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2010 Mazda Mazdaspeed 3: What's It Like to Live With?

Read the latest updates in our long-term road test of the 2010 Mazda Mazdaspeed 3 as our editors live with this car for a year.

Mazda Mazdaspeed 3 2010

What do you want to know about?


In 2007 the Mazdaspeed 3 was born. We were immediately smitten. Mazda's in-house tuner car quickly earned top honors in the land of sport compact cars. Though Mazda was relatively new to the scene after a couple special editions of the Protégé, the Mazdaspeed 3 already offered best-in-class power, grip and cornering balance. No other vehicle in this price range could match its level of sport and practicality, and it wasn't long before we realized this Mazdaspeed 3 could even hold its own against more expensive vehicles. This was the car to beat for the past three years. And for 2010 it was all new.

We've tested the Mazdaspeed 3 through all generations and against all comers, so it was significant that early impressions of this 2010 MS3 were positive. Engineering Editor Jasan Kavanagh wrote, "Styling wasn't what the MS3 was all about when it was introduced. It was about being a practical and cost-effective ass-kicker. And the 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 still is."

Further support for the new 3 came from Senior Road Test Editor Josh Jacquot. Jacquot added, "On the street, driving hard over rough pavement, the new car is outstanding. And it doesn't really matter how stupid you decide to get. Want to dive into a suspension-crushing dip filled with rough pavement at 80 mph? No problem, the new car can handle it."

We have tested the Mazdaspeed numerous times. So why test it again?

What We Got
There weren't many options when it came time to order our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3. Would you like the Sport trim? Good, that's your only choice. How about optional convenience packages? Want some of those? There is one, and we ordered it. For $1,900 the Mazdaspeed Tech package adds a 10-speaker surround-sound system, six-month Sirius radio subscription, color navigation screen, keyless entry and push-button start. There aren't many cosmetic options, either. A hatchback is the only body style available. And all interiors come two-toned, red and black.

Mazda has removed the guesswork from all performance-related options, so one size fits all. Standard go-fast equipment includes P225/40R18 Dunlop SP Sport 2050 summer tires and a six-speed manual transmission. The Mazdaspeed 3 is powered by the same DOHC, 16-valve, direct-injection 2.3-liter four-banger. Turbocharged and intercooled, the engine generates 263 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. Power is delivered to the front tires via a torque-sensing limited-slip differential. Stability control and traction control are also standard.

When all was said and done, we scanned the lower right corner of the window sticker. Our Velocity Red Mica Mazdaspeed 3 cost $25,840 out the door.

Why We Got It
For 2010 the Mazdaspeed 3 has been redesigned and minor cosmetic alterations distinguish it from previous generations — most notably, the smiley face that creates a functional air induction duct at the front of the car. The suspension has also been refined from the previous generation to improve both ride quality and handling. In addition to suspension alterations, a new electric power steering pump and taller gear ratios add to the mechanical updates for 2010.

The Mazdaspeed 3 is the king of the sport compact world. And it has been since its inception. Through the years we've scrutinized the champ alongside competitive four-cylinders and more powerful six-cylinder rivals alike. Its record has remained spotless; it has never lost an comparison test.

The list of fallen is lengthy. In 2007 the Mazdaspeed 3 surfaced victorious in a subcompact shoot-out between the Chevrolet Cobalt SS, Honda Civic Si, Mini Cooper S, Subaru Impreza WRX and Volkswagen GTI. In 2008 the MS3 retained its title following a rematch versus the previous year's top contender, the WRX. In 2009 the Mazda defeated the newest variations of Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart and Impreza WRX. And for 2010 we raised the stakes, pitting the 3 in a comparison with the 3.8-liter Hyundai Genesis coupe and yet again the Mazda came out on top.

We've tested them all. Yet no other sport compact offered in the U.S. holds a candle to the 2010 Mazdaspeed 3. So it seems there is only one test remaining. Without further delay we begin the final test, Mazdaspeed 3 versus time. Over the next 12 months and 20,000 miles we'll do our best to beat this Mazda. Bring on the rush-hour traffic gridlock, slobbering dogs and Cheerio-wielding children. It's all going down on the long-term blog pages.

Current Odometer: 564

Best Fuel Economy: 22.0 mpg

Worst Fuel Economy: 17.8 mpg

Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 19.9 mpg

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

Easy Off

October 29, 2009

Here's one thing Mazda does right on all its cars including the really fun-to-drive models like our new Mazdaspeed 3. With a single touch of the button all the electronic babysitters simply disappear. Stability control and traction control are gone — just like that. No holding and waiting and waiting and waiting.

Amen, brother.

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor @ 1,218 miles.

The Track Numbers

October 30, 2009

Our long-term Mazdaspeed 3 is the third Mazdaspeed 3 we've tested since the car's introduction last August. And other than the little Mazda's "please-ticket-me-now" red paint, it's a brilliant machine which I plan to spend plenty of time driving.

Numbers after the jump...

Vehicle: 2010 Mazdaspeed 3
Date: 10/27/09
Driver: Josh Jacquot
Odometer: 1,000
Price: $25,840

Drive Type: Front-wheel driveTransmission
Type: 6-speed manual
Engine Type: 2.3-liter inline four cylinder, turbocharged and intercooled
Displacement (cc/cu-in): 2,260/138
Redline (rpm): 6,750
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 263 @ 5,500
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 280 @ 3,000
Brake Type (front): Ventilated disc
Brake Type (rear): Disc
Steering System: Rack and pinion
Suspension Type (front) MacPherson strut
Suspension Type (rear) Multi-link
Tire Size (front): 225/40R18 88Y
Tire Size (rear): 225/40R18 88Y
Tire Brand: DunlopTire Model: SP Sport 2050
Tire Type: Summer
Wheel Material (front/rear): Aluminum
As tested Curb Weight (lb): 3,242

Test Results:0 - 30 (sec): 2.6 (2.6 traction control on)
0 - 45 (sec): 4.3 (4.3 traction control on)
0 - 60 (sec): 6.4 (6.5 traction control on)
0 - 75 (sec): 8.9 (8.9 traction control on)
1/4 Mile (sec @ mph): 14.3 @ 99.7 (14.4 @ 98.3 traction control on)
0-60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 6.0 (6.1 traction control on)
30 - 0 (ft): 28
60 - 0 (ft): 115
Braking Rating: Good
Slalom (mph): 70.5 (67.5 stability control on)
Skid Pad Lateral acceleration (g): .89g (.89g with stability control on)
Handling Rating: Very good
Db @ Idle: 40.5
Db @ Full Throttle: 69.
2Db @ 70 mph Cruise: 65.6

Acceleration Comments: Quickest acceleration yet from a Mazdaspeed 3, but just as difficult to launch as other Mazdaspeed 3s. Wants to bog or boil off the line. Tranny protests when rushed, etc...
Braking Comments: Pads not yet bedded in on this car at time of test. No green fade, but performance not yet maximized. Made five stops with distances increasing each time then let things cool down before recording best run of 115 feet. Needs more thorough break in for maximum performance.

Handling Comments: Skidpad numbers not as good as last MS3 tested. Understeer dominates this car's character in this test. Lowest slalom numbers yet make me wonder if this car received the same attention to alignment specs as previous cars we've tested, which were carefully tuned (for differing priorities). Still, numbers aren't far off.

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor

You Write the Caption Two

October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween from

We took this picture of our newest long-termer, the 2010 Mazdaspeed 3, in our parking garage. Dracula PhotoShop work is by Mark Takahashi.

We suggest: MazdaBleed 3

What are your hauntingly good captions?

We'll post our favorite this afternoon.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Our Favorite Caption

October 30, 2009

Thanks to subaru123 for this week's favorite caption.

There were so many great entries, half of them from ergsum. We had to have two rounds of voting. We debated these finalists forever:

Little understeer, but a lot of overbite! (ergsum)
Is there anything in my teeth? (lowmilelude)
It comes with a six-speed Translyvanian. (eidolways)
The STI says you suck! (subaru123)
An Anne Ricer (ergsum)
Bumper sticker: "My Car Ate Your Honor Student" (ergsum)

These were the other succulent entries:
Mazdaspeed Demon (ergsum)
I guess daytime running lights and a sunroof are out of the question. (ergsum)
Does 0 to 666 in 6.4 seconds. (ergsum)
The competition looks a bit pale now... (stephen987)
Tricked out Treat! (ergsum)
You bite the caption (stpawyfrmdonut)
Laps up more than just track miles. (eidolways)
How many miles to the pint does it get? (ergsum)
Goes like a bat out of hell (mnorm1)
Exhume-Exhume! (actualsize)
Holds the fastest time up Widow's Peak. (sideswiper)
Bleed for Speed. (themiddleroad)
I vant to suck your Mobil 1 !! (SnakeDoctor)
Mazda takes FlexFuel concept to the extreme! (anonimo)
Trying to pass, is in vein. (mnorm1)
Neck and neck with the competition. (themiddleroad)
Traffic bites. (themiddleroad)

What was your favorite?

Happy Halloween.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Missing Gauge

November 02, 2009

The 2010 Masdaspeed 3 has a boost gauge (top right of this image) — a welcome addition, which the first-generation car lacked. It is, however, missing one critically important gauge in its instrument cluster. Any ideas?

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor @ 1,490 miles

Suspension Walkaround

November 11, 2009

With a new floor jack in hand, it's finally time to get back into suspension walkaround mode. And it just so happens that I brought said jack home in the back of our 2010 Mazdaspeed3.

Let's see what she looks like with the wheels off.

The Mazdaspeed's front suspension is standard fare you'll find on most front-drive compacts: A MacPherson strut (green) paired with an L-shaped lower control arm (yellow). A lot of these parts look very similar to those found within our departed 2008 Ford Focus SES.

But these components are even more similar to those found on the European Ford Focus - the one we don't get here. That's because the Euro Focus and the Mazda 3 both use Ford's C1 platform, wheras the US Focus uses the closely-related C170. Ford and Mazda may have parted ways, but this project was well along before that came to pass.

In fact it may help to switch back and forth to the 2008 Ford Focus suspension walkaround every now and then as we move along.

Struts almost always have their coil-over springs mounted at what looks like an odd angle relative to the strut body itself. Here you'll notice that the spring axis lines up with the steering axis. This spring orientation seeks to offset the side loads (and therefore the friction) that build up due to the off-axis orientation of the strut.

Here's a view of the L-shaped lower control arm from above. The orange arrow shows where the subframe terminates at the forward LCA mount, just like our Focus. Meanwhile the front stabilizer bar (yellow) loops over the top of the rack and pinion steering.

A slender stabilizer link attaches directly to the strut housng, signifying this as a direct-acting stabilzer bar.

The suspension knuckle (yellow) is cast iron. There's no aluminum in this suspension - which is what you'd expect at the Mazda 3's price point.

Tuning of all the various components is where the Mazdaspeed 3 differs from the base car: spring rates, shock valving, bushings, tires and stabilizer bars. But the basic hard parts are pretty much the same.

And the Mazdaspeed 3 indeed has much bigger brakes than either the standard Mazda3 or the US Focus. They're still single piston sliding calipers, but these have much higher stiffness and more thermal mass. Those rotors are bigger, too. In track testing, they haul the Mazdaspeed 3 to a stop from 60 mph in 113 feet with no fade after repeated stops. A standard Mazda3 does the same job in 127 feet.

Under the hood, we see these reinforcements at the upper shock tower. The Mazdaspeed3's massive intercooler, which we will see in a moment, precludes the use of a obvious stress bar that links and stiffens the shock towers. But squint into the dim (and poorly focused) shadows above and you'll see that this stiffener does attach to a crossbar that links it to its mate on the opposite side.

But that crossmember is completely hidden by the rear hood seal.

The 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 uses a potent 2.3-liter direct-injected turbo engine. The front tires must deal with every one of its 263 horsepower and, more to the point, 280 lb-ft of torque.

In my opinion that's too much, as the Mazdaspeed 3 pulls this way and that in a significant display of torque steer as you accelerate. It can be tiresome if you're not in "track" mode. Case in point: yesterday's cloverleaf freeway merge in which I had to roll on the throttle while unwinding the steering and upshifting (one hand on the shifter) to get up to speed and fill a gap in a line of traffic. With the body still heeled over a little, the unequal angle of the two driveshafts exacerbated the condition.

In the previous shots we've seen no special suspension geometry to reduce the scrub radius and the Mazdaspeed 3 does not have Ford's RevoKnuckle, a patented front suspension tweak they use in the European Focus RS to combat torque steer in that machine. Of course these issues never appeared in our 2008 Ford Focus SES because you have to have a lot of torque to have torque steer.

The Mazdaspeed 3 does have one significant torque-steer countermeasure, and you're looking at it. The black jackshaft above exits the transmission and moves the RH inner CV joint to a point that mimics that of the LH side. This allows the LH and RH driveshafts to be the same length and run at the same angle on straight and level roads. But this jackshaft still represents a longer load path to the RH wheel, and that presents more opportunity for windup.

Here I've removed the engine undercover for a better look. Everything is so nice and clean! But what's that I see written on the factory filter?

FoMoCo = Ford Motor Corporation Company. But you don't need to remove the undercover to change the oil in this machine. Let's put it back on and see.

The drain plug (yellow) sits just behind the undercover and the oil filter resides just inside the access hole.

This undercover is one of several airflow management panels our downmarket Focus never had.

The rear suspension is the same sort of control blade multilink suspension found on our Focus. There are slight difference here and there that reflect updates, but I suspect the European Focus has many of them, too.

The control blade (blue) is a trailing arm that locates the wheel in the fore-aft direction. The trick here is its very thin cross-section that allows it to flex a little so it won't interfere with the smooth operation three lateral locating links. The lower links (white and orange) define the toe-in of the wheel and their combined relationship to the upper link (yellow) defines the camber curve. It's a clear division of responsibilities that is very neat and tidy...and effective.

There it is again: the FoMoCo logo adorns the control blade, up near its forward pivot bushing.

Here's another look from below. The blue arrows show where Control Blade gets it's name. The upper link (yellow) is curved so that it loops under the load-bearing part of the unibody as it runs back to the rear bumper. And as we've seen many times before, the forward lower link (white) is much shorter than the rear one (orange) so that a stabilizing dose of rear roll understeer is created as the outer tire compresses in corners.

This view of the rear lower link shows why it's so beefy. There's so much going on that we might as well call it a lower control arm (LCA). From inside to outside, it's taking loads from the stabilizer bar, the coil spring, the secondary bump stop (yes, this car has two) and, of course, a variety of forces from the tires via the rear hub.

The rear stabilzer bar (yellow) may look large, but it has to be because it doesn't twist much owing to a motion ratio of only 0.4:1 relative to where it connects to the LCA via a stubby drop link (green).

I promised you a second rear bump stop, and here it is. This longer urethane stopper sits atop the shock. The use of two implies that this one contacts first, softening the blow gradually before the harder rubber stopper we saw before acts as the final travel limiter.

Of course the Mazdaspeed 3 uses rear disc brakes, consisting of single-piston sliding calipers and non-vented rotors. The yellow circle identifies this as yet another FoMoCo part.

Of course all of this rides on some sticky Dunlop rubber, size P225/40R18 with a high "Y" speed rating.

They're mounted on 5-spoke 18 x 7.5-inch aluminum alloy wheels that have a 52.5 mm offset.

Mounted together, they weigh 49.5 pounds apiece — about average these days.

A comparison of the Mazdaspeed 3 to our old Ford Focus shows how far chassis tuning can take you when you start with a sound suspension design (particularly the rear, in this case) and let Mazda engineers with a Zoom-zoom mindset select the detail specifications of each variable: shocks, bushings, springs, bars, tires, brakes, etc. Our '08 Focus was a car with a good chassis whose main performance "flaw" was a suspension tuning intentionally chosen to satisfy non-entusiasts at an entry-level price point.

Such a comparison also shows the limitations of such an approach, as the installation of this most excellent engine in this front-drive chassis starts to generate unwanted and undesireable torque reactions that adversely affect steering and handling when standing on the gas. And, let's face it, standing on the gas is what the Mazdaspeed 3 is all about.

The Mazdaspeed 3 chassis is maxed-out in this regard. Mazdaspeed 3 owners who install go-fast parts for even more power will likely make it worse, whereas rear-drive platforms such as the Hyundai Genesis Coupe and Nissan 370Z and all-wheel drive Subarus and Evos are much more tolerant of at-home tuning.

That said, all of this bodes well for the anticipated 2011 arrival of the European Ford Focus to these shores. The chassis has clear potential, and Ford holds the patent to the RevoKnuckle that promises to muzzle the torque-steer monster should they decide to bring out a powerful version such as the Mazdaspeed 3 or the Focus RS.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 2,435 miles


November 15, 2009

It's the newest member of our long-term fleet and it is most enjoyable.

My first taste of it came when I took the caption contest photo for Halloween. All I did was drive it from one floor of our parking structure to another. I didn't even get any higher than second gear and, boy, I could tell this car was zippy.

It's fast. It's fun. It's happy. And it's Car of the Week.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

The Secret Handshake

November 16, 2009

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.

When you feel the Mazdaspeed 3's turbocharged, direct-injection 2.3-liter inline-4 whistle toward the redline, it's easy to understand why, as this car begins with a great engine, just as all great cars do. Sure, there's 263 hp at the crest of the curve, yet what makes this motor special is its character. It has a mechanical soul that you can feel, though balance shafts help keep the sting out of it. It responds in the sharp, precise way that a great normally aspirated engine does, and yet it surges effortlessly towards its power peak in the energetic way that a turbocharged engine does.

The Mazda MZR 2.3L DISI is one of the world's great engines. Designed by Mazda, it powers everything from everyday Ford sedans to racing cars, notably the whole gamut of cars in Mazda North America's motorsports ladder, including MX-5 Cup, Formula Atlantic, and the Lola-Mazda coupes that compete in the American Le Mans Series. There were even a number of Mazda-powered Lola coupes at the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year. There used to be a lot of Japanese-built 2.0-liter engines as stout as this, but the new-generation engines in this category from most of Mazda's rivals have been designed with cost-effectiveness and low-friction fuel efficiency in mind.

It helps that you've got one of the great gearboxes with which to put this power to good use. Form the moment it appeared in the Mazdaspeed 6 and the first-generation Mazdaspeed 3, this gearbox seemed pretty special when it came to shift action, combining short throws with precise gate engagement like no other transmission in a front-wheel-drive car. Now the action requires less effort, and heel-and-toe downshifts (I'm a double-clutch guy myself; too late to unlearn it after all this time) are rewarded with shifts so slick that you can't even feel a hint of binding from the synchros. The clutch is still an issue, though, as it tries to overpower your leg as it springs into place, although it is slightly more manageable than before.

As chassis go, this is a great one. It's descended from the Ford Focus, which seems kind of mundane to us now because of Ford's marketing program for it in the U.S., yet is the handiwork of the widely respected Richard Parry-Jones, Ford's leading development engineer from the 1980s until his retirement 2007, who gave Ford's cars in Europe a world-class combination of ride and handling. If there's a better small-car platform (never mind the soggy U.S. calibration in the Focus), I have yet to drive it, and I'm counting the Honda Civic, Opel Astra and Volkswagen Golf among the competition. Of course, when you're trying to use full power, the Mazdaspeed 3 behaves as if you've got the tail of a very large and very agitated alligator, but the same might be said of any car with more power than the chassis can contain, especially a front-wheel-drive one. Personally I like it. After all, that's why they call it driving.

For all the chest-beating that we all do about driving the Mazdaspeed 3, though, the real secret to the car's goodness is that it's a Mazda 3 underneath. When you need your hot rod to be just a car, the Mazdaspeed 3 is there for you with a uniquely practical package with a compliant ride on the highway. In fact the real key to the respect you get from the True Brotherhood when you acknowledged the Mazdaspeed 3 as your preferred ride is that you have identified yourself as someone smart enough to have chosen a performance car without letting not only all his money stolen away but also the very utility that an automobile is meant to provide in the first place. This combination of speed and everyday usefulness is what made cars like the BMW 2002 tii, Volkswagen GTI and Nissan Sentra SE-R so special in the first place, and a car like the BMW M3 simply follows in their example (though not always successfully).

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

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor @ 2,832 miles

As Camera Platform

November 16, 2009

No, we didn't buy a 2010 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport. But did you ever wonder how we get these zoom-zoom road shots? The right answer is NOT photoshop. We call them "car-to-car" shots and it helps if we've got 3 people involved (one drives the subject car, one drives the camera car, and one shoots the photos), but here's one way to do it when you've got just one driver and one photographer.

Kurt Niebuhr steered the MazdaSpeed 3 with one hand and held a shutter release in the other. Unlike in the dark ages when cameras used something called film that required at least a day to view the fruits of our labor, we could periodically pull over, check the framing and exposure, adjust as needed, and proceed.

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ (+/-) 1,000 miles (a month ago)

Not that long ago...

November 17, 2009

...the Protege5 was the sportiest hatchback/wagon thing you could buy from Mazda.

Arguably the best handling car in its class, the Protege, like most Mazdas over the years, was always saddled with an uncompetitive motor. In base trim, the two liter motor gave you 130 horsepower. The MP3 Protege gave you 10 more, but asked for premium octane in return. The turbo added to the Mazdaspeed Protege bumped power to 170, but it was just no match for the WRX's, Civic Si's and most other tuned compact cars of the day. They were fun, but slow.

Well, those days are gone.

Not only does the 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 carry on the Mazda tradition of exceptional handling and steering feel, but now this thing's finally got a motor. Make that a motor-and-a-half. In any gear at any speed, this new hatchback/wagon thing just moves. But it's tractable too! Pull it up from 1500 rpm in sixth gear and there's no protest. And once you get into the boost (the transition going from off-boost to on-boost is very smooth) the motor just powers ahead. It's really, really impressive.


Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 2,905 miles

Open Thread

November 17, 2009

What do you want to know about the 2010 Mazdaspeed 3?

Have you driven one, been in one, seen one on the road?

Write your review in the comments section.

Let us know if you want us to take pictures or video of anything specific?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Good Gearbox

November 18, 2009

Drove our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 last night and had much the same feeling of euphoria Kurt did. I haven't driven a Mazdaspeed 3 in ages, and this is the best one yet. Everything just seems a little more refined, a little better sorted out in this car.

I particularly like the six-speed manual gearbox. The shifter's gates are well defined and there's solid, positive feel as you move between gates — you can tell this hardware comes from the company that builds Miatas.

Along with that, heel-and-toe downshifting couldn't be any easier. The pedal spacing and clutch takeup are dead-on on for this activity. In fact, if I was going to teach someone to heel-and-toe, our Mazdaspeed 3 would be a great choice. Close gear ratios make it easy to find the right amount of throttle blippage. Big four-cylinders (turbo or not) are also good for novices — a good amount of torque, but not too much, so you don't have to worry much about underdoing or overdoing your blips.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 2,960 miles

Nighttime Mood

November 19, 2009

This will be the first of many entries about the lighting in our long-term 2010 Mazdaspeed 3. Though it appears there's a lot of red and blue competing for your attention here, it's not at all overwhelming in person. Every dial and control is easy to find, which is critical, since there are a lot of them and since the minimalist navigation controls are all on the steering wheel.

But it goes beyond functionality. Mazda has created a mood with all these lights, and it takes you far away from the car's economy roots. I've never cared for ambient lighting, which seems like a gimmick in most cars, but I like the blue glow of the Mazda's foot wells and door panels. Perhaps it's because I'm already excited about driving this car in the first place.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 3,170 miles


November 19, 2009

I didn't expect to explore the limits of our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3's hauling ability so early in our relationship. But last night four tires (mounted on alloys) and other assorted racecar supplies needed to make a 40-mile trip.

The 60/40 rear seats were immediately folded; they go perfectly flat to open up a 43-cubic-foot space. Just about every cubic foot got used last night. I couldn't see out the back, obviously, so I made frequent use of the Mazdaspeed 3's large, well postioned side mirrors, plus my own capacity for situational awareness, on the freeway.

The load was probably equivalent to having three adults in the backseat, and I was definitely aware of the extra weight when accelerating or turning. Still, I didn't have any difficulty getting up to cruising speed — the Mazdaspeed has a 280 pound-foot torque rating, remember.

But the trip home, sans load, was a lot more fun. I delighted in the hatchback's now unencumbered feel and the empty freeway ahead of me. Fun car.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 3,164 miles

Get Rid of This Red Dot Trim

November 20, 2009

Pictured is the standard upholstery found in the Mazdaspeed3. Below you'll find the standard door trim and dash trim found in the Mazdaspeed3. It's all a weird dot-matrixy wave pattern in red — and I don't like it. I think it looks cheap and tacky.

Contrast these to the old Mazdaspeed 3 seats. Were they especially visually interesting? No, but they were two-tone, didn't look tacky and frankly seemed to be of a higher quality. Perhaps the rest of the interior could've been spruced up a bit, but not with weird dot-matrixy red stuff.

The real problem is, this trim is mandatory. There is no upgraded upholstery or a different color scheme. Even if you get it in Celestial Blue Mica, you get a black and red dot matrixy interior. There should be a way to avoid this stuff, just as you can with the GTI's plaid (which I love, so I wouldn't) or the Mini's grey/black leatherette.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 3,223 miles

Not the Easiest Clutch

November 20, 2009

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

Stress Relief

November 23, 2009

Last week was particularly stressful. I'm in the middle of escrow and trying to move out of my current place, all while watching a river of money flow from my accounts. It makes me pretty nervous to say the least.

I was surprised to see the Mazdapeed fall so far down the list as for me to drive it over the weekend. I was pretty thankful. With all the inspections, faxes, checks and nervous hours I've been on edge. The Mazdaspeed fun factor was exactly what the doctor ordered.

I drive a regular ol' everyday 3, and I think it's pretty fun. But with the addition of the turbo and suspension bits the Speed version takes off. With every blast of the gas, I felt the stress melting away. I found that after a few good corners, I was smiling. That was the first time I've smiled all week!

When I pulled in front of my apartment later that day, I felt good. Kinda like I had a nice message or woke up from a nice nap. The Speed is good medicine.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

What Does This Button Do?

November 24, 2009

OK class, tell me, what does this button do?

If you said "Well Mr. Riswick, it is the Advanced Keyless System's trunk-mounted lock/unlock button" you would be completely wrong. Nope, that's what the below button does.

Instead, the top button is essentially the trunk's latch. The old Mazda 3 had the usual pull handle under that indentation where you naturally grab the liftgate and pull it up. You could do it in one motion. On the new car, you must press the button, then move your hand down to the grab point — unless, of course, you have giant long alien hands and can still do it in one motion. You also now have that silly dot in the middle of the trunk.

I just don't get it.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 3,300 miles

Not Digging the Pedals

November 27, 2009

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, @ 3,699 miles

Would I Get It Over a Mini Cooper?

December 07, 2009

I was stuck in traffic next to a red Mini Cooper S yesterday and it got me thinking of our departed 2007 long-termer. Both the MCS and MazdaSpeed 3 have an energetic, turbocharged personality that appeals to me. The Mazda isn't as fizzy or nimble as the Mini, but in return it's considerably more practical. That got me to thinking: if I had to pick, which one would I buy?

Interestingly, our old MCS cost $25,220, while our MS3 checks in at $25,840. Part of me really would want a Mini Cooper. I think I'd just enjoy owning it more. But the other part of me thinks of how I have a wife and child to frequently cart around. In this case, practicality, at the expense of personality, would put an MS3 in my garage.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 4,161 miles

Another Take On The Shifter And Pedals

December 10, 2009

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

Comparison Test Versus 2010 VW GTI

December 14, 2009

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

James Riswick, Automotive Editor

Work and Play

December 16, 2009

With a break in California's rains and beautiful skies overhead, I couldn't resist revving up the Mazdaspeed 3 for a curvy-road drive this morning. This has always been the beauty of the "hot hatch" formula: your affordable workaday hatchback dons a heroic red cape when needed. The Speed 3's thumping power output is certainly its signature supernatural power. I never got tired of laying into the 263-horsepower turbo-four on empty straights. The engine is also surprisingly smooth-revving up to its 6,750-rpm redline.

Hearing that the new Speed 3's bumpy-road manners have been improved as compared to the last generation's, I specifically chose an older single-lane road with lots of bumps and camber changes. Here, the MS3 was, well, interesting. The somewhat soft boost response plus all that torque going through the front wheels does not make the MS3 particularly smooth to drive when exiting corners. Sometimes, the steering wheel just has a bit of life of its own. Otherwise, though, the quick steering, grippy tires and impressive damping control make the MS3 a hoot.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 4,307 miles

Respectable Fuel Economy So Far

December 18, 2009

I'm a little surprised to see that our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 is maintaining a 21.2 mpg lifetime fuel economy average so far. Normally, the performance cars in our fleet take a dive due to our heavy right feet. But as of our last Big List of Fuel Economy, we're matching the EPA's combined estimate of 21 mpg. Fuel range is fair, with about 300 miles being the most we've managed to squeeze from a tank of gas.

One other thing: the MS3 has an instant fuel economy readout. In general, this feature's value is debatable as average economy is more useful. Plus, most cars with instant economy show it via a silly bar-graph display or a readout number that bounces around constantly.

Notably, the Mazda's computer seems to average-out that constant variation a little to give you a more stable instant number. It might not be as precise as those constantly fluctuating ones, but it saves you the trouble of constantly watching a varying display and trying to guess what your "instant average" is on your own. As you can see in the photo, I was going at about 75 mph on flat highway and had a display of 29.5 mpg, which I thought was kinda neat.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Fender Gap

December 21, 2009

Is it just me...

Or does the huge fender gap on the Mazdaspeed 3 look a little ridiculous?

I'm a fan of this car. In fact, I think it's the most rewarding car to drive hard in its class. But arriving there meant using a specific tire which was determined after the body and wheel styling was already complete. And it simply looks awkward. Needs more sidewall. Or to be a bit lower. But either of those things would compromise the way it drives.

And Mazda wasn't having that.

Is it worth it?

Josh Jacquot, Senior road test editor

Nice Gauges for a Car Like This

December 29, 2009

Haven't driven the Mazdasped all that much at night. Turns out, it's quite nice inside, especially for a $25K car. The red glow of the instrument cluster and it accompanying controls reminded me of our S5, which is not a bad comparison given that the Audi is over double the price.

At first, the blue contrast seemed a bit gimmicky, like the Mazda designers were trying to channel their inner Scion or something. But after driving it for awhile I found that the added contrast actually makes the gauges that much more readable.

Not a big deal really, all cars should be so thoughtfully designed. Performance cars like the Mazdaspeed 3 should be held to a slightly higher standard, however, and in this case it passed the test.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, @ 5,040 miles

Break-in Procedure

December 31, 2009

You just bought a 2010 Mazdaspeed 3. Do you follow the break-in precautions noted in the owner's manual, or just go for it?

No special break-in is necessary, but a few precautions in the first 1,000 km (600 miles) may add to the performance, economy, and life of your Mazda.
- Do not race the engine.
- Do not maintain one constant speed, either slow or fast, for a long period of time
- Do not drive constantly at full-throttle or high engine rpm for extended periods of time
- Avoid unnecessary hard stops.
- Avoid full-throttle starts.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager

Belated Milestone

January 04, 2010

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.

Great Steering

January 14, 2010

I jumped from our longterm 2009 Audi S5 right into our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 yesterday. And you know what? This little Mazda's steering is better. I'm not talking about aesthetics; I'm talking about the way it works.

The Mazda's steering has more heft. Loads up better, too. The Audi is responsive and quick but feels robotic, as it's too light and there's little buildup of effort. That is, until it decides you're going for it and abruptly throws a bunch of resistance at you. Not very subtle.

Who would have guessed a FWD hatchback could better the steering of a premium-badged GT of twice-ish the price?

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

On Display

January 25, 2010

I wish the 3's audio display were bigger and lower — I find myself having to squint to figure out which station I've landed on. The HVAC display could stand to be lower as well. On the other hand, people who care about things like average speed and average fuel economy are pretty well served.

The 3 is just as much of a blast as you'd expect. Quick, engaging and fun, despite its somewhat finicky clutch. The frisky little hatch added a burst of excitement to even the most mundane weekend errands.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 5,260 miles

Surprised More Cars Don't Have This Feature Yet

January 26, 2010

Not sure why putting turn signal indicators in the side mirrors didn't occur to manufacturers earlier. Oh I'm sure there are some federal regulations that mandate their location to some degree, but putting them closer to people's field of vision seems like a smart move.

They've slowly been migrating to mirrors on luxury cars as if they're some kind of fancy extra, which I guess they are to some degree. Well, extra this is, not fancy.

On our Mazdaspeed 3 they're nicely integrated so they don't look tacked on or overly obnoxious. I'm guessing we'll be seeing more of these on more cars and trucks in the coming years and that's probably a good thing.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor,

A Smile Poll

February 04, 2010

Finish the following sentence: "This front styling ..."

A) ... Is growing on me

B) ... Oh yuck, shrink that picture! Shrink that picture!

C) ... Could be worse I guess, but I like the old one better

D) ... Is smiling! Awwww, that's adorable!

E) ... Is dopey, but at least functional for air flow

F) ... Is crap, but who cares? Check out that turbo!

(I'm siding with C for now)

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 6,461 miles

The Red Shoe

February 08, 2010

One of my friends says our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 looks like a big shoe. "That long, flat hood and that stubby hatchback rear... yep, it's a big shoe." He says the same thing about the BMW M coupe and strangely there are two examples of BMW's wild-child hatchback living in our office garage. Both are red.

So, should a self-respecting car guy-person have any reservations about driving around in a giant red shoe? I, for one, do not.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 6,571 miles

Stopping Power

February 11, 2010

Our longterm 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 sports some impressively short stopping distances (30 - 0 in 28 feet, 60 - 0 in 115), and this morning's commute provided me the "opportunity" to exercise this capability.

A jogger apparently decided that the laws of physics ceased to apply to her this day as she sprang out directly in front of the bright red hatchback while it was traveling at 35 mph. And not at a crosswalk, I might add, which most certainly would have projected a impenetrable force field around her.

This thing reaches a halt right quick, and to that I credit its sticky summer tires and firm, responsive middle pedal. Ms Jogalot should be thanking her lucky stars I wasn't driving an SUV.

Coffee? Yeah, not really needed this morning.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor


February 14, 2010

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

Hair Trigger

February 15, 2010

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

Navigation Woes

February 16, 2010

Note the size of the Mazdaspeed 3's navigation screen (also a Multi Info Display) relative to the vast expanse of dashboard which surrounds it. This is an issue...

Sized only 2.25 in. x 3.5 in. this is among the smallest (if not the smallest) nav screens found in any car sold today. Bottom line? It's just too small. The problem is amplified by the fact that it's so far away (see top image for perspective).

Mazda's logic when developing 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. And in the standard Mazda 3 it succeeded by making it a $1,195 option. It is a fully functional system which allows scrolling (see above image) and other features, but any interface is made difficult by its size and distance from the driver.

In the Mazdaspeed 3, however, it's available only as part of the Tech Package which costs $1,895 and includes premium audio and keyless entry. And for that kind of green, I'll buy a Garmin.

Josh Jacquot, Senior Road Test Editor

Open Thread

February 16, 2010

What do you want to know about the 2010 Mazdaspeed 3?

Have you driven one? Been a passenger in one? Seen any on the road? Want one for yourself?

Put your thoughts and questions in the comments section.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Hauls a Green Machine

February 17, 2010

You can't do that in a Camaro. Or a Challenger. Or a Mustang. Hatchbacks rule.

It must be tough being a Camaro owner that needs to haul his Green Machine. But this morning our long-term Mazdaspeed 3 swallowed mine with no problem. I folded the Mazda's split rear seat in seconds (it couldn't be easier) and rolled in my concours quality three-wheeler with little effort or drama.

You probably didn't know I'm a Green Machine enthusiast and participate in Green Machine events nationwide. There's a small but enthusiastic group of us that race and show our Green Machines around the country and we've been growing in numbers every year.

This year the Green Machine Nationals are in Cortez, Colorado and I'm seriously considering our Mazdaspeed 3 as the appropriate transport. Even with my beloved on board there's still room for my wife and my stamp collection. That's right, I'm also a philatelist.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 7,997 miles

I Love Torque Steer!

February 17, 2010

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

Gauges Like a Minivan

February 18, 2010

Most of the gauges that are there are fine, but the fact that a performance car like the Mazdaspeed 3 does not have a coolant temperature gauge, an oil pressure gauge or an oil temperature gauge is just plain wrong. Fact is, with the exception of that useless boost gauge, our Mazdaspeed 3 has no more instrumentation than the last Honda Odyssey minivan we tested.

WTF Mazda? Why do you expect me to zoom-zoom around without monitoring the engine's fluids?

Maybe if Patrick Dempsey mentions it to Mazda's product planners, we'll get some proper gauges in the Mazdaspeed products. You listening Patrick?

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

More Legroom Than I Thought

February 18, 2010

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.

It doesn't look like much clearance. And every time, I notice it, I think, "there's no way a Mazdaspeed 3 would ever work as my family car. I'd end up getting a WRX or Lancer Ralliart SportBack instead."

But while it's true I could never get a reverse-facing car seat back here, there's more room back here than it initially appeared.

I, for example, can sit in this this space, as the soft front seatback is sculpted to accommodate protruding knees. Mind you, the driver might feel those knees pressing in on his spine, but the space is there. Foot room underneath the driver seat is passable, too.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor


February 19, 2010

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

It's the Thought That Counts?

February 23, 2010

I checked the oil in our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 last night in Stockton about 350 miles before the end of a 1,000-mile road trip. It was a long fuel/windshield squeegeeing stop, so the car sat for 15 minutes before I pulled the dipstick. The oil level registered below the "min" mark so I bought a quart 5W30.

I was pleased to find this red brushed metal oil cap. It's as if Mazda anticipated that Mazdaspeed 3 owners would be interested enough in their cars to poke around under the hood, so the company put in a special treat. But like I say, the cap is metal. So if you are at a gas station without a pair of work gloves, that cap is hot, hot, hot.

Mind you, if I owned the Mazdaspeed, I'd probably get on a regular schedule of checking the oil and topping it off at home when the engine is cool... But that isn't always possible, so the cap should probably be boring black plastic.

I poured in half the quart to get the oil level back up where it needed to be. There's a nice cradle of a space to position the bottle for funnel-less pouring. I'm not keen on the dipstick design, though. It's conveniently right in front, but it's kind of buried. A longer tube would be nice.

After my road trip (and you'll be getting a couple more posts about it), we are over the 7,500-mile mark — at which the Mazdaspeed 3 should receive its first oil change, per the owner's manual. So we'll make an appointment very soon.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 7,916 miles

Scenes from CA Highway 16

February 24, 2010

Although I mostly stuck to interstates on my 28-hour road trip in our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3, all cruise and no play would have made Erin a very dull car-journalist-person indeed. But I had my California Thomas guide, so I plotted out on a detour on California's Highway 16.

I picked up 16 at Interstate 5, but it doesn't start to get good until after you pass through the town of Esparto just past the 505 interchange. I already had the Mazda's navigation system programmed for my eventual destination, and it became quite alarmed when I left the interstate. It refused to recalculate the route on back roads, so I ignored it for the next 45 miles until it finally came to its senses. (Bottom line: Any nav system is better than no nav system, but this one is about 5 years behind the times, and apart from the tidy packaging, not a great buy over a portable.)

Now Highway 16 is not a highly technical road, but for a car-person already in that part of NorCal who just wants a nice series of high-speed turns, it delivers. You get to appreciate the turbocharged engine's big torque, and the road tightens up enough to justify a few heel-and-toe downshifts.

The steering also feels good off-center, firming up just as it should. The road is smooth, too, so of course, the Mazdaspeed 3 felt buttoned down through the sweepers. And the seats held me in place nicely.

I had fun on Highway 16 and reminded myself that I was in a fun car — something you just can't do on a numbing interstate run.

I averaged 24.7 mpg for the whole 967.4-mile road trip, by the way. The tanks were remarkably consistent — all 300+ miles and all in the 24-mpg range. Notably, I wasn't as demanding of the throttle as on some previous road trips.

Undoubtedly, all the rains we've had show off Hwy 16 to best effect right now — it's just as green as it looks in the photos I took on little side roads off of it. The wildflowers should be radiant in a few weeks.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 8,252 miles

12-volt Socket Swap

February 25, 2010

Our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 is making a trip to the Mazda Service Center tomorrow. Mazda tells us that some vehicles have a design defect that causes certain power cords (specifically those made for Verizon phones) to get stuck in the 12-volt power sockets.

A formal TSB hasn't been issued at this point but it will be soon. The fix is quick. Each 12-volt socket is swapped out for a redesigned version. That's it. Those who don't own a Verizon phone may never even need to worry.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 7,920 miles

Buttons, Ride Quality and Guns

February 25, 2010

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.

One thing I couldn't get used to, though, is all the buttons on the steering wheel. They're nicely organized with navigation stuff on the right, audio controls on the left and cruise buttons at the bottom, but it's just too many. Despite the texturing on the buttons, I never progressed to no-look cruise operation.

I'd much prefer a cruise stalk at the 4 o'clock position. And, no, I don't need separate on/off buttons.

Above is the last of my photos taken on a side road off California Highway 16. This bridge is near a marked picnic site in Yolo County. I thought I might take a walk into those green hills after lunch, but turns out they are the property of the local gun club.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 8,251 miles

Yeah, it can do that too.

March 02, 2010

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

Say Cheese

March 03, 2010

So what do you think? Does it look less smiley-faced in black?

Thanks to skyggge for sending in a photo of his long-term Mazdaspeed 3.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Trigger Pull

March 09, 2010

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.

In this animation, you'll see where I place the friction zone in the travel of the clutch pedal. Before the plates begin to grab, there's a bit too much travel and effort for my tastes. I liken it to a pistol trigger with a heavy spring and lots of freeplay - a double-action revolver, for those who have done any plinking.

Here is the clutch action in one of the cars I think got it right - a Lotus Elise. Yes, I know, I'm biased, but several professional drivers have commented on how this particular clutch just seems perfect. There's not as much travel before the initial bite, and the friction zone is much wider.

Does anyone out there prefer the setup in the Mazdaspeed 3 over the typical clutch profiles?

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor @ 8,720 miles

Service at 7,500 Miles

March 12, 2010

As Erin mentioned our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 recently came due for its first service. We anticipated the 7,500-mile interval to set us back about 65 bucks. This visit includes an oil and filter change, tire rotation and various visual inspections.

We called Long Beach Mazda to schedule an appointment and nobody picked up. The operator directed us to the service department twice and the phone just kept ringing. So we just showed up without an appointment. An advisor approached us immediately, wrote us up and told us the car would be ready in about an hour.

He wasn't kidding. In about an hour our phone rang, "Sir, your car is ready for pick up." Before we could finish paying the cashier our car was pulled around to the service drive. It was a very pleasant dealer experience. By the looks of things, business wasn't exactly hopping. But less business meant more customer service in this case. I'll take that every time.

Total Cost: $41.60

Days Out of Service: None

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 8,685 miles

You Write the Caption

March 19, 2010

Vehicle Testing Manager Mike Schmidt sent me this photo of the Mazdaspeed 3 while traveling to the Cask 'n Cleaver Steakhouse in Fallbrook, CA.

We suggest: Caged Heat

What is your caption?

We'll post our favorite this afternoon.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Our Favorite Caption Two

March 19, 2010

Thanks to technetium99 for this week's favorite caption.

Here are the others that made us grin:

Mazdaspeed Trap (ergsum)
You have the right to a mechanic. (ergsum)
You will respect my authoritay!!! (technetium99)
What we've got here is...failure to decelerate! (ergsum)
The Magnificent 3. (lowmilelude)
Wanna get (rick8365)
They don't call it "Arrest Me Red" for nothin'. (lmbvette)
For A Few Dollars could have had plaid seats! (technetium99)
You may Zoom-Zoom, but don't pass GO and do not collect $200. (thegraduate)
High-ho smiler! Away! (ampim)
Happy 16th birthday, Opie! (creeper)
I should have known Weed would be a shabby town. (mnorm1)
263 Ponies Express (ergsum)
Hatchback Mountain (ergsum)
Guilty Pleasure (bluepunk82)
Wild Wild East (bluepunk82)
West World, where nothing can go wrong, go wrong, go wrong... (mnorm1)

What was your favorite?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Uh, Not So Much

March 30, 2010

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


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

Driving Test

April 01, 2010

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 that first release.

There are those who say that the action of the shift linkage and clutch pedal in the Mazdaspeed 3 is a kind of driving test.

Yes, it is. That's what is so great about it.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor @ 9,478 miles

Blends Into the Weekend

April 05, 2010

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

Design Critique

April 06, 2010

I appreciate a well-designed interior, with a dash that flows from one form to another with a modern look and feel that makes me realize we are indeed in the 21st Century. Our Mazdaspeed has a lot going for it, but I don't think the interior design is one of them. Here's why.

It's busy. In design-speak, that means there's a lot going on here that could probably be simplified. And simple usually leads to elegant. On basic shapes alone, there is room for improvement - take the dash top display cowl for example. It's got a nice arching shape that connects with the center stack. Not bad. But then there's a rectangular color display and a backlit LCD next to it. These shapes represent the proverbial square peg in a round hole. In addition to that, the displays do not fill the cowl very well and sometimes show redundant information.

Then there's the vents - a mix of round and rectangular. I like round vent, personally, and think that Mazda could've dropped two of them in the center of the dash - like Audi does. But really, the big sticking point for me was the choice of textile pattern that is also echoed in the plastic dash trim. It's a black background with a red gradated , coarse dotted effect. All that comes to mind when I see this is a Nike workout shirt from the mid-1990's. I think some that in a sporting car, such as the Mazdaspeed 3, Alcantara or some fake microfiber suede would've have been an infinitely better choice. But keep the red stitching, that's always tasty.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor @ 9,769 miles

Easy To Get Comfortable In

April 07, 2010

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, @ 9,788 miles

A Sport Compact With an Edge

April 08, 2010

Because I can, I'm going to pile onto Mike's "Hot Hatch Not Found" entry from yesterday. I, too, have spent time in both our long-term 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 and 2010 Volkswagen GTI recently. And, as Magrath says, the difference between them is stark.

The Mazdaspeed 3 has an edge to it — and the gotcha clutch uptake is only the beginning of it. Throttle response is sharper in the Mazda, with less of a damped-for-your-commuting-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 in the GTI.

It's as if the Mazda wants to remind you that, yes, you are in a sport compact, even if it is a practical hatchback. If you're on a back road with it, you better get on the throttle hard coming out of corners. You better drive the car, you know.

The more I mull, the more I think that this quality is becoming rare(r) in the sport compact class. Already, we have the GTI and the current-generation Impreza WRX (yep, even the 2009 and 2010), both of which are blissfully compliant and quiet on the freeway.

I understand the point behind making such cars more livable and accessible for people who get stuck in traffic. You end up selling more and then there's a business case for building more fun cars.

But for myself, I will continue to prefer the edgier sport compacts, the ones like the Mazdaspeed 3, turbo Cobalt SS and Civic Si that are a little noisier and a little more demanding of their driver.

Which side are you on?

Erin Riches, Senior Editor

"Can You Hear Me Now?"

April 12, 2010

Somewhere, deep within the bowels of Mazda's Engineering offices, somebody's got a twisted sense of humor. And the source of the guffaws is the MS3's Bluetooth phone interface. Make a call and when the phone hooks up, you're greeted with a blast of volume that typically registers around "40". And no, it doesn't default to what the stereo's volume was/is set to nor what the volume was at the previous phone call if enough time has passed (such as when the car is parked while at work). And yes, I checked the manual to see if it was somehow pre-set to " For those about to rock" level, but such was not the case.

Obviously, I just quickly spun down the volume knob when this happened, but it's as annoying as TV commercials that come on way louder than the show you're watching.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 9,890 miles

Thanks, Pal!

April 19, 2010

Wasn't parked on a narrow street. Wasn't parked on a blind corner.

Wasn't the recipient of a note from the savant that took the liberty of rapidly disassembling the sideview mirror of our long-term 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 for us, either.

Thanks, pal!

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

Side Mirror Replacement

April 20, 2010

Our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 side mirror doesn't look this good quite yet. It's still parked in the garage of our body shop. Our preliminary estimate values the replacement mirror at $145 and its unpainted plastic backing at $25.

That cost doesn't seem to steep until we consider the rest of the damage. When the mirror assembly rocketed from its perch, the components struck the a-pillar and fender. The impact caused paint damage to both areas. To repaint one area means to repaint and blend the neighboring panels. So add those to the bill. In this town that makes for another $1,000.

We'll report back when the keys are back in-hand and the total cost is confirmed.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 9,900 miles

Design Critique, Part Deux

April 29, 2010

In my last Mazdaspeed 3 post, I made it clear that I wasn't a fan of its interior design. Well, I'm also not very fond of its grille, either. I don't like cars that look happy or "cute". Especially if a car has performance leanings. So, above, you see the actual Mazdaspeed 3 at my favorite racetrack, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Click through to see how I decided to alter the grille.

Even though I did the Photochop on this, I think it can stand some additional work. When I was done, I thought it looked too much like a Celica. That said, I still think it's better than a cheesy smile. What do you think?

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor

A Night On Team Mazdaspeed

April 30, 2010

I'm a flag-waving member of Team GTI around these parts, but that didn't prevent me from being wildly amused by the Mazdaspeed 3 last night. It's just a helluva hooligan, boosty, bucking bronco wild child that's absolutely impossible to drive in a relaxed manner. I don't think it would let you. I'm convinced that if you try to shift at 3,500 rpm, it'll suck you under the dash, spit you out through its great gaping maw and run you over with its Dunlops.

And yet, if you manage to somehow go easier on the gas, the Mazdaspeed is beautifully agile and controlled around corners. On a mostly deserted evening through West L.A. when I managed to make almost every light, my few turns were taken fast and with composure. I just love the nimble nature of hot hatches like the Speed3.

Of course, I'd come out of those turns and gun it. Holy crap, here comes the boost. There goes the steering. Shift to third. Here comes the boost again. There goes the steering again, though not as badly as before. I'm as much containing the car as driving it.

The Speed3 is just a hoot. I still wouldn't want to live with it every day and unlike that rat Candice from Survivor, my team allegiance won't be flipping. But for one night on Team Mazdaspeed, what a thrill ride.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 10,333 miles

Belated Happy 10,000 Miles

May 03, 2010

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

Gotta Love a Hatchback With a Hood Scoop

May 04, 2010

Not all hood scoops are appropriate. Those Toyota trucks with the fake hood scoop? Inappropriate. Our Mazdaspeed 3's hood scoop? Perfectly acceptable. Kind of cool even.

I mean, seriously, there aren't many hatchbacks that can pull off a hood scoop without getting laughed out of the parking lot. There's no doubt the Mazdaspeed 3 can back it up given its speed and agility. Sure, some idiot bystanders who don't know anything might think it looks silly, but that's only because they don't know the truth. To those that do, it's a nice little reminder what this car is capable of.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, @ 10,523 miles

Well Red

May 05, 2010

It's not like I spend all my time checking out paint jobs or anything, but as I was passing the Mazdaspeed 3 this morning, I couldn't help but admire its impressive coat of Velocity Red Mica. The paint was all sparkly-like in the sun, as if it had been sprinkled with the glitter dust of a thousand drunk pixies.

The thing about glitter is that it's notoriously camera-shy, so this photo doesn't even begin to do it justice.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 10,550 miles

Happy Hour

May 06, 2010

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

Yep, It's Easy to Park

May 14, 2010

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

Makes Errands Fun

May 17, 2010

Yesterday evening I had to pick up a few things from the grocery store for the upcoming week. Such a trip can be done with just about any car. But the Mazdaspeed 3 is one that also encourages you to take the long way back. The punchy engine, sharp steering and taut suspension tuning can make even the mundane drive fun. Power down the windows, turn up the satellite radio and give the MS3 some exercise. Once you're back at your house, I guarantee you'll be in a better mood than when you left.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 11,208 miles

Refined Where It Counts

May 19, 2010

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

Part Of The Manual Club

May 21, 2010

I like cars that come with manual transmissions only. Seeing a Mazdaspeed 3 on the road invites a sense of kinship — just like you, that other driver has bought this car even though it meant having to "deal" with a manual transmission. On the flip side, ninety-something percent of the driving public would never even consider this car because it doesn't offer an auto.

It's certainly a poor business plan — Mazda could sell way more Mazdaspeed 3s if it offered an automatic or an automated dual clutch manual. Even so, cars like the MS3 get an extra point of coolness in my book.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Versatility Is Still King

May 24, 2010

A few days ago I was putting myself into the mindset of the potential hot hatch buyer. What would I get? Mazdaspeed 3? WRX? GTI? But then I also thought: Would I get a V6 sport coupe instead? After all, the new V6 Camaro and Mustang are way better than they were before, and pricing for most of these cars is in the mid-$25,000 range.

If I were young and single, I think I could make a strong argument for rear-wheel drive and 300 horsepower. But now that I'm older and have a family, the versatility of a hot hatch can't be ignored. Just this weekend I used the Mazdaspeed 3 for a variety of tasks, including taking my family to a friend's barbeque, buying a bunch of groceries and hauling stuff out of my garage to a storage unit (exciting weekend, eh?). Other than the trip to the storage unit, everything could have been done with a sport coupe. But the MS3 made it hassle-free while still being nimble and fun to drive. Advantage, hot hatch.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 11,351 miles

Interior Storage

May 27, 2010

Back in April editor Mark Takahashi wrote how he didn't think too highly of the Mazdaspeed 3's interior design, specifically the red dot fabric that reminds him of a '90s Nike workout shirt. Can't disagree with that; it's a bit silly. On to more practical matters, though — the Mazda has a lot amount of storage bins for your stuff. Some long-term cars we've had were really bad in this regard, with the 2006 Pontiac Solstice being the most memorable in my mind. Our 2009 Honda Fit Sport, in contrast, had a lot of nooks for your modern-day bits. So, cell phones, bottles, iPods — where does it all fit in the Mazdaspeed 3?

Front door bin, driver-side dash slot and center dash slot. The driver-side slot is pretty good for a wallet. The center slot ahead of the shifter (with the "no smoking!" sticker) isn't as useful, but occasionally I've thrown the MS3's key in here.

Front cupholders, center console and glove box. My phone typically ends up in one of the cupholders. The center console has a removable upper tray that also slides a bit. This is also where the second power point and auxiliary audio jack are. The glove box is two-tiered — you can't see the owner's manual in the picture, but it's in the upper and deeper slot.

Sunglasses holder, rear door bins and rear passenger-side map pocket. Nothing fancy here, but they work. There are also cupholders in the rear pull-down armrest.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Does Torque Steer Kill the Fun?

June 01, 2010

Over the weekend, I learned that a friend of mine who'd told me he was going to heed my suggestions and get himself an unassuming gray Mazdaspeed 3 backed out of the deal. The reason? Torque steer. "You warned me about the torque steer," he said, "and it drove me nuts."

Then, he looked over and saw that I was driving our Mazdaspeed 3. (We met up at a grocery store.) "Well, you obviously like the car," said my friend, "and for the price, it really does offer a lot of performance. And I like how it feels so solidly screwed together."

"Yeah," I said, "I've kind of just accepted that torque steer is part of its personality like with the current Mini Cooper S. And I like the total package that the Mazda offers so much — the ride, the straight-line performance, the handling and the good driving position — that I'm willing to look past this shortcoming."

So here's a question. Would torque steer stop you from buying and enjoying a Mazdaspeed 3?

By the way, I subsequently took my friend's frankenbmw, an E36 M3-powered 318ti, for a spin around the block, and that car completely recalibrated my sense of abrupt clutch engagement. Drive that car and you'll never again complain about the comparatively easy-peasy setup in the MS3.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 11,842 miles

The View

June 03, 2010

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

2010 Mazda Mazdaspeed 3 as Family Car

June 07, 2010

A suburban duty cycle for the zoomy MS3 this weekend had me fingering the car's hatch-mounted belly button several times. The first time was to install my daughter's car seat and the second was a grocery run. I found something I liked and something I didn't like.

Those of us with children understand why the center position in the rear seat is preferable for mounting a LATCH-equipped car seat: That position is effectively in the center of the car and as such is farthest away from potential intrusion from any side. Also in the Mazdaspeed3, it happens to be between the rear-seat headrests that in some other cars are sometimes in conflict with the top edge of the child seat. All seems to be going well, right?

But then I went into the cargo area to affix the top tether and found only the outboard positions had anchoring points. Bummer. Seems like an oversight to me.

We also did a little grocery shopping and, as hatchbacks do so well, the MS3 swallowed up a week's worth of groceries. I love the hatch's easy access that obfuscates having to put on a miner's hat with a light to see the entire mother load of booty. I did, however, introduce my forehead to the cardboard luggage cover — once — when I reached for the back.

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 12,090 miles

Not Sure If I Buy It

June 08, 2010

Ok, last night when I got into our Speed3, I looked at the pattern on the fabric inserts and thought to myself that they looked kinda cheesy. If I was a buyer, this fabric would give me pause for thought.

Now let me just stop you right there. This fabric is THE pattern in the MS3. That's all you get. Would this be a deal killer for me? For this car, probably not. But it does make me think about the shopping mind set. I think if I had a choice, in about 99% of the instances I would say no to trendy. If I didn't have a choice, I'd really have to think about if I could live with it.

I get it, I'm getting old. Call me boring if you will, but I tend towards things that have simpler, clean, classic look. No, my aesthetic taste isn't absolute. I think there is always room for interpretation and experimentation. But my basic principle is that I don't want something too trendy, lest I look completely outdated in a few years time. Trends have a real good way of dating you. Remember that righteous high school mullet? Yeah, you know what I'm talking about.

If I'm putting down a good amount of hard earned money, I have to think about the longer term, not just the immediate future. Would you go for the trendy styling option(s)? Is it a deal breaker/maker for you? Do you even think about that in your vehicle choices?

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

Now That's a Proper Air Intake

June 10, 2010

I've noted before that the Mazdaspeed 3 is cool by default given its sizable hood scoop. But there are plenty of hood scoop wannabes out there. You know the types, hoods all full of holes that go nowhere and do nothing.

Not so on the trusty Mazda. As you can see, it's scoop is actually there for a reason. There's a big ol' rubber trim ring and everything. Simple car, simple pleasures.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, @ 12,232 miles

Big Mouths Are In

June 16, 2010

So our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 has a big, goofy grin. But just look at the mouth on this 2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG. And yes, the valet guy was appropriately baffled about why I'd want to take a photo of my little red Mazda with the Gullwing Benz. I bore him no ill will, though, as he left the driver seat exactly as I'd adjusted it.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 12,240 miles

Is This Cool or Lame?

June 16, 2010

The light show, not the music. But anyone who recognizes the song gets a bonus point for being over 30 (or for being mature beyond your years).

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 12,241 miles

Not Good, Not Bad, But Just Fine

June 18, 2010

This is the dash trim in our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3. It matches the seat upholstery that our senior photographer, Scott Jacobs, has gone on record as not liking. Up until last week, I was indifferent to this dash trim. Then, I rode in a family member's regular-strength 2010 Mazda 3 s Grand Touring hatchback, and it has a strip of flashy metallic trim (like the kind on our MS3's steering wheel) in this location and, yes, it does create some glare.

So now I prefer the trim in our Mazdaspeed 3. It's a little tacky looking and a little glossier than I'd like. But there's no glare and that's key in a driver's car.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor

OK, NOW I Get It

June 21, 2010

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

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

Edge of the Razor

June 30, 2010

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

Holiday Weekend Grind

July 06, 2010

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

At the Local Watering Hole

July 07, 2010

There are plenty of first-generation Mazda 3 hatchbacks around, but I've never bothered much comparing the two. Until Sunday, when I happened to be parked next to one while waiting for a cafe latte. I like the paint on this original Mazda 3 (which I know is not a 'Speed), but in this moment, it looked dated sitting next to our new, smiley Mazda. I also think the gen-2 car looks more upscale.

Interesting how similar the 17- and 18-inch wheel designs are, though. And no question, the first-gen Mazda 3 has a more natural location for a front license plate.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor

The More Desirable Hatch?

July 09, 2010

Last night I was all set to take the VW GTI home for the night when editor Josh Jacquot asked me to switch cars with him. Before I could raise an eyebrow at him, he said he had a good trade for me and actually preferred the car he had to the GTI. Yup, he had the Mazdaspeed 3. Why did he want to trade? Seems he was going to the airport and had to leave a car there during the time he was gone and apparently since we're short on cars, we needed to leave a car that wouldn't be missed.

I know! I couldn't believe that. I mean, I kinda like the GTI over the MS3. Anyway, turns out he needed to trade because the MS3 needs to be serviced soon and can't be left at the airport for a week. Heh.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 13,407 miles

Cruise Control Not Easy to Use

July 12, 2010

I'm such a nerd that I have actual conversations with people about the various possible control layouts for cruise control. Whenever someone says they prefer to have cruise buttons on the steering wheel, rather than as a separate control stalk, I think to myself, "Have you never actually used the cruise control?"

Rarely, in my experience, do you end up with an ergonomic layout when the cruise controls are on the steering wheel. Stalks are always easier to use.

The layout in our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 is one of the least user-friendly setups I've used in a while. This steering wheel is already chock full of buttons and switches. It certainly doesn't need separate "on" and "off" buttons taking up the lower left side of the wheel.

But the bigger ergonomic miss is on the other side of the steering wheel...

It's the toggle button for setting and adjusting your speed. Note the textured portions for "+" and "-". Note that they are both raised and feel identical to the touch. I have taken a 1,000-mile road trip in this car, and still I find myself fumbling around for the right button.

Here's what I'd like: Make the minus button indented rather than raised so I can tell the buttons apart at first touch.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 13,573 miles

No Wires, No Hassles

July 14, 2010

Our Mazdaspeed 3 has one of my recent favorite audio features: Bluetooth Audio. I say recent because, although the technology has been around for a while via the aftermarket, it's only recently started to gain traction among the OEMs. And I'm seeing it in many more cars. Even if most people still don't know what it is or what it does — even among those who drive our long-term cars.

So it's still somewhat of a novelty for me to jump in a car, switch to BT Audio mode and have my iPod automatically start playing tunes, with no wires to connect. And I like it even more for listening to Pandora.

At least that's the way it's supposed to work, and that's the way it works in the MS3. In some cars I've tested, like in Toyota and Lexus vehicles, I have to pair BT for hands-free phoning and BT for audio separately, even though I'm using the same device (an iPhone 3GS) for both purposes.

I've seen in some owner's manuals of vehicles I've tested that you can also skip tracks and pause and play the music using the car's controls with a compatible device, but my iPhone apparently isn't one of them. In the MS3, I can adjust the volume using the car's controls and play/pause the music, but track up/down doesn't work.

Full functionality, as with some iPod-integration solutions, would be ideal. But as Bluetooth Audio expands to more cars — and more people know what it is and want it — functionality will only improve. And music in the car will eventually become wireless.

Doug Newcomb, Senior Editor, Technology

Burnout Super Test #3

July 14, 2010


Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Face-Off Re-Do

July 16, 2010

We have a new Face-Off Tournament going over on Carpool, and as I drove the Mazdaspeed 3 home last night, I got to thinking about our first tournament that involved hot hatches. In it, the finals came down to the Speed3 and the GTI. Fitting, given that both cars are now in our long-term fleet, however, those were the previous-generation cars.

Since that original Face-Off, both cars are now better to drive. In terms of aesthetics, though, I'd argue the two cars switched places. The GTI's styling was previously holding it back, whereas the Speed3's new happy face styling is now doing the same (not to mention the cheeseball interior trim).

My vote for the Vdub has only become more resolute, but if the Face-Off vote were to be held today, would your vote change?

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 13,742 miles

Weekend Car

July 19, 2010

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

It's Just Right

July 20, 2010

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

Acute Steering Feedback

July 23, 2010

You can't accuse our Mazdaspeed 3 of withholding info. With just over 14K on the clock, the steering remains remarkable direct, and compared to most small-car offerings, your hands may as well be duct taped to the hubs. A little unnerving at first, all this info being transmitted through the wheel runs counter to the industry trend of isolating the driver. Then you remember how sweet it is to know the exact status of the driven/steered wheels, and you'll probably gripe about whatever you hop in next.

All this feedback is useful stuff in the MS3, what with the front tires being responsible for so much. The boost can hit pretty hard in this D.I. mill, but you always know exactly what the front tires are up to. There's some torque steer depending on the traction available (a near immeasurable amount by old Saab standards), but the tactile impressions through the wheel are accurate enough to make you long for day when all cars had this kind of feedback. It's never a bad thing to be able to sense the level of moisture sheen on the road.

Paul Seredynski, Executive Editor @ 14,076 miles

Well Hello Dolly

July 26, 2010

Our long-term Mazdaspeed 3 got looped into Home Depot Duty this weekend. No major appliances to get home, but we did need to move some. I made the trip down to the tool rental outlet solo to borrow a furniture dolly, expecting it eat into front passenger space. The dolly was just over 60-inches long, and I was thinking there's no way it would fit in back with just the rear seats folded.

Not only did the dolly fit (running straight back, and not canted sideways), but the front passenger seat could be moved back about halfway into its seat travel, making front passenger space wholly adequate if not spacious. Running straight back also meant I could have used only half the split-folding seat, creating another perch. The padded seat back even let me snug the dolly in place to inoculate it against the random lateral g's that always seems to spring up whenever the MS3 is out and about.

The MS3 hides its length well with width, which it camouflages thank to its bulbous hips. The rear doors also have some length to them — another boon to caching length. Home Depot run two (of eight?) allowed my spouse to come along when carting the dolly back, sadly instigating a need for the MS3 to swallow a leaf blower, several cabinet kits and a sharp-edged 76-inch wall bracket, which did protrude from the rear corner into the front cabin, but spilt no blood as long as I avoided snapping off 3-4 shifts.

I'm big on practical, and the hatchback MS3 fits that bill no problem. That it's a grippy hoot getting in and out of the canyons makes it a truly entertaining errand runner. Something a little less spacious (Viper? Z06?) from the long-term fleet might shrink weekend expenditures and the honey-do list.

Paul Seredynski, Executive Editor @ 14,256 miles

3510 Zoom-Zoom Avenue

July 28, 2010

Was on my way out the door this morning when I realized there were dueling Mazdas parked in my driveway.

The Mazda 6 lives here, the Mazdaspeed 3 was just visiting.

Two totally different cars.

Which one would you rather own?

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 14,316 miles

Is This Nav System Any Better Than a Phone?

July 30, 2010

That's the question that pops into my head every time I see the navigation screen in the Mazdaspeed 3. It's so small and distant looking the way it's buried in the dashboard. I don't have an iPhone, but even a regular ol' cellphone seems as easy to use and readable as the Mazda's setup.

Then again, the issue of in-car navigation in general is only getting more blurred as external devices improve their capabilities and reduce their cost. Wonder how long it will take for manufacturers to get rid of them altogether in favor of freeing up dashboard space?

Ed Hellwig, Editor, @ 14,376 miles

This Space Reserved

August 02, 2010

Erin let me borrow her long-term 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 for the weekend and I noticed that on the switchpod to the left of the steering wheel there are a lot of blank switches. There's 3 blank switches surrounding the stability control (DSC) defeat switch, and a big blank switch to the right of that.

My curious point is that this isn't some base-level luxury car with only a few of the gazillion options available. Our MS3 is well-equipped and doesn't have too many possible options that would be controlled by switches in that location.

I can't imagine what Mazda is saving those switches for. The Cruise master switch is off of the steering wheel, and Adaptive Cruise (ACC) and swiveling headlamps (AFS) aren't available on the MS3. Hmmmm.

What in the world are they saving those switches for? An export market perhaps?

I'll dig a little and see if I can solve this...unless you Mazda fanbois know the answers.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 14,500 miles

Take Driving Seriously, People

August 03, 2010

There's nothing like driving a confidence-inspiring car like our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3. Behind its wheel, I know I can easily take that particular on-ramp with the suggested speed of 30 mph at 40+, jump in front of that slow train of cars before the merge, stop in time when that F-150 decides he wants to be in my lane.

But unfortunately there's just one thing this car, or any fun car for that matter, can't take on: the slow, distracted driver.

There are about four fun spots on my drive to work where, when it's free and clear, I get my jollies: 1) the 405 N on-ramp at Howard Hughes Parkway - low-speed corner and then a straightaway with its own lane on the freeway, 2) the nice sweeping curve of the 405 N-90 W interchange (avoid the gnarly seam in the right lane...unless filming a video), 3) the end of the 90 W freeway which concludes in a 45-mph curve and then a straightaway and 4) the 30-mph kink of Walgrove-23rd street.

I was so looking forward to these in the MS3. But today on the drive to work was denied EACH TIME by slow and/or distracted drivers whether in a wolf pack, staggered so changing lanes was impossible or slow on their own. They were looking for something under their seat, content going the same slow speed as everyone else or just didn't realize that the speed limit was now 20 mph higher. Argh! What a waste of the MS3's time. Now I feel like I started the day on the wrong foot. Pout.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 14,534 miles

Now, That's Not Something You See Every Day

August 04, 2010

You know what's cool about this picture? OK, it's not a cool picture at all, even though I tried to art it up via Photoshop. In any case, what's really cool about the lights in the footwell of our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 is that not only are they blue but they only turn on when you park the car. A very nice, and pretty, way to find your heels that you took off while driving. Compare this feature to those in cars like the Scion xB where it's "Night at the Roxbury" throughout your drive, unless you opt to keep them off altogether, that is.

I asked vehicle interior expert on staff, Al Austria, if these blue footwell lights were in fact unusual. And he said that interior lights coming on when you park? No. Footwell lights? Common in luxury cars. BLUE footwell lights when you park a car? Highly unusual. So there you have it. Feel free to use this as your wallpaper.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 14,582 miles

College U-Haul

August 09, 2010

Most family units show up for college move-in day with an SUV. We arrived with the Mazdaspeed 3 and Nic's 1992 Mazda MX-5 Miata. Apparently we are sporty car people.

Once you flip down the seats, this 5-door Mazda 3-based package is all you need in the way of a U-Haul. Couple medium-size cardboard boxes in the back, two athletic bags on the shelf created by the flipped-down seat backs and then the obligatory sling-back camp chair with built-in cupholder (the college student's friend) thrown on top.

It's not like students go away to college these days with a streamer trunk full of formal wear. Even for law school it's just some T-shirts and a backup pair of flip-flops and that's about it, especially in Sacramento where it'll be blazing hot for another month or so. All the stuff that requires heavy lifting can be ordered on-line from big box stores and delivered by UPS. Even when we busted him out of Fordham after graduation last spring, we made it to the UPS store in the Bronx with four years of clothes (how many hoodies can a person wear, after all?) and assorted books and athletic gear in a half dozen boxes all packed in a Saab-aru 9-2X and still had room for three people.

Once you're used to going places in a sports car, you learn to pack just what you need. A five-door seems like a Chevy Suburban in comparison.

Of course, we still like trucks and SUVs, maybe more than most people, really. After all, when you need to trailer your sporty car to the track, a truck is just what you need.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, @ 14,550 miles.


August 11, 2010

I've driven our Mazdaspeed 3 for the last two nights and it's a blast to drive. I don't think anybody can argue that. It's got awesome acceleration, a great engine note and it handles like it's on rails.


Yeah, everyone has a butterface story. Lord knows some of them are pretty cruel. This is another one to add to the lore. It's a lot of fun, great personality, buuuuuuuuuuut.... Combine the mug only a mother can love with the funky fabric I'm not a fan of, the useless small navigation screen Ed Hellwig recently blogged about, and I wonder if this is such a great car.

Can you overlook it's looks and some funkiness? Would you drop your money on this car?

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

How Not To Make Friends

August 12, 2010

Commuting through West LA traffic can be tedious. The other day was no different.

I finally managed to get to the "pole position" for a red light. Behind me was a cop. Being 6pm and about four blocks away from the barn I knew he was at the end of his shift.

Light turns green, I give the MS3 a decent amount of acceleration, but not the full deal. Everyone else at the light was afraid of the cop didn't move. I was on the move and literally blew them away. The cop didn't like it. He accelerated hard up next to me for a "I don't like what yer doin' kid" warning. I was laughing inside as I watched the black and white gain on me in my mirrors. When I looked over and give him a bit of a smile, he was not smiling. Ironically he was on his cell phone (it's illegal to use your non-hands free cell phone here in Cali while driving).

I laughed out loud when I saw the iPhone slapped against his mustache. He did not laugh. He then made the left into the station and our standoff was over.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

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."

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 16,315 miles

Oh Yes, You Will Drive One

August 17, 2010

I've taken over the Long-Term Road Test fleet in a peaceful coup d'etat. And I issue this decree: Effective immediately, 2010 Mazdaspeed 3s and maniacal smiles for all. Mwahahaha!

Erin Riches, Senior Editor

What's a Station Wagon?

August 19, 2010

On the way home today, my daughter and I were chatting in the car and somehow I mentioned the term, "station wagon."

"What's a station wagon?" she asked immediately.

From your average 10-year-old girl this might not seem like a strange question, but my kid knows the difference between coupes, sedans, minivans, SUVs, etc., so her question caught my attention right away.

I started to explain: "You know, station wagon. Not an SUV or minivan, but a car with a rear lift door."

"You mean a hatchback," she said. "Like the one we're driving now," referring to the Mazdaspeed 3.

"No," I said. "Similar, but usually they're longer."

"An Avant," she said, getting impatient with the conversation.

Tissue, Kleenex, wagon, Avant. She was right, but I had never before considered that wagons were so unusual these days, she didn't even know the general term.

For the remaining five-mile or so drive home, I was determined to show her a station wagon.

We never passed a single one.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 16,409 miles

Great Manual Transmission

August 23, 2010

Myself and a few others here have griped about the abrupt clutch on our long-term 2010
Mazdaspeed 3. But the transmission is a different story: it's great.

The shift action is light, but with a positive engagement, and it has a very nice mechanical feeling.

The 6-speed MT has wider gear ratios than previous versions, but 1st gear is still a little low (numerically high) for me.

Triple-cone synchronizers are used for first, second and third gears, with a double-cone synchronizer for fourth gear. These help smooth the shift action. Also, low-viscosity transmission fluid reduces shift effort when the engine is cold.

Overall, a great transmission that makes up for the abrupt clutch.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer @ 16,700 miles

Sojourn to Solvang

August 26, 2010

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.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 16,978 miles

Half Inch vs. 1,000 Miles

August 31, 2010

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, @ 17,954 miles.

Wheels Still Look Great

September 01, 2010

I have always liked these 18-by-7.5-inch cast alloys on our long-term 2010 Mazdaspeed 3, and maybe the best thing about them is that they still look great after almost 18,000 miles in our test fleet. No curb damage, save for a small scrape on the edge of the driver-side rear wheel of all places.

The small lip on the P225/40R18 88Y Dunlop SP Sport 2050 tires undoubtedly has given us some protection when parking. Of course, the Mazdaspeed 3's compact footprint certainly helps as well, as it's pretty difficult to misjudge its perimeter too badly.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 17,892 miles

Nav System Not the Greatest, But I Use It a Lot

September 02, 2010

The "navigation system lite" in our long-term 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 has some notable disadvantages which have been variously pointed out by Ed and our technology expert, Doug Newcomb. Small screen, limited control functionality, limited POI database, the requirement to have SD-card-based updates mailed to you — yes, we've told you all that.

Yet, I find myself using the darn thing a lot. I don't use it to search for POIs. I'm just plugging in simple street addresses, all in the greater Los Angeles area.

The main thing I like about it is that entering an address is really quick, largely because the Mazdaspeed 3's navigation control toggler (on the right-hand steering wheel spoke) works a lot like the track ball on another beloved anachronistic device in my life — my BlackBerry — so I'm pretty fast with it (someday I'll make a video of that). Obviously, though, the Mazda's toggler doesn't have side-to-side capability so you have to use the rather cumbersome left/right directional buttons.

Of course, I could do all this with the Google Maps app on my BB 8900, but I like getting the audio prompts through the Mazda's speakers and I like having the map embedded and visible in the dash. Oftentimes, what I'll do is look up the POI on my BlackBerry, grab the address and then enter it in the Mazda's navigation system.

Obviously, an easily upgradeable aftermarket plug-and-play navigation system would fit the bill here and eliminate the need for either the BlackBerry or the Mazda nav system. I sure hope Denso, the manufacturer of the MS3's nav system, realizes this. If you want to get an annual update for this nav system now, you have to send off for a $199 SD card. Meanwhile, manufacturers like Garmin let you download updates for their nav units for less than half that.

Make no mistake, I like the mostly seamless intergration of factory-installed nav units, but I don't like them so much that I'd be willing to pay this kind of mark-up on my own Mazdaspeed 3.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 18,006 miles

Best Car for Friday Light

September 03, 2010

"Friday Light" is the euphemism L.A. traffic reporters use to describe the not-as-horrendous-as-the-Mon-thru-Thurs-drive Friday morning traffic pattern.

This morning was truly light, and I made the 36-mile run from Seal Beach to Santa Monica in 50 minutes instead of the typical hour and fifteen. And I did it in the Mazdspeed 3, which made it fun instead of just quicker than usual.

But since the Mazda had under a quarter tank of gas when I left the house, it cost me a 12.276-gallon, $39.27-fill-up before I parked the car at the office.

Pay to play, as they say.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 18,249 miles

How To Scroll Around, Step 1...

September 06, 2010

OK, I didn't go out of town this holiday weekend but I still tried to use the nav system in our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 to get around town from one event to another. However, it's just so terrible — small screen, 1990s graphics, not very intuitive.

I mean, you can't even scroll around the map very easily, like if you just want to see what the next street you're coming up on is. Zooming out usually zooms out too much where you lose street names.

The one-touch functions on the steering wheel nav buttons only allow you to zoom in and out and access the compass. Why would I need to access the compass? So I read the manual to figure out how one could scroll around. Hit the jump to see this exciting multi-step process.

Step 1: Hit "Enter."

Step 2: Flick lever on steering wheel down three times to "Browse Map & Mark."

Step 3: Keep your eyes on the road! And now you can scroll around.

OK, although it may be true that Mazdaspeed 3 owners will be able to do this without looking at the steering wheel, it's still one step too many. Why couldn't Mazda just replace that compass (accessed by pressing the side arrows on the steering wheel) with the ability to scroll around the map? That's all.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 18,299 miles

Pondering the Hood Scoop

September 07, 2010

So our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 has a very prominent hood scoop but the 2008 Mazdaspeed 3 we tested doesn't. And sure, Editor Ed Hellwig lifted the hood in a previous post but I wanted a closer look.

Peering into the scoop you see what appear to be two vents.

What they look like going in:

And what they look like going out:

The two-tiered vent and guide vane more evenly distribute air over the intercooler.

So why did Mazda decide to go in this direction? Turns out more air means more speed, as explained in our 2010 full test of the car: "By breathing in cooler fresh air and then chilling that air more effectively, the new car makes a bigger bang at high velocities that isn't reflected in the carryover ratings of 263 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 280 pound-feet of torque at 3,000 rpm."

And the previous model's more subtle scoop, which was integrated into the hood where the emblem is, just wasn't cutting it. In any case, I appreciate its sportier look and knowing that it's not a poser like, say, that 2009 Challenger.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

Spy Video Revisited

September 08, 2010

For some reason, I love looking back on our old spy shots of cars that are out now to see if what we said about them checks out. And also to see what we made a big deal about back then. I guess it would be kind of like looking at old issues of People Magazine to see who they thought were the new up-and-coming superstars back then. What ever happened to Tom Green?

For the 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 in this 2008 spy video, we guessed that Mazda wouldn't change the turbocharged four-cylinder but would improve the car's traction. Hmm. However, we did guess right about the other stuff — same turbocharged four-cylinder and stayed front-wheel drive. Woo hoo!

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

Illuminating Thoughts

September 09, 2010

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.

Apologies for the blur, but my point is still demonstrated fairly obviously here. Check out the instrument panel in this shot relative to the first one. Notice the difference in lighting intensity and color?

This is how the Mazdaspeed 3's instrument panel is supposed to look at night. That is, illuminated to an intensity which matches that of the world outside so its driver's irises aren't constantly correcting between the lighting intensity of the panel and that of the road. And as an added bonus, it doesn't leave his/her retinas smoking.

Problem is, the button which swaps between the two (on the left of the IP) is always, and I mean always, left in the brightest position. This happens when drivers turn on the headlights during the day which causes the IP to go dim and unreadable. Then they hit the button to max the out the panel intensity so it's readable in ambient daylight. I'm seemingly the only one on staff who even notices this stuff.

If I sound intimately familiar with the problem it's because it happens all the time with my wife's car. And it bugs me there too.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

Wook at That Widdle Face

September 09, 2010

OK, usually I abhor baby talk. I don't care how cute that drooling baby, that furry puppy or my boyfriend is, I'm not going to goo and gah over them. But every time I walk up to our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3, I can't help but coo and smile back. And you may hate on that front end all you want, but once you take this baby for a ride you'll find yourself making the same dopey expression.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor


September 10, 2010

Did somebody leave me a note casting aspersions on my heritage? No. Then was it a note or 3D caption describing the plumbing apparatus clearly visible through the windshield? No. Oh, now I get it. It was a reminder of what could happen if I, like the sincere idiot, cranked the steering wheel too soon while backing out of the parking space in our underground parking structure.

Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor @ 18,536 miles

Ello, ello

September 10, 2010

So I've been staring at this dashboard access panel for a while now and my curiosity finally got the better of me. It looks to be about the right size and in the prescribed location (3 feet from the driver's seat) for an OBD port. Do you know what it is?

Removing the cover plate wasn't very satisfying. Luckily, it didn't fall down some crack behind the dash board, though.

Sliding the door open reveals one more clue...

An SD card pops out. Is this an audio system Easter egg? Nope. It's simply the replaceable, updateable map information for the navigation system — and from the 2-3 year old date on the card itself, it looks like we might want to see if there's a 2010 card available.

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 18,620 miles

Shinari Concept Adaptation

September 14, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, Mazda unveiled their new Shinari Concept that may dictate its design language going forward. Personally, I think it's a huge step forward since I was never a fan of the smiley face on the current-generation vehicles.

Now, whether or not my concept after the jump is a step forward or backwards is up for debate.

Yeah, it's got a big mouth, but I think it works. I'm sure the DOT would require some sort of bumper, but maybe there's an engineer out there that has a solution. I also sharpened-up the character lines, continuing them from the doors to the nose.

So, what do you think?

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor @ 18,650 miles

Audio Review

September 15, 2010

Our hot little 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 is hoot to hoon and (naturally) a favorite among the heavy-footed on the editorial staff. And with a sticker price that pushes just past $23k, it's also a road rocket that won't burn a hole in most pockets. But if you want good stereo sound from the factory, you got to pay up.

The premium Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound system is part of the pricey $1,895 Tech Package on our long-term MS3, which also includes a "compact" in-dash nav system and keyless entry/pushbutton start. So the almost-$2,000 question is whether paying for all the extras to get the Bose audio is worth it. In a word: Yes. For more words on the system's merits and to see how it measures up, keep reading.

The Setup
The Bose system in the MS3 consists of 10 speakers powered by 242 watts. One is a 5.25-inch woofer cleverly mounted in a sealed enclosure that sits atop the spare tire in the hatch. We've seen a similar setup from Bose before (in our former long-term 2009 Nissan 370Z Touring for example), and it works wonders at producing big bass in a small space. The other eight speakers consists of a 3.5-inch "Twiddler" mid/high-frequency speaker in the center of the dash, a 1-inch tweeter near the lower-front corner of the window in each front door, a 6.5-inch speaker low in each front door, a 5.25-inch speaker in each rear door and another 3.5-inch mid/high speaker in each D pillar.

The Sound
We ran the MS3's Bose system through our standard audio evaluation process, which includes listening to jazz, rock, folk, pop and rap music tracks as well as non-musical test tracks to gauge clarity/lack of distortion, tonal balance, timbre, tonal accuracy, soundstaging, imaging and dynamics. (For more on our audio evaluation procedure, see the article Sound Advice.)

The Bose system was a bit boomy overall and often the low end overpowered the rest of the audio spectrum. But it's nothing that can't be tweaked away with a twist of the bass tone control. On the flipside, the system handled with aplomb the deep bass notes that start the Joan Armatrading track "In Your Eyes" (which make weaker systems buckle), and the bass quake of Outkast's "Ain't No Thing" was palpably powerful.

Low bass was also discerned as coming from the front of the vehicle, indicating a smooth transition between the front midbass drivers and the woofer in the rear. This was especially apparent on percussion-heavy sections, in which the visceral impact of the kick-drum was as in-your-face as the muscular midbass and taut upper-bass frequencies. And this meant none of the dreaded ping-ponging bass effect that some systems with rear-mounted subs exhibit.

Timbre and tonal accuracy — a measure of how faithfully a system reproduces the sound of musical instruments and of the original recording — were also above average. Midbass-heavy tracks, like Luka Bloom's "Cold Comfort" and Red House Painters' "Cabezon," were reproduced with very little distortion, although high-frequencies could be a bit shrill.

Where the system really excelled was with soundstaging and imaging, which is even more remarkable for such a small car. Width-wise the soundstage stretched slightly beyond the confines of the exterior and it was high and fairly deep. Imaging was mostly spot-on, particularly with vocals, thanks to the center-channel speaker. Bose's Centerpoint processing spreads the soundstage out even more, but at the cost of making the music — and particularly vocals — sound thin and unnatural.

The system easily aced our non-musical test tracks for staging and imaging, and it scored a rare "Fair" rating for low-level linearity and even rarer "Good to Excellent" rating for mid-level linearity, which shows how well the sound holds together at low and mid volumes.

The Sources
Besides music from AM, FM and Sirius radio and from one of six CDs that can be loaded into the in-dash changer, the MS3 doesn't give offer as many source options as most other cars. It does support Bluetooth audio for streaming music files, but you have to own a compatible mobile phone or portable music player. And the MS3 has an aux-in jack for plugging in a portable music player, but otherwise doesn't offer iPod integration, such as through a USB port, as with many automakers.

What We Say
Like the MS3's turbocharged 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine, the Bose system may not appear impressive on paper, but it out performs more powerful competitors. And it easily aced an test of branded system in cars costing less than $30k. Since the Tech Package option in the 2011 MS3 has been jacked up to $2,515 — and the included Bose system pumped up to 265 watts — the cost of the premium audio in our 2010 model looks more like a bargain.

The Scores
Sound: B
Source Selection: C-
iPod Integration: D
Cost: B-

Doug Newcomb, Senior Editor, Technology

The Difference of 10,000 Miles

September 15, 2010

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

The Hatch

September 16, 2010

It's a small detail, I know, but the design of our long-term 2010 Mazdaspeed 3's hatch makes me happy every time I put stuff in it. The access point (where you put your hand) to open it is maybe a little lower than optimal, but the payoff is that the liftgate is a continuous surface unmarred by a utilitarian handle. Closing the hatch is even easier than opening it, as the placement of the interior grab handle and the tuning of the liftgate dampers make it a one-hand, one-step process.

Obviously, it's pretty easy to design a lightweight, ergonomic liftgate on a compact car. And clearly, Mazda had to get this one right since the 3 is also sold in Europe, where everybody drives a hatchback and knows exactly how the tail end of one should work. Even so, the execution of this detail is yet one more endearing quality of the current Mazda 3 line.

Video of the hatch being opened and closed after the jump.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 18,890 miles

Hello Zoom Zoom

September 17, 2010

This is the welome message which appears in the multi-information display of a first-generation Mazda 3 — a normal car for normal people.

This is the welcome message which appears in the multi-information display on the second-generation Mazdaspeed 3 — a sports car for enthusiasts.

Do you care what your car says when you get in?

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

One Big Knob

September 20, 2010

This, friends, is how it should be. One big knob for tuning the radio. I'm tired of punching buttons. Aren't you?

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

Here, Let Me Fix That For You

September 21, 2010

As mentioned a few months ago by my esteemed colleague Ms Riches, there's a lot going on with our longterm 2010 Mazdaspeed 3's cruise control interface, which in turn makes for a busy steering wheel.

I don't find the Mazdaspeed's cruise especially difficult to use, but it is unnecessarily button-y. So let's take care of that.

First off, there is absolutely no need at all under any circumstance to have an "on/off" button for the cruise, never mind two buttons to achieve it. Just leave it "on" all the time like some other automakers do. Why would anyone ever turn it off? Drivers that don't want to cruise will continue to not press "set." Easy solution.

Not only that but the Mazdaspeed (as do certain other automakers' cars) defaults to "off" at every key cycle, which just drives me batty. Freakin' overly paranoid lawyers...

Second — the "resume" and "set +" functions can be combined into a single button. There, we just got rid of another button. While we're revising things, let's convert the raised nub on the "set -" button to a concave dimple like Erin noted. Good suggestion, Erin. I'll keep you in mind at Christmas.

So, here, let me fix that for you, Mazda:

Bam! Just like that, a blanking plate, three buttons and associated wires, connectors and electrons gone. Far less clutter and nonsense. And look at all that cost savings.

Please, Mazda, there's no need to send me a check — instead put the funds towards a RevoKnuckle style front suspension to get rid of some of the torque steer.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @ 19,331 miles.

Looking Inside The Engine

September 22, 2010

Today I found this great image on Mazda's media site. It's a cutaway of the Mazdaspeed 3's all-aluminum, 2.3-liter, double-overhead cam, 16-valve, direct injected, turbocharged and intercooled engine.

Click it. Make it bigger. And enjoy.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 19,488 miles

Controls Feel Good

September 24, 2010

The layout of the Mazdaspeed 3's center stack is a bit busy for my tastes. However, I really like the feel of the controls. Everything feels substantial, not flimsy, and the knobs move with careful precision.

Are flimsy controls a turn-off for you, or is this one of those things that only automotive journalists care about?

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 19,400 miles

Door Sill Plates

September 28, 2010

I happen to think that door sill plates can really class up a joint. What say you — classy or cheesy? They're standard on the Mazdaspeed 3.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 19,600 miles

Jiffy Pop

September 29, 2010

I think our Mazda Mazdaspeed 3 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 Mazdaspeed 3 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

More Virtual Insanity

September 30, 2010

Yesterday, I fired the first salvo in the Forza Motorsport 3 challenge in our 2002 Corvette Z06. As I predicted, Photo Editor Kurt Niebuhr beat my time of 1:37.968. What I didn't expect was his blistering time of 1:34.131. Some of our esteemed commenters also threw down some times that put me to shame. It looks like it's going to be a long, loud night at CasaHashi.

Last night, I drove out long-term Mazdaspeed 3 home with the intention of wringing it out virtually in Forza, but I had to buy the Summer Velocity Car Pack to get the 2010 model. OK, fine, paid, downloaded and boom, I'm on track.

Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, in the 2010 Mazdaspeed 3, no traction or stability control, no racing lines and only ABS on, I managed to turn a 1:42.978. Sad. If Niebuhr puts up the money for the upgrade pack, I'm doomed. I have it on good authority that this car should be able to turn a 1:50 in real life, so that either means I'm REALLY just that good, or the game is not a realistic measure of lap times. I'm inclined to believe the former (just let me live my little fantasy for a bit, shall we?).

While "driving" the MS3 around Laguna, I realized one major shortcoming with this game - the lack of torque steer. I suppose if it were a good enough simulation, every time I got on the throttle, the controller should have wrenched itself out of my hands and shot across the room. Oh well. Another discrepancy I ran into was the sound of the engine. In the game the MS3 had a wonderful turbo hiss and pop, like our tuned-up Mitsubishi Evo GSR from last year. If our Mazda sounded like that, I'd be fighting for the keys every night.

While I'm not a fan of front-wheel-drive, I admit the MS3 was pretty easy to keep on the pavement. That probably means I need to shave another three seconds off my lap time. Carpal Tunnel, here we come.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor

20,000 Miles and Counting

October 08, 2010

Our MS3 has surpassed 20,000 miles! (Queue the sound of Riswick blowing one of those coiled-up birthday party kazoos.) The mildly momentous occasion occurred about 20 miles east of Bakersfield, Calif., on a rural stretch of Highway 58. To celebrate, I stopped at Murray Family Farms, a 360-acre farm where you can buy seasonal fruit direct as well as pick your own. I had never been there before; this month in particular looks like a fun month to visit for familes as there are a lot of Halloween-oriented activities for kids.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Smiley Face for Jack-O'-Lanterns

October 12, 2010

Over the weekend I took our Mazdaspeed 3 out to the countryside to visit a rural pumpkin patch with my three-year-old daughter. It was mildly amusing to pull up in the Speed 3 when all the other parked cars at the pumpkin patch were SUVs and vans. Unlike getting a Christmas tree, pumpkins don't exactly require much in the way of cargo space. But admittedly it would have been nice to have some sort of cargo net or the forethought to bring a box; the pumpkins I bought kept rolling around in the Mazda's trunk on the way home.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 20,223 miles

Grey Wheel Try Out

October 13, 2010

You might have noticed in my last two posts that that the Speed 3 was looking a bit grungy. Basically, it was a combination of rain and a missed opportunity for a car wash. For a while, though, I was actually enjoying the look of the brake-dust-covered wheels. Sure, up close they looked terrible, but from 20 feet away they just looked like grey-painted wheels. It gave the car a bit of an understated look that you don't otherwise get with the regular, clean-and-shiny wheels. Since the factory wheels are pretty nice to begin with, it'd be cool if Mazda offered a set of grey-painted ones as an option.

But now the Speed 3 is clean and back to its regular sparkly self.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

20,000-Mile Service

October 15, 2010

We cleared 20,000 miles in the Mazdaspeed 3 last week. Today it was time to take care of the 20,000-mile service interval. This required an oil change and tire rotation. I had a scheduled appointment at Lithia Mazda/Suzuki of Fresno, Calif.; service was prompt and courteous, and I was back in the car in about an hour. Total cost: 75.72.

Remember that you can write and read reviews of dealership experiences using Edmunds' dealer ratings service. This functionality is also part of our new iPhone app.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Wrong Kind of Oil?

October 18, 2010

Last Friday I took our Mazdaspeed 3 in for its 20,000-mile oil change and tire rotation service. The resulting blog post was pretty routine until the post's comments section where I answered a question about whether we used regular oil or synthetic. I wrote synthetic and "5W20," which was listed on the service invoice. Well, liquoredonlife and ms3fun both caught this as the incorrect recommended oil for a Speed 3.

In fact, the recommended oil is 5W30 (the "30" meaning it has a higher temperature threshold). I looked in the manual to make sure. 5W20 is the recommended oil for regular Mazda 3s, but not the Speed. Then the question was: did the dealer use the right oil in the car and just misprint it on the invoice? After all, "5W30" is printed on the oil filler cap and the Speed 3 has a big, honkin' intercooler on the top of the engine to remind people it's no ordinary 3.

So I called the dealer and talked to the service advisor who wrote me up. He said he didn't know but would find out and call me back. OK, I said. I waited for about 30 minutes. Mentally, I was preparing for the situation where he might say that they did in fact use the right oil. But that was going to be unacceptable in my opinion; given the disparity, it seemed to me that the oil should be changed no matter what. Thankfully, when he did call back he said they did use the wrong oil. He apologized and asked when I could bring the car back. I'll be taking it back tomorrow.

It's annoying and a hassle. But I'm glad some owners caught this. Even if I owned our Speed 3 and knew 5W30 was the right oil, I might not have actually looked at the paperwork. Another reason to change the oil yourself?

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 20,422 miles

Eine Kleine NachtMonitor

October 21, 2010

Fall is here. That means no more driving home when the sun is still out. After I hopped into our Mazdaspeed 3 last night for the journey home, I decided to give the navigation a run through. My biggest complaint: the monitor itself.

Strike One: It's small. About the same size as my iPhone screen. It's also placed a little too far away for its size.

Strike Two: The night setting is too dark and it lacks contrast. I have decent eyesight and still struggled to decipher details. Essentially, the map on the screen was made up of varying shades of gray. The day setting was too bright for my taste, but it was easy to read.

Strike Three: There's no adjustment. I toggled through the nav menu, but found no sign of a brightness or contrast slider. I tried the instrument panel dimmer, but that just dimmed the (you guessed it!) instrument panel.

If I really needed a navigation last night, I would've used my iPhone. It has the Navigon app installed and its incredibly clear, very accurate and easy to operate. It does kill the battery, but at $59.99, it's reasonably priced.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor

Exhaust Tips Are Clean

October 21, 2010

A few posts ago somebody commented on how our Speed 3's exhaust tips were looking really dirty. I had actually noticed that, too, and planned to clean them up. I finally got around to doing it yesterday. See, all nice and shiny now.

I tried Eagle One Never Dull for the first time. It was super easy to use and worked great. The bumper's exhaust cutouts are still a bit dirty, but we can probably get that taken care of at the next wash.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Blues in the Night

October 22, 2010

Like editor Erin Riches, I really like the soothing blue ambient light that shines down on the center console of our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3. It's just bright enough to give you an idea of where you put your phone, wallet, parking card but not so bright that it distracts you or ruins your nighttime vision...although red lighting probably would have been better in that case. Regardless, it's purty.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

Turbocharged Night Rider

October 22, 2010

Boost! One thing I really enjoy about our Mazdaspeed 3 is the swell of mid-range torque it's got on tap when you're on the freeway. Unlike a regular economy hatchback, there's no need to shift to pass a slow-moving vehicle. Just floor the throttle, wait a half beat for the little bars on the boost gauge rise up and — whoosh — the MS3 squirts ahead. I checked Jay's dyno test post from a couple weeks ago; the engine is making its peak torque between 3,000 and 4,000 rpm. That's a perfect sweetspot, especially if the air is cool and turbo-friendly, as it was when I took the above picture.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

Easy Off But Tucked Away

October 25, 2010

Like Senor Jacquot, one of the first things I do when I get in most cars is turn off the nanny nonsense. And as in the Z06, doing so in our longterm 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 requires but one quick touch of the 'DSC Off' button.

I dig that.

The indicator light is a little shy, though.

Those little magic words 'DSC Off' are tucked away on the opposite side of the instrument cluster from the button. Heck, they're not even located in the cluster. Instead the indicator is banished to the no-man's land with the forlorn trip reset buton. Weird! If you have your right hand on the steering wheel, you could easily miss it.

No big deal at all. Just strange that it's so inconspicuously located what with the OEMs' increasingly conservative nature regarding anything remotely litigious these days.

In the not-so-far future, all such alerts — assuming that we drivers will be allowed to actually (gasp!) deactivate the nannies — will be in 72-point font and accompanied by strobe lights and a hologram of the Lost in Space robot frantically dangling his arms and admonishing, "Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!"

Kind of like the GTI already does, come to think of it...

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

Lame Horn

October 26, 2010

I hereby dub the 2010 Mazdaspeed 3's horn the lamest currently in our longterm fleet. The 'Speed 3's meek, projectionless one-note horn is the last thing you expect once you've sampled the car's thuggish power delivery and hair-trigger clutch.

Its horn is totally weaksauce, and it's a cultural thing.

In Japan, you rarely hear horns. Even in rush hour Tokyo traffic you're hard-pressed to hear a motorist use one. And when they do, it's for courtesy rather than a warning. This is why the horns of Japanese makes are so friendly and inoffensive.

Contrast that with American makes' horns, which are comprised of three notes delvered an octave lower and at quadruple the volume.

In Japan, a horn means: "After you!"

In the USA, it's: "Eff you!"

Give me a USA horn any day.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

The Driver Is Smiling, Too

October 27, 2010

I haven't driven the 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 enough to understand all the things that make it so happy all the time, but I can tell you one thing that puts a smile on my face: Driving a manual transmission again after years of automatics.

I forgot how much fun it is to drive a manual (particularly one with a six-speed transmission). I forgot how it keeps a driver engaged. As I got the feel of the gears last night in speeding and slowing rush-hour traffic, I found I wasn't as bored as I sometimes am. I didn't even shake my fist as traffic crawled through the South Bay Curve.

Maybe the joy of shift would wear off in time. After a few years of driving my manual-transmission Toyota Corolla, clutch tedium definitely kicked in. But in a car like the Mazdaspeed 3, I think it would take a long time for my smile to fade.

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @ 21,038 miles

Traffic-Friendly Clutch

October 28, 2010

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.

Then again, it's still not as bad as some of the traffic snarls in China or Moscow. The picture to the left looks like the place automotive journalists would be sent off to in Dante's Inferno.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor

Halloween Dress-Up and Antiquing

November 01, 2010

I couldn't resist the urge to dress up the Mazdaspeed 3 for Halloween. Abetted by my crafty neighbor, we made cardboard fangs and a tongue, and toyed with the idea of dipping the teeth in a little transmission fluid as a special effect, but decided to keep it simple.

Before tricking out the car on Sunday, my husband and I took it along to the Long Beach Outdoor Antique and Collectible Market. I can't count the number of times we've seen cool things we might have bought, but took a pass because we didn't have the right car to schlep the purchase home.

As we shopped, my husband snapped photos of things we liked that would easily fit in the Mazdaspeed 3's roomy interior, such as these sweet Heywood Wakefield end tables:

These Halloween trinkets also would have fit:

But ultimately, we didn't see anything we really wanted. So it was off to Costco, where we made a paper-goods haul. We definitely would have had room for the demon heads. I'm a little sorry we didn't get them.

Art Appreciation...or Not

November 03, 2010

Looks like somebody in Mazda's interior design studio has a thing for Op Art. This form of art and fashion took place primarily in the 1960s — no wonder considering its hallucinogenic vibe.

Though I generally like the MS3, I'm not a big fan of its styling nor the groovy upholstery. And no, there is no other option (such as leather). So if you don't dig it you either have to suck it up and accept the Age of Aquarius vibe or scratch the MS3 off your list of potential sport compacts.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 21, 340 miles

Tell Me a Story

November 12, 2010

No caption contest today. But in the tradition of "It was a dark and stormy night," please feel free to make up a story about this photo in 50 words or less. Poems are welcome, too.

I look forward to seeing how creative you can be.

Thanks and have a nice weekend.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

A Moment of Clarity

November 23, 2010

A while back I noted that our Mazdaspeed 3's navigation screen lacked contrast at night. At the time, I couldn't find an adjustment for brightness/contrast, only a night and day setting. I was stuck in stop and go traffic last night and while stationary, I found the elusive brightness/contrast sliders in the information preferences menu, not under the nav menus. Adjusting the screen for night driving, however, isn't as intuitive as I thought.

That adjustment isn't selectable, nor is it even visible, when the car is moving. Once you get to that menu, though, it'll remain active if you start moving again. I figured that cranking the brightness and contrast slider to the maximum would be the best, but not so. As seen in the before and after animation above, the contrast needed to be set to the minimum value. In person, the screen is much more legible — I didn't want to adjust my camera's exposure to reduce some of that screen burn.

So there it is, problem solved.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor

Last Weekend!

November 24, 2010

I looked at the clipboard yesterday, and lo (and also, behold), they're coming for the 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 on Monday. That only leaves me five days to give the 'Speed a proper send-off. Any ideas? A track day is probably out of the question for lack of planning, but there's ample time for a drive on back roads. Perhaps Mt. Palomar, or the squiggly ribbon of road known as the Cerro Noroeste north of Frazier Park, California...well, assuming recent snows haven't closed the road.

So ideas, please. And if there's anything we somehow haven't covered that you'd like to know, post any questions here. Do not expect me to give dry, neutral opinions on the Mazdaspeed 3 — I like this car, the good, the bad, the big torque, the bad clutch, everything, so above all, I plan to have to fun this weekend.

P.S. Just a reminder that the MS3 is still running around on its original P225/40R18 88Y Dunlop SP Sport 2050 tires, which have thus far protected every one of its pretty wheels from curb rash.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 22,862 miles

Last Drive (with Video)

November 29, 2010

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.

But I like heel-and-toeing, so I looked for opportunities to downshift anyway, despite the fact that changing down gears is a deliberate process in the MS3. In any case, the three Mazdas, along with SubyTrojan's '04 WRX, got a mostly clear run up Palomar Mountain Road.

Immediately, I remembered how much I like the Mazdaspeed 3's combination of mid-range torque, tight body control and eagerness to change directions. Cornering hard is just so easy in this car, and the MS3 talks to you the whole way so there's never any doubt about what's going on with tire grip. And the seating position in this car just fits me to a T, with excellent visibility in all directions. Wow, am I going to miss our 2010 Mazdaspeed 3.

In addition to photos of all the cars, I made a 3:40 video clip of a portion of the drive down Palomar Mountain. That's liquoredonlife's Mazdaspeed 3 driving in front of me. This is exactly the kind of driving you should be doing in a Mazdaspeed 3. I can't think of a more fitting send-off. Thank you, Tyler and Alan, for making the not-short drive to rural San Diego County to observe the occasion. (You'll note there's quite a bit of background noise in the video. The windows were closed, so I can only chalk this up to ambient noise in the hatch area combined with potential Kodak Zx3 camera shake on the suction cup mount.)

It turns out that liquoredonlife knows his way around a camera far better than I do, so you should also check out the photos he shot on Saturday on his flickr.

And between the drive to Palomar and various errands, I drove almost 600 miles in the Mazdaspeed 3 over the weekend.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 23,426 miles


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

Retained Value
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

Summing Up
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.