Senior Editor Erin Riches reminded us why the 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 ranks so highly among our staff. She summarized, "The Mazdaspeed 3 has an edge to it — and the sensitive, gotcha clutch uptake is only the beginning. Throttle response is sharper in the Mazda, with less of that damped-for-your-comfort feel. Turn-in also feels much quicker in this car. And everything, from the engine note to road noise, is a few notches higher than many of its competitors."
She continues, "It is as if the Mazda wants to remind you that, yes, you are in a sport compact, even if it's a practical hatchback. If you're on a back road with it, you better get on the throttle hard coming out of the corners. You better drive the car, you know. And the more I mull, the more I think that this quality is becoming rare in the sport compact class. I understand the point behind making such cars more livable and accessible for people stuck in traffic. But for myself, I will continue to prefer edgier sport compacts like the Mazdaspeed 3."
Why We Got It
We added the 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 to our long-term test fleet for several reasons: Chevrolet Cobalt SS, Honda Civic Si, Mini Cooper S, Subaru Impreza WRX and Volkswagen GTI. In its first iteration, the Mazda bested each of these subcompact competitors in head-to-head comparison tests. And for 2010 the second-generation MS3 was redesigned.
When you start with a winning formula there isn't much to change. So Mazda approached the new Speed 3 with small brushstrokes. Minor engine modifications in the form of electric power steering and redirected air intake were a start. Both improved efficiency without altering engine output of the 2.3-liter turbo, which remained at 263 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. Slight gearing adjustments minimized the high-rpm power loss prevalent in the first-gen four-cylinder. And minimal suspension tweaks sought to refine driving character without changing the recipe too dramatically.
Cosmetic alterations were another element of the new Mazdaspeed 3 that we couldn't overlook. Mazda felt that first-generation MS3s weren't aesthetically different enough from their lower-horsepower siblings. Mazda made sure that wasn't the case in 2010, and did so in significant fashion. Some questioned whether the styling went too far. Others suggested it was a design that would grow on us. What better way to test this theory than 12 months and 20,000 miles with a 2010 Mazdaspeed 3?
When it came to how the MS3 drove, our impressions were split. In the center of this disagreement was the clutch. Driven purposefully, the 3 was appreciated but around town there was backlash. The long-term blog was riddled with perspective on the subject. "There's a lot to like about the Mazdaspeed 3, but I'm stuck on the touchy clutch," wrote Associate Editor Mark Takahashi. Deputy Managing Editor Caroline Pardilla added, "...damn that clutch. So jarring; something I wouldn't want to deal with every day. It made me feel like a beginner." And Automotive Editor James Riswick inserted his two cents with, "...its clutch is still proving difficult to consistently drive smoothly. I actually stalled the damn thing when I got stuck at our garage's steep exit last night."
Edmunds Executive Editor Michael Jordan embraced the MS3's personality. He spoke for the majority when he posted, "Almost stalled it just pulling out of the parking garage. Actually love that. The action of the Mazdaspeed 3's shift linkage is one of the best there is in any car, front- or rear-wheel drive. The action is firm, the throws are exactly the right length and the gear engagement is precise. The clutch still feels like it snaps over-center as you engage it, yet it's controllable as soon as you get past the first release. There are those who say the action of the shift linkage and clutch pedal is a kind of driving test. Yes, it is. That's what is so great about it."
Inside the cabin we were occasionally confronted by the MS3's limitations. Long road trips praised seat comfort. Its hatchback styling showed us why hatchbacks are the most utilitarian design around. But it wasn't all positive. Senior Road Test Editor Josh Jacquot explained, "Sized at only 2.25 inches by 3.5 inches, this is among the smallest navigation screens found in any car sold today. Bottom line? It's just too small. The problem is amplified by the fact it's so far away from the driver. Mazda's logic behind this small screen was that it would be able to offer the system at a lower cost of entry than many of its full-sized competitors. In the standard 3 it succeeded by making it a $1,195 option. In the Mazdaspeed 3, however, the option is part of the Tech package, which costs $1,895 and includes premium audio and keyless entry. For that kind of green, I'll buy a Garmin."
Mazda recommends maintenance on the MS3 every 7,500 miles. And aside from prescribed visits our car never saw a service center. We averaged an affordable $63 for the first two intervals, both courteously handled by Long Beach Mazda. This dealership also took care of the only recall during our ownership of the Speed 3, which was for replacement of the 12-volt adapter in the center console. Apparently, some cell phone chargers were incompatible and prone to sticking. Lithia Mazda in Fresno performed the 22,500-mile service for about $75. Our only other expense was the result of a hit-and-run that removed the side mirror from the defenseless Mazda as it sat parked on a residential street. Somebody out there still owes us $1,200 for that one.
Total Body Repair Costs: $1,244
Total Routine Maintenance Costs (over 12 months): $200.94
Additional Maintenance Costs: None
Warranty Repairs: Replace 12V adapter in the center console
Non-Warranty Repairs: None
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 3
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: None
Days Out of Service: 5 for body damage repairs
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None
Performance and Fuel Economy
Our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 withstood the test of time. Performance between the beginning of our test and its end was virtually identical. Mazda makes a statement by building a car that dominates its segment not only when new but again with 23,000 miles behind it.
Dynamic testing sets the MS3 apart from its competition. We recorded our fastest slalom speed of 70.5 mph in the long-term Mazda, though tests of a different car show it's capable of 72.4 mph. Senior Editor Josh Jacquot questioned this: "Lowest slalom numbers yet. It makes me wonder if this car didn't get the careful alignment attention of its counterparts. Or, the track was slick. Or, there's always the human factor." Around the skid pad the Mazda generated a respectable 0.89g of lateral force.
In a straight line the 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 was impressive. From a stop it reached 60 mph in 6.0 seconds (with 1 foot of rollout) and completed the quarter-mile in 14.3 seconds at 99.7 mph. Jacquot added, "It's just as difficult to launch as other MS3s. All bog or boil, and the tranny protests when rushed."
Best Fuel Economy: 29.5 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 16.5 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 22.1 mpg
Our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 entered into the long-term test fleet with 15 miles on the odometer and an MSRP of $25,840. One year later we had increased the mileage to 23,426 and decreased its private-party sale value to $19,079 based on Edmunds' TMV® Calculator.
Overall depreciation on the MS3 was 26 percent. For reference, following their tests our long-term 2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STI lost 22 percent of its value, 2006 Honda Civic Si 23 percent and 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 24 percent. Depreciation on the Mazdaspeed 3 seems about average for this segment.
True Market Value at service end: $19,079
Depreciation: $6,761 or 26% of original MSRP
Final Odometer Reading: 23,426
At the end of the day we couldn't find a sport compact car to match the capability of the 2010 Mazdaspeed 3. We tested it against all comers and the results were unchanged. Heck, we even threw it into a burnout contest and it won that, too. The only test left was a face-off with time herself. Guess who won?
Our MS3 didn't miss a beat throughout 23,000 miles of durability testing. Mazda made some changes to the first-generation car and, mechanically speaking, they were all improvements. We would prefer a more user-friendly navigation screen. Its exterior styling didn't grow on everyone after all. And the twitchy demeanor of its clutch pedal was not always welcomed in a daily driver capacity. But Mazda didn't build this car to appeal to the masses. That in itself earns it some credibility, too.
Some long-term test cars struggle to reach the 20,000-mile landmark. Others reach it with ease. Our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 falls into the second group. This car was never picked last and there was always a steady fan club. Even those weary of the clutch pedal uptake found themselves behind the wheel time and again for its other rewarding qualities. These are the same folks whose parents told them, "Brussels sprouts are good for you. Keep trying them. One day you'll like them." So with regret we returned the keys to Mazda. We'd have liked to keep it for another 20,000 miles.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.