was shot on a transition with various pavement changes. The 3 additional videos after the jump show that I needed to crank the radio up to 34 to hear it, and the remaining 2 give you an idea of what we mean when we say tire "ring/hoot" or "hiss."

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: It's Just Right

July 20, 2010

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Last night I was given the dilemma Goldilocks was never lucky enough to get: our Camaro, Miata or the 2010 Mazdaspeed 3. Guess which one I picked?

Yup, it was really nice to not have to worry about 2nd gear. Plus since I had to negotiate rush-hour traffic, the MS3 fit the bill, not too big and marred with blind spots like the Camaro and not too small in this land filled with tiny, distracted women driving huge SUVs.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 13,933 miles

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Weekend Car

July 19, 2010

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Away this past weekend to MiataFest, a celebration of the Mazda MX5 Miata's incredible impact over the last 20 years. There were some great cars, and you'll find plenty of pictures on the MiataFest site.

The Mazdaspeed 3 took us there on Saturday, a perfect ride for this sort of thing. Powerful, tough, committed. The kind of car everyone wants to talk about. All that roll stiffness, all that taut ride, all that quick-shift transmission, all that heavy clutch action, all that hypersensitive throttle action.

Now am away July 31 to the AMA Flat-track race at the Calistoga fairgrounds in Northern California. It's about 450 miles from here in the midst of summer vacation traffic on Interstate 5. Am not going to take the Mazdaspeed 3. And the reasons are pretty much the same.

This is a great weekend car if you can spend a certain amount of time standing around and talking about it. But if it's a weekend where you're going to be driving all the time, the Volkswagen GTI is a better deal in every way.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor @ 13,850 miles

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Holiday Weekend Grind

July 06, 2010

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Surprise, everyone, I drove our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 over the holiday weekend. And I put over 300 miles on the happy red hatchback. Alas, we did not make it to the back roads this time around, but driving it to the Angels/Royals game on July 4 was fun nonetheless.

I will admit, though, that driving the Mazdaspeed 3 in holiday weekend traffic is somewhat less relaxing than enjoying a hotdog and a watery beverage while watching Torii Hunter hit a couple a homeruns. The road noise gets tiresome on LA's crumbling freeways. And no question, the won't-be-rushed, award-winning clutch-and-shifter combo results in some less than smooth gearchanges in stop-and-go traffic, particularly when the A/C is blasting and the driver (me) starts to get fidgety.

Also, the previously reported creak from the driver seat has become a near constant issue. The seat now creaks whenever there's any kind of weight transfer during acceleration, braking or turning. A seach of the forums suggests this is a common problem on MS3s. Lubing the seat seems to be the most common dealer remedy, so maybe it's time for a little DIY. Any ideas from the Mazdaspeed 3 owners out there?

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 13,309 miles

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Edge of the Razor

June 30, 2010

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Yesterday, the Mazdaspeed 3 was my designated mule for the trip back from our test track in Fontana. It's a 60-mile journey, with most of it spent on the 10 freeway, which was thankfully free of congestion. In other words, it was the perfect environment in which to enjoy the 3's razor-sharp reflexes and punchy engine.

With a stiff suspension and a finicky clutch, the 3 is kind of an acquired taste in the gridlocked city. But get her on the wide-open highway, and her gifts really shine through.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: OK, NOW I Get It

June 21, 2010

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Weird, it wasn't so long ago when I went on and on about how the 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 wasn't the car for me. It was just three months ago. Like most people in the editorial group, I wasn't crazy about that clutch. "So jarring; something I wouldn't want to deal with every day. Made me feel like a beginner," I complained. But...

When I had the MS3 for this weekend, driving it to a charity bake sale in West Hollywood, through horrid traffic on the 405 ON A SUNDAY MORNING and on an open freeway on a Sunday evening, I found myself saying aloud to no one in particular, well maybe to the MS3, "Hmm, I think maybe I like you after all."

Why the change of heart? Maybe because I finally got used to how the clutch feels. Maybe once I got over my issue with the clutch I started enjoying the car. Yes, indeed, that thing is fast and fun. And it wasn't bad in stop-and-go traffic. Visibility is great, making lane changing and dancing around slower-moving cars a breeze. And when I go over that gnarly seam on the 90 West, the same one that sounded like I hit a wall in our Mini E? All I feel is a little bump and the steering wheel doesn't jump out of my hands, like it does with most other sporty cars. The MS3 also doesn't scrape on everything like most sporty cars but it still can take my favorite on-ramp at high speeds.

I don't know how this happened. It's not like I was driving the Mazdaspeed for a week. But I'll just welcome the change and look forward to the next time I can get behind the wheel of the MS3.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 12,345 miles

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: The View

June 03, 2010

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Visibility is excellent in the 2010 Mazdaspeed 3. In fact, I'll go so far to say that the Mazda has the best visibility of any car in our fleet right now. You can't really quantify what impact this has on the driving experience, but I know this whole being-able-to-see thing is a big reason that I like being in the MS3 on an everyday basis (yes, yes, the other reason is that I'm an unabashed liker of cars with big, silly grins).

Here's the three-quarters view out the front. I was parked, by the way, and fought off the urge to drive into the ravine.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 11,891 miles

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Refined Where It Counts

May 19, 2010

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I spent a fair amount of time in the GTI before driving the Mazdaspeed 3 this week. The contrast has been interesting. Similar to what James wrote a couple weeks ago, I've found the Mazda to be much more the hooligan. Erin also summed it up nicely last month, writing that the Mazda is simply edgier.

What did surprise me though is that there's still an underlying level of dynamic refinement to the MS3 that the GTI lacks. The MS3's steering is more communicative, for instance; turn into a corner and the MS3 responds willingly, whereas the GTI's is quick but not particularly informative. And the Mazda's ride quality, while certainly firmer, gives up little to the GTI in terms of overall comfort thanks to its excellent damping. So while the MS3's engine certainly makes the car more of a riot to drive, don't assume that the whole dynamic package is lacking sophistication.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Yep, It's Easy to Park

May 14, 2010

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Hello, again, Long-Term Road Test Blog fans! I'm about to say something nice about our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3. The rear visibility is great, thanks to the upright angle of the hatchback rear window and the not-too-high rear seatback. The mirrors are also nicely sized so it's easy to judge where you are in relation to the curb.

Mind you, it's pretty much expected that a compact hatchback would be easy to see out of and park, but sightlines in the Mazda are better than most. And when you consider how quick this car is, the fact that it's still so easy to live with impresses you all the more.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 10,902 miles

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Happy Hour

May 06, 2010

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Last night I needed to take a drive. I needed to remind myself how a Mazdaspeed 3 is supposed to be driven. Of course, if you own one, you're free to drive it however you want, and I happen to the think the MS3 makes a fine commuter car (yes, clutch and all) and an even better road-trip car.

But this car is at its best when you play with it on a back road.

I love the way it changes direction quickly and holds a line through corners. I like the weighting of the steering and the way it talks to me about front-tire grip. I enjoy shifting the car, even though the six-speed doesn't like to be rushed, and I like that there's always enough torque for aggressive corner exits. I like the way the brakes bite quickly. I like the way the bright red paint changes to a deep red as daylight fades.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 10,652 miles

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Belated Happy 10,000 Miles

May 03, 2010

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I looked down at our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3's odometer yesterday and realized I was 400 miles past the 10,000-mile mark. Oops, sorry we missed your birthday, MS3.

The more I drive this car, the more the 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 feels like my car. I'm not bogarting the keys or anything, but everything about this car just kind of fits. The driver seat, the pedal layout, the ride/handling balance, the rapidfire torque response, the hatchback thing. Dislikes include the abrupt clutch engagement, some of the interior plastics and, occasionally, the funny D.I. sounds at startup.

Last week, a friend of mine asked for my blessing before he went off to sign a deal on a 2010 Mazdaspeed 3, a gray one. Apart from the paint choice, I felt happy for him.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 10,498 miles

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Easy To Get Comfortable In

April 07, 2010

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You would be surprised how often I get into a performance-oriented car and have trouble getting comfortable. It's not like I'm some oversized Neanderthal either. A little taller than average maybe, but otherwise normal.

The Mazdaspeed 3 is one of the those cars that feels comfortable the minute you get in. A slight slide of the seat, move the steering wheel a bit and it's perfect. And although I noted before that I'm not all that thrilled with the pedal placement, the fact that I'm otherwise positioned comfortably does a lot to make up for it.

Oh, and the driver's seat is pretty nice for a vehicle in this price range. Nothing spectacular, but enough bolstering in the right places to notice that it's a notch above your average hatchback. Overall, a well thought out cockpit that I never get tired of.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Edmunds.com @ 9,788 miles

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Blends Into the Weekend

April 05, 2010

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I've already put a lot of miles on our long-term 2010 Mazdaspeed 3, so there's an instant familiarity as soon as I get into it. The more I drive the MS3, the more impressed I am by how comfortable, refined and utterly useful this car is in everyday driving.

Ride quality is uncommonly good for a competitively priced sport compact with 18-inch wheels and summer tires. It was good on my road trip to NorCal, and it's still very tolerable on the grooved (and now potholed) slabs on LA freeways.

I also like the size of the interior. Obviously, you wouldn't choose a compact car if you need vast amounts of interior room, but I was able to carry around two adults, in addition to myself, for an afternoon without anyone being at all uncomfortable. Meanwhile, the hatch area efficiently swallowed all our stuff.

Of course, all this utility is balanced against the semi-explosive feel of the turbocharged 2.3-liter under full throttle and the Mazdaspeed 3's sharp turn-in. And contrary to other reports, I quite enjoy shifting this car -- heel-and-toeing is great fun. It's certainly true that the clutch has a gotcha-style engagement in low-speed traffic, but once you recalibrate your foot for that, shifts come easily, though, admittedly, not altogether smoothly. A minor annoyance, I say.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 9,751 miles

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Uh, Not So Much

March 30, 2010

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Like most people I go through different car stages. You know, when you lust after one car and then in a couple years end up lusting after another one. In the past 10 years I've wanted the Mazda Miata, Ford Mustang, Mini Cooper S, BMW 135i and the Mitsubishi Evo MR. (FYI, most of those years was spent lusting after the Mini.)

And one of the awesome things about working at Edmunds is that I actually get to take them out on an extended test-drive to see if they really are the car for me. In all cases, I've liked those cars and if I had the means I would have most definitely leased each one and moved from one car lust to the other. (Although I'd actually like to own the MR...and the Mini.)

However, that wasn't the case with our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3. I thought for sure this would be my Future Next Car. Apparently it's fun to drive and more practical than the Mini, in terms of cargo room. But when I drove the car last night? I instantly fell out of lust. Yes, it's quick handling and has lots of fun power on tap but damn that clutch. So jarring; something I wouldn't want to deal with every day. Made me feel like a beginner.

But then I found out that I wasn't the only one in our group who had issues with the clutch.

2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Trigger Pull

2010 Mazda Mazdaspeed 3: Hair Trigger

2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Not the Easiest Clutch

Word.

Although Erin and Brent are the only ones who like it. Brent has even said he'd rather own it over the Mini Cooper. Not me. The Mini feels good to drive and I'd prefer dealing with rush-hour traffic in it over the Mazdaspeed 3. Plus over a five-year period, if we're talking True Cost To Own, the Mini would be $44,648 and the Mazdaspeed $47,609.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 9,400 miles

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Trigger Pull

March 09, 2010

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There's a lot to like about our Mazdaspeed 3, but I'm stuck on the touchy clutch. It's been noted before, but I thought I'd give you a more graphical (but not at all scientific) representation.

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Yeah, it can do that too.

March 02, 2010

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Like the completely real and in no way photoshopped picture above illustrates, our Mazdaspeed 3 is pretty much the Swiss Army knife of compact cars. Not only does it possess terrific handling but it's also fast, comfortable, gets decent fuel economy, has useable back seats, can hold a ton of stuff and it's under 30 grand to boot!

I'm beginning to wonder if this car can float, or if there might be a secret button to unfurl hidden wings and a jet engine because this car seems capable of doing damn near everything else.

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 8,634 miles

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Buttons, Ride Quality and Guns

February 25, 2010

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After 967 miles in our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3, I have reached several conclusions. The ride quality is very good for a hot hatch -- it's composed, rarely harsh and completely acceptable for long-haul trips. The 225/40R18 Dunlop SP Sport 2050 tires are on the noisy side, but really, road noise in the MS3 isn't any worse than a WRX, Lancer Ralliart or Evo.

Driver seat comfort was also better than I expected. You see, I find the seating position in the Mazdaspeed 3 slightly awkward. The steering wheel doesn't telescope quite far out enough for me to grasp it perfectly comfortably at 9-and-3. But in all those hours of driving, this wasn't a problem. Using cruise control helped, undoubtedly, but the seat itself gets some credit, too. It's well cushioned and supportive without being confining.

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2010 Mazda Mazdaspeed3: Pain!

February 19, 2010

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I jumped at the chance to drive our MazdaSpeed 3 home when offered the keys. It turned out to be the worst choice I could have made.

My folks are here for the weekend to help us out with the new house. Specifically the yard since we've been apartment dwellers for ages now. In exchange for the forced labor we took them out for a nice dinner.On the way to the restaurant we passed over a few speed bumps. Little did I know that my dad was still suffering from Kidney stones. Sitting in the back seat, the stiff suspension rocked him.<

"Geeyah! Awh!" he exclaimed over every set of bumps. In the distance from one set of bumps to the next, there was a good deal of heavy breathing coming from the back seat. "Ooooh! Ak! Fuuuuuuuudge!" as we rolled over the next set.

I thought driving the Speed would be fun. It ended up being a torture device. Nice way to start a family visit.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: More Legroom Than I Thought

February 18, 2010

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At 5-foot-10, I'm no Riswick, but when I drive our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3, I put the driver seat one notch forward of the all-the-way-back postion on the track. That leaves about a hand's width of space from the driver seatback to the front edge of the rear seat-bottom.

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: I Love Torque Steer!

February 17, 2010

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In yesterday's open thread for our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3, our good friend, Bob Holland (rsholland), commented, "I've heard reports of severe torque-steer upon hard acceleration..."

Torque steer? Oh, yes, indeed, there's torque steer. Frankly, though, it would feel strange to drive a front-wheel-drive car rated at 280 pound-feet of torque at 3,000 rpm that *didn't* have torque steer. There's got to be a price for asking the front wheels to manage this much torque, plus steer the car.

But I'd call the case of torque steer in our Mazdaspeed 3 moderate, not severe. It's there every time you accelerate full-throttle down an open highway, but there's no danger of the steering wheel getting ripped from your hands. The car just feels squirmy, much like a current-generation Mini Cooper S, and you either like that or you don't. And the acceleration itself is pretty exciting.

Also in the open thread, crazydavefym asked, "Would you guys enjoy this car (more/less/same) with the DSG transmission from the GTI?"

I suspect our staff is divided on this one, since Al and James have gone on record as disliking the clutch. But if I get to answer this question, and I do, since I'm blogging here, I say no.

I don't mind the quick (--> abrupt) clutch engagement, I like the shifter's mechanical feel through the gates and, most of all, I like heel-and-toe downshifting in this car. That said, Mazda would be wise to offer a twin-clutch transmission on the Mazdaspeed 3 in future years, because then more people would get to enjoy the MS3.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor

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2010 Mazda Mazdaspeed 3: Hair Trigger

February 15, 2010

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Here's our long-term 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 in its natural environment: the racetrack.
If you're puttering around back and forth each day, it's a chore.

My main beef is the clutch -- it's got a hair trigger. Not as a bad as the previous gen, though.
With that one, the takeup started right on the deck at the very instant of clutch travel. And the friction zone felt binary in operation: either On or Off.

With our 2010, the takeup doesn't start right up against the firewall, but it's still near the bottom of the stroke. And the friction zone feels just a bit longer than the sub-millimeter length of the previous car.

So you still have to pay attention when you're driving the Mazdaspeed 3.

I guess that's the whole point.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Fast

February 14, 2010

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Two driving experiences to share. The first time I drove our Mazdaspeed 3 I was stuck in very heavy traffic. Working the clutch so much was exhausting. The 3 is not exactly easy to drive in that situation. And I thought this is difinitely not the car for me.

But, the next day I had an open road. And suddenly I understood why our guys like this car so much. It's like a really cool toy. It wants to go fast and it wants to get to fast quickly.

It should be a fun week. Our 2010 Mazdapeed 3 is CotW.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Belated Milestone

January 04, 2010

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Our fiery 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 longtermer crossed the 5,000-mile threshold over the holiday break. This little guy makes you feel young again, and I mean that in every sense of the expression -- it's fun, fast, and engaging, plus has a clutch that engages in a few millimeters of travel. This latter point constantly reminds me of when I learned to drive stick, and is one of only a few smudges on an otherwise very well executed package.

The torque steer issue is one aspect I'm conflicted over. Sure, it's annoying, but I'd rather have the torque and live with the torque steer than not have the torque steer and be slow.

I prefer RWD for several reasons, and this is one of them.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @ 5,193 miles.

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Comparison Test Versus 2010 VW GTI

December 14, 2009

2010 Mazdaspeed3 and 2010 VW GTI

Our long-term Mazdaspeed 3 took on the new VW GTI in a comparison test over on Edmunds.com. It was a battle of track numbers versus the real world. See which one we picked.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Another Take On The Shifter And Pedals

December 10, 2009

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There's been a bit of disagreement about our Mazdaspeed 3's manual transmission. Erin first wrote how she felt that "the shifter's gates are well defined and there's solid, positive feel as you move between gates." She said she also thought the pedal placement was ideal for heel-toe downshifting.

A couple days later, though, James wrote that he disagreed, noting the he was not enamored with the shifter. He wrote: "[It] could feel more mechanical and direct." He also thought the clutch was difficult to consistently modulate smoothly.

Then a week later Ed wrote that he found the pedal spacing to be a bit off, noting: "The gas pedal is a little far away to make a simple roll of the foot work."

It's an editor dust-up! Seriously, though, I've been driving the MS3 for more than a week straight now, which makes me, if not uniquely qualified, then at least passably certified to weigh in on this subject.

Shifter: James wrote: "Frankly, it's hard to believe the Miata's and Speed3's shifters come from the same company -- they couldn't feel any [more] different." A fun hyperbole, for sure, but the MS3's shifter is still pretty good in my opinion. True, its throws are not exceptionally short, but there's still an overall solidity to it that I find pleasing. I don't need (or want) every car to have a shifter like a Miata's.

As an aside, when shifting from second to third or from third to fourth, the shifter will occasionally make a low-decibel sound (in addition to the normal gear-shift sounds) that I can only describe as "rubbery metallic." If you've ever watched the new Battlestar Galactica, there's a sound effect the show uses for when a pilot pushes the fire button for his (or her) Viper's guns. The MS3's sound is kinda like that. I don't know if the shifter is supposed to sound like this, but it's kinda cool nevertheless.

Pedal placement: I'd side side with Erin on this. I haven't had any problems here with heel-toe downshifts.

Clutch: I second James here in that I do find it tricky to modulate when starting out in first gear. The initially soft throttle response doesn't help matters.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Not Digging the Pedals

November 27, 2009

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Actually the pedals themselves are fine. It's their spacing that's bugs me. Erin says she thinks they're perfect for heel-and-toe downshifting, but I can't agree. The gas pedal is a little far away to make a simple roll of the foot work. You have to do the full-on 45-degree foot turn to get a good stab at the gas. Hardly the worst pedal setup I've ever seen, but a little unexpected from a car that's so otherwise well sorted.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Edmunds.com @ 3,699 miles

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Not the Easiest Clutch

November 20, 2009

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I'm going to have to disagree slightly with Erin regarding the Mazdaspeed 3's manual transmission. I've been driving it a fair bit this week and its clutch is still proving difficult to consistently drive smoothly. Normally, give me a few minutes and I'll acclimate quickly. But in the 3, I find the clutch engagement point and the eager turbo-4's throttle tip-in to be tough to modulate when driving around town. I actually stalled the damn thing when I got stuck at our garage's steep exit last night.

Give it the full wood and I've got no complaints. However, this lack of smoothness in sedate driving could be irritating to live with everyday, just as my old Acura TSX was. More driving is certainly in order.

I'm also not enamored with the gearbox, which could feel more mechanical and direct. Frankly, it's hard to believe the Miata's and Speed3's shifters come from the same company -- they couldn't feel any different.

Mind you, don't take these past two posts as a sign I dislike the Mazdaspeed 3. For the money, it's still a whole lot of fun.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 3,223 miles

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: The Secret Handshake

November 16, 2009

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When you tell someone that you're driving a Mazdaspeed 3, you get a certain look of respect. It's the same look that you might have got if you'd driven a BMW 2002 tii in the 1970s, a VW GTI in the 1980s, or a Nissan Sentra SE-R in the 1990s, as if you were a member of the True Brotherhood. Probably there ought to be a secret handshake or something.

Maybe Mazdaspeed 3 drivers should get going on that secret handshake thing.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor @ 2,832 miles

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Edmunds Insurance Estimator

The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2010 Mazda Mazdaspeed3 in VA is:

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