Used 2011 Mazda Mazdaspeed 3 Review

Edmunds expert review

With its energetic personality, rewarding handling and thoughtful features, the 2011 Mazdaspeed 3 is a must on any budget-minded enthusiast's test-drive list.




What's new for 2011

For 2011 the Mazdaspeed 3 continues unchanged except for minor equipment additions to the available Technology package.

Vehicle overview

In the sport hatchback segment, the Mazdaspeed 3 has been the one to beat the past few years. Its combination of nimble handling, pin-you-to-the-seat turbo power, practicality and value have made the "Speed 3" a favorite among those looking for thrills on the cheap. It has also been a favorite among our staff, having won most of the comparison tests we've thrown it into.

At the heart of the 2011 Mazdaspeed 3's appeal is its turbocharged 2.3-liter engine. Packing 263 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, this turbo-4 is a hard charger and will get you to 60 mph in a quick 6.3 seconds. The downside, though, is that it's almost too much power for the front-drive Mazda 3 chassis; nailing the throttle can result in a notable amount of torque steer. That said, it's easily managed and reminds you that this potent hot hatch demands respect from your right foot. The precise steering, buttoned-down suspension and sticky tires make the MS3 fun in the corners, too.

Beyond the spirited driving experience, other key attributes of the Speed 3 include a well-trimmed cabin boasting solid fit and finish as well as some features (either standard or optional) that you might not expect in this segment. You also get a fair amount of utility, too. Thanks to its decent-sized rear seats and 42.8 cubic feet of maximum cargo capacity, the Speed 3 can handle just about anything life throws at you.

If we were to level a complaint about the Mazdaspeed 3, it'd be that it's almost too sport-oriented. You can only get it with a manual transmission, for instance, and its firm ride quality and road noise might seem a bit harsh for people living in areas with poorly maintained pavement. The more mature Volkswagen GTI, in comparison, is easier to live with on a daily basis.

There are also other options for an affordable hot hatch, like the stylish Mini Cooper S and the all-wheel-drive 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart and 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX. You might even consider coupes like the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro V6, 2011 Ford Mustang V6 and 2011 Hyundai Genesis Coupe. Though we definitely recommend Mazda's spicy Speed 3, there's quite a spread in this hot hatch buffet so we suggest sampling all via test-drives if you're not sure what flavor might appeal to you most.




Trim levels & features

The 2011 Mazdaspeed 3 is a four-door hatchback available in one trim level known as Sport. Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, high-performance summer tires, a limited-slip differential, foglights, full power accessories, cruise control, keyless entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, front sport seats, leather and cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a digital turbo-boost gauge, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a six-speaker stereo with CD player, auxiliary audio jack and steering wheel controls.

The Mazdaspeed Tech package adds keyless ignition/entry, rain-sensing wipers, automatic/adaptive bi-xenon headlights, rear LED taillights, an integrated compact navigation system and a 10-speaker Bose surround-sound stereo and a six-CD changer. Satellite radio and an auto-dimming rearview mirror are stand-alone options.



Performance & mpg

The Mazdaspeed 3 is powered by a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 263 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. All that thrust is sent to the front wheels through a six-speed manual transmission equipped with a limited-slip differential.

In performance testing, the Speed 3 went from zero to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds – quick, though about midpack for its class. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined.

Safety

Standard safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. Though the 2011 Mazdaspeed 3 itself hasn't been crash tested, the similar Mazda 3 five-door hatchback upon which it's based has been tested. In government testing, the Mazda 3 scored five out of five stars for driver and front passenger protection in a frontal crash, five stars for front side protection and four stars for rear side protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Mazda 3 its highest possible rating of "Good" in its frontal-offset and side crash tests.

In Edmunds brake testing the Mazdaspeed 3 came to a stop from 60 mph in only 113 feet, which is commendable among other hatchbacks in its class.

Driving

Routing 280 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels is usually a recipe for annoying amounts of steering-wheel-tugging torque steer. This phenomenon is certainly present in the 2011 Mazdaspeed 3, though the engine's torque-limiting software helps keep it manageable for the most part.

In any case, there's no doubt that the Speed 3 is one of the best-handling and most entertaining hot hatches on a winding road. Impressively precise, the steering provides plenty of communication and faithfully transmits road information like few front-wheel-drive cars can. Considering the car's performance potential, the suspension manages to also provide a fairly compliant ride, though the Mazdaspeed 3 ultimately isn't as comfortable as other models like the GTI.

Read our Mazdaspeed 3 Long-Term 20,000-Mile Test

Interior

The Mazdaspeed variant differs from the regular Mazda 3 with its upgraded gauges and sport front seats with standard black leather upholstery with cloth inserts. The pattern of the upholstery with its red dots reminds us of a 1990s Nike athletic shirt, but otherwise the Mazdaspeed 3 boasts the same top-shelf interior design, quality and features as the regular 3. The Speed 3 also has the same optional navigation system, which is functional but somewhat limited by its small display screen.

The front seat offers a wide range of adjustment (though no power adjustment is available) and the tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel is a welcome feature. Some may lament that no sedan body style is available, but the standard hatch allows for a greater level of practicality. The cargo area provides 17 cubic feet of space with the rear seats raised and expands to 42.8 with them lowered.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.