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While the 2013 Mazdaspeed 3 continues to offer invigorating performance, sharp handling and impressive practicality at a budget price, its appeal has been diminished by recently introduced competitors.
Strong turbocharged performance; precise handling; available premium features; hatchback utility; reasonable price.
Pronounced torque steer; tricky manual transmission; below average fuel economy; cabin feels less premium than rivals.
Available MAZDASPEED3 Hatchback Models
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The Mazdaspeed 3 gets more and/or upgraded technology features for 2013. A USB audio interface is standard, while Pandora Internet radio and HD radio are added to the Technology package. The navigation system now features a larger, centrally mounted touchscreen versus the old compact unit controlled by steering wheel buttons. There are also some exterior changes, including extra black trim and gunmetal dark alloy wheels.
It's not easy getting old. The 2013 Mazdaspeed 3 doesn't have to worry about its knees getting weak, its back aching or its paint turning gray. It does, however, have to worry about the young whippersnappers coming onto the scene that outshine it in a number of ways.
Before we get to those new kids on the block, however, let's look at what the Speed 3 still has going for it: power. With 263 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, this Mazda's turbocharged four-cylinder is outrageously robust for a car that shunts its power to the front wheels. This makes for muscle-carlike acceleration, but then it also brings with it a fair amount of unwanted torque steer as well.
Nevertheless, handling is still a strong suit, augmenting the already excellent regular Mazda 3 with a sport-tuned suspension and other mechanical upgrades sure to please around corners. And like the non-Speed 3, it boasts a practical hatchback body style that encourages Ikea and canyon runs alike.
Last year, giving advice about hot hatches used to essentially come down to two choices. Want maximum bang-for-your buck performance and superior handling? Get a Mazdaspeed 3. Want more comfort, refinement and easier-to-operate controls? The 2013 Volkswagen GTI was your answer. This year, however, the new and highly impressive 2013 Ford Focus ST has effectively split the difference between those two rivals. While the Speed 3 and GTI are still worth a look, the Ford would be awfully hard to pass up.
Of course, none of these front-wheel-drive hot hatches can match the go-fast ability and all-weather assurance of the Subaru WRX. And they definitely can't come close to the agility and all-out fun of those other new whippersnappers, the rear-wheel-drive Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ twins.
Age has not rendered the 2013 Mazdaspeed 3 irrelevant. It's still a fun, well-equipped, surprisingly practical performance bargain. However, those younger, more attractive choices need to be strongly considered.
The 2013 Mazdaspeed 3 is a high-performance variant of the Mazda 3 available in the hatchback body style only. There is also only one trim level: Touring.
Standard equipment includes 18-inch wheels, a limited-slip differential, foglights, keyless entry, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, a height-adjustable driver seat, leather and cloth-trimmed upholstery, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and a USB audio jack.
The Technology package adds automatic and adaptive bi-xenon headlights, LED taillights, automatic wipers, keyless ignition/entry, a blind-spot warning system, SMS text reading and reply, Pandora Internet radio connectivity, HD radio, satellite radio (available separately) and a navigation system with a touchscreen and voice commands.
The 2013 Mazdaspeed 3 features a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that sends 263 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels. A six-speed manual is the only available transmission.
In Edmunds performance testing, the Speed 3 went from zero to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds, which is a bit quicker than average in the segment. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined. These are considerably lower than its Ford and VW rivals.
Every 2013 Mazdaspeed 3 comes standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. A blind-spot warning system and an automatic emergency notification system are included with the Technology package.
In Edmunds brake testing, the Mazdaspeed 3 came to a stop from 60 mph in 113 feet. That's a very short distance, though typical for this class of car with summer tires.
In government crash tests, the regular Mazda 3 received four out of five stars for overall crash protection, five stars for frontal protection and three stars for side protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave it the best possible rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests.
The Mazdaspeed variant differs from the regular Mazda 3 with its upgraded gauges and sport front seats that have standard black leather upholstery with cloth inserts. The red-dot pattern of the upholstery is reminiscent of a Nike athletic shirt from the 1990s (we don't consider that a good thing), and in general, the cabin feels a little downmarket compared to a Ford Focus ST or Volkswagen GTI. It is a step up from the Subaru WRX and Scion FR-S, however.
For 2013, the Speed 3 gets an upgraded navigation system, which includes a touchscreen that also controls the audio system. This is not only better than what it replaces, but it's more intuitive than the Focus ST's MyFord Touch system.
The front seats are comfortable, but you'll find more adjustment and support in a GTI or Focus ST. Similarly, the backseat offers acceptable room, but VW has a step up here as well. The Ford is about the same. Some may lament that no sedan body style is available, but the standard hatch allows for a greater level of practicality. There are 17 cubic feet with the rear seats raised and 42.8 maximum with them lowered.
Routing 280 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels is usually a recipe for torque steer. This phenomenon is minimal compared to cars of the distant past, but the 2013 Mazdaspeed 3 can still seem as if it has a mind of its own when you're too aggressive with the throttle while carving a very acute corner. Some might view this as part of the fun, but others may be willing to trade in a little power for the less wild power delivery of a GTI, Focus or especially the all-wheel-drive Subaru WRX.
In any case, there's no doubt that the 2013 Mazdaspeed 3 is one of the best-handling and most entertaining hot hatches on a winding road. Impressively precise like few other front-wheel-drive cars, the steering provides plenty of communication and faithfully transmits information from the tires. Considering the car's performance potential, the suspension also provides a fairly compliant ride, though the Mazdaspeed 3 ultimately isn't as comfortable as some other competitors. In testing, we've also found that its clutch take-up can be tricky compared to other cars.
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