There's no doubt the turbocharged 'factory tuner' version of the Mazda 3 fulfills its hot-hatch promise. Max acceleration is appropriately quick, but the steering wheel tugs sharply while doing so and the manual shifter could be more refined.
The Mazdaspeed 3 is quick, but it really shines in the curves. There are few cars that can match its ultimate grip and fewer still with its transient reflexes. Despite being electrically assisted, steering is both lively and informative.
Unfortunately, ride comfort suffers from a sport-tuned suspension and short-sidewalled tires. You'll feel (and hear) seams and ripples you never knew existed. People not used to sports cars and a firm ride will find this car objectionable.
Likewise, the car's performance tires, depending on the road surface, can produce a cacophony of road noise. (Especially after a few months of wear, as in our case.) On the other hand, wind noise is refreshingly low.
Even if the car's center stack is a bit 'button-rich,' most controls are logically grouped and the standard dual-zone auto HVAC controls are large, friendly knobs. Tech package's keyless entry/ignition and micro-screen nav are a nice touch.
Outward visibility is average for a hatchback with thick C-pillars. Rear-seat headrests sit almost flush affording a good, unobstructed rear-view. No backup camera, blind-spot monitor, or parking sensors are available. Headlamps are adequate.
Seat Access & Space
Even if the car is technically a compact, its interior feels larger. Ample head- and legroom, but shoulder room is a little tight. Fits four easily, five in a pinch. Easy ingress/egress through appropriately sized doors.
Cargo & Storage
With 17 cu-ft for luggage (42.8 cu-ft with rear seats folded), the Mazdaspeed 3 offers more room (and more versatility) than almost every compact sedan. Need more room? Get a wagon or crossover. Storage nooks/bins are on the small side though.
Entirely acceptable for the cost of the car, but not any better than it needs to be.