CAR REVIEW: The
MAZDASPEED3 may be the perfect car. It certainly works for me. It
combines a sporty driving experience with economy, environmental
sensitivity, and the practicality of five doors and a folding rear seat.
Oh, and the price is surprisingly reasonable, too. Buy it in True Red,
like my tester, and itís unbeatable.
Mazda names their cars
in an unusual way. This compact sedan and five-door hatchback / wagon
are known as the MAZDA3, one all-capped unit. The car has been a great
success for the brand, with sales approaching a million units since its
debut in 2003, when it replaced the Protegť.
The MAZDASPEED3 is the
fourth car to wear the sporty MAZDASPEED badge. What MAZDASPEED means to
you and me is that Mazda engineers took the 2.3-liter, 156-horsepower
MAZDA3 and added a potent turbocharger and intercooler. Suddenly, the
3,100-pound, front-wheel-drive wagon boasts a whopping 263 horsepower
and a remarkable 280 lb-ft of torque under the hood.
Road and Track magazine
launched a MAZDASPEED3 from zero to 60 in 6.0 seconds, not the fastest
car in the world, but quicker than many. What it does better than many
faster cars is earn EPA fuel economy numbers of 18 City, 26 Highway, and
carry EPA Green Vehicle numbers of 7 for Air Pollution and 6 for
Greenhouse Gases. Thatís remarkable!
If you are especially
interested in the environment, the standard 2.3-liter engine in the
MAZDA3 is rated at 9.5 for Air Pollution and 7 for Greenhouse Gases. But
itís not as much fun!
I had a great time with
my tester, which was the upscale Grand Touring model. The thing offers a
neck-snapping quality right out of the box when you shift into first.
There is so much torque going through the driveline that electronic
controls are integrated in to keep you from generating a burnout at
every stoplight. A torque-sensing limited-slip differential comes with
it, too, to help apply that power to the road safely.
The MAZDA3, especially
the five-door version, is a remarkably styled thing. It reminds me of my
sonís basketball shoes, with a pointed toe, pulled back headlamp units,
stretched out tail (heel, as it were), and an angled back rear pillar.
Mazda has tried to distinguish itself in the compact sedan / wagon class
with a bolder design language, and the four-year-old design is holding
The MAZDASPEED3 needed
special body and chassis upgrades to handle all that extra power from
the turbo engine. Body rigidity was bolstered using reinforcements
around the car. The MacPherson strut front suspension and multi-link
rear suspension were given higher spring rates and larger diameter
stabilizer bars. That means that the MAZDASPEED3 handles a lot more
stably and responsively than the regular MAZDA3. Mazda is the company,
remember, that sells the iconic MX-5 (Miata) and the unique RX-8
rotary-engine sports car.
Mazda upgraded the
exterior of the MAZDASPEED3 without making it a flagrant boy racer. You
get 18-inch tires on 10-spoke alloy wheels, a roof spoiler, lower body
side skirts, and a lower grille intake. The car also benefits from
flared front fenders, blistered to give room for the larger tires. You
get the requisite fat tailpipe at the rear, too, and MAZDASPEED badging.
Inside, the sweep of
dash and doors conveys serious sportiness. The silver and black color
scheme would please an Oakland Raiders fan. Materials and fit-and-finish
are fine in this Japanese-built vehicle.
Choosing the Grand
Touring over the Sport model adds $1,715 to the price but enhances the
experience significantly. For the money, you get automatic on/off
headlamps, automatic rain-sensing wipers, high-powered Xenon headlamps,
LED taillamps, the Bose Premium Audio system (with 222 watts of power
and 7 speakers), and leather on the seat bolsters, steering wheel, and
shift knob. You also receive a theft deterrent system and Driving
Information System. The Grand Touring model offers optional satellite
I liked the hauling
capacity of this little rocket. Fold the rear seats down and youíre set
to move stuff. My double bass fit in fine, as would boxes and bags
Prices range from
$22,975 for the Sport model to the Grand Touring at $24,690. Those
figures include destination charges. If you like the car but donít need
the macho powertrain, you can pick up the MAZDA3 five-door for just
$18,560, or the basic four-door sedan, with a 2.0-liter engine, for a
In a highly competitive
segment, Mazda has a winner here. Theyíre going with their history to
provide affordable exhilaration, or as they call it, Zoom-Zoom.
By Steve Schaefer
Byline: CAR Review
provided by Tony Leopardo © AutoWire.Net
Mazda Home Page
Column Name: Mazda has
a winner here
Topic: The 2008
Word Count: 810
Photo Caption: The
MAZDASPEED3 Internet Media
Series #: 2008 - 42
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