2010 Mazda Mazdaspeed 3 Long Term Road Test - Performance

2010 Mazda Mazdaspeed 3 Long-Term Road Test

  • Full Review
  • Pricing & Specs
  • Road Tests (4)
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  • Long-Term

2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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.

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 22,862 miles

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.

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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.

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Easy Off But Tucked Away

October 25, 2010

dsc off 1600.JPG

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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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?).

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2010 Mazda Mazdaspeed3: 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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Looking Inside The Engine

September 22, 2010


Today I found this great image on Mazda's media site. It's a cutaway of the Mazdaspeed3'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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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:

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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, Edmunds.com @ 17,954 miles.

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Great Manual Transmission

August 23, 2010

2010 MAZDASPEED3 Shifter.jpg

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

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2010 Mazda Mazdaspeed3: 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

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2010 Mazda Mazdaspeed3: Butterface

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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Acute Steering Feedback

July 23, 2010

2010 Mazda Mazdaspeed3.jpg

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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Face-Off Re-Do

July 16, 2010

2010 Mazdaspeed 3 and 2010 VW GTI

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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3 and 2010 VW GTI: Burnout Super Test #3

July 14, 2010


Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Edge of the Razor

June 30, 2010

mazdaspeed 3 shady.jpg

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

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

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: OK, NOW I Get It

June 21, 2010

mazda3 002.jpg

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

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

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

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

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 12,345 miles

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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, Edmunds.com @ 12,232 miles

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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

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2010 Mazda Mazdaspeed 3: 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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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

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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, Edmunds.com @ 10,523 miles

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: A Night On Team Mazdaspeed

April 30, 2010

Mazdaspeed 3 Bergamot JR.jpg

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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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.

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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.

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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

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2010 Mazda Mazdaspeed 3: Hair Trigger

February 15, 2010

car-of-the-week-717-1.jpg2010_MAZDASPEED3 at Laguna Seca.jpg

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

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

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

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

I guess that's the whole point.

Albert Austria, Senior Engineer

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Fast

February 14, 2010


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

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

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

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: On Display

January 25, 2010

mazdaspeed 3 display.jpg

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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Belated Milestone

January 04, 2010

Milestone_02.jpgmazdaspeed3 5k milestone.jpg

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

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

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

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @ 5,193 miles.

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Fender Gap

December 21, 2009


Is it just me...

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Comparison Test Versus 2010 VW GTI

December 14, 2009

2010 Mazdaspeed 3 and 2010 VW GTI

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

James Riswick, Automotive Editor

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Another Take On The Shifter And Pedals

December 10, 2009


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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, Edmunds.com @ 3,699 miles

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Not the Easiest Clutch

November 20, 2009

CotW_05.jpgMazdaspeed 3 interior

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

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

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

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

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 3,223 miles

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Stuffed

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.

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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.

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: The Secret Handshake

November 16, 2009

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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: Zippy

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

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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.

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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.
Joah Jacquot, Senior road test editor

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2010 Mazdaspeed 3: 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.

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Past Long-Term Road Tests