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Thread: 2009 MazdaSpeed3

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Jul 2006
    The Land of The Edentulites

    2009 MazdaSpeed3

    To read this article with pictures: id=10918

    John Z. DeLorean is credited with inventing the muscle car concept - which basically involved taking an affordable/budget-oriented "normal"car, stuffing it with a go-fast engine and selling the thing for cheap.

    John Z's ghost must be working over at Mazda these days - because the MazdSpeed3 is the most faithful modern-day incarnation of a 1964 GTO Tri Power you'll find.


    The MazdaSpeed3 is a hopped-up, high-performance version of Mazda's entry-level hatchback sedan. It offers Mucho Macho from its 263 hp turbocharged, direct injection engine and six-speed manual transmission - for a budget price of $22,740 (to start) that undercuts its chief rival, the Subaru WRX, by several thousand bucks.


    Introduced as an all-new model in '08, the '09 version carries through unchanged beyond minor shuffling of paint/trim options.


    Part of what makes the MazdaSpeed3 a muscle car is its lowball price; part of it is its more-than-you-need powerplant - a turbocharged, intercooled 2.3 liter four that produces almost exactly as much power as the significantly more expensive WRX's 2.5 liter engine - 263 hp vs. 265 hp, respectively.

    But what the Mazda a true muscle car is that it's a hooligan. Unlike the WRX, whose ample power is modulated by being divvied up between all four wheels via its permanent all-wheel-drive system, the Mazda's power flows riotously through the front wheels - which screech and pull left, then right and leave nice black patches on the pavement worthy of a 455 Judge.


    You can bark the tires on the 1-2 upshift, too - and smoky drifts, front wheels akimbo, tail hanging out, are just a stab of the throttle away - whenever you feel the urge.

    The 2.3 engine is small in displacement, but big on horsepower - and more importantly, torque. 280 lbs.-ft is available, which isn't far off what a 5-liter-ish V-8 was making in the '80s.

    Zero to 60 comes up in about 5.5 seconds; the quarter-mile can be chewed through in about 14.1 seconds - performance that's better, by the way, than almost any stock '60s-era V-8 GTO and more important, as good or better than the $25,495 (to start) WRX as well as anything else in the under $24k price class.

    Another muscle car "prop" - the Mazda does not offer an automatic; they're for pussies. If you can't handle a six-speed, you're not the right type for this car anyhow.

    Fuel economy is identical to the WRX's - 18 city, 25 highway.


    Despite aggressive suspension tuning and a standard high-performance 18-inch wheel/tire package, the MazdaSpeed 3 is remarkably everyday friendly while being fully capable, at the drop of a hat, of breathing hard on a WRX (independent autocross testing has found the FWD Mazda has about as much cornering grip at the limit, and is capable of producing lap times just as quick, as the AWD Subaru).

    Chassis improvements include braces to limit body flex, sport-tuned struts and a lower ride height compared with the regular 3. The car also gets much better brakes that match the acceleration/high-speed capability of the turbo'd engine - and a limited slip diff to at least try to get a handle on all that power.

    It's a well-sorted package deal, not just a fast engine thrown into a econo-box (as was the case with the early versions of the Mitsubishi EVO, for example).

    For the $22k Mazda asks for the steroidal little 3, it's nothing short of awesome.


    The MazdaSpeed3 only comes one way - 5-door hatchback, six-speed manual. The WRX comes as both a sedan and a hatch, and you can order an automatic. What you're looking for will determine whether these facts are positives - or negatives.

    Utility-wise, it's hard to argue with the hatcback sedan layout; you get more space, more usability (43 cubic feet of total cargo capacity). Styling-wise, some people just don't like the hatch/wagon look - in which case, the Soobie has an ace up its sleeve.

    It's a similar deal with the take-it-or-leave it six-speed manual - and the FWD-only layout. Muscle car fans will like it - a lot. Makes the car much more fun - because it's much more wild - and also keeps the price reasonable. But AWD makes it less hairy in the rain and (especially) snow, which matters a lot to those of a practical turn of mind. Same with the stickshift; tons of fun - when you can drive the thing. Not so much fun when you're stuck bumping and grinding in rush-hour traffic jams.

    That's the subjective stuff. Objectively, the Mazda is beautifully finished, to an extent that belies its almost-econo-car MSRP. Rich materials, lots of attention to detail. Features and equipment (such as the optional pop-up DVD nav system) that say "high end," not low-rent.

    The only thing that's not there that should be is a gauge to monitor the turbo boost.

    One small complaint: The controls for the optional GPS nav system are to the right of the shifter/parking brake lever - and partially obscured (visually). It's a small thing, if you're buying the car - because after a week or so you come to know where the controls are and what they do by touch. But at first, it seems less than ideal.


    Mazdas (all of them) seem to sweat quality from every pore. You can root around the entire thing in a vain search for a cheap-out. Parts not immediately visible to the driver (and prospective buyer taking his first look) are as polished and carefully put together as the stuff that's in line of sight. Climb in the back seats and notice how nothing seems less than it is up front. Open the hatch and observe the level of detail given the fitment of panels, cubbies, carpet and trim. Then go back and look at that sticker price: $22k ... for all this.


    In addition to its performance upgrades, each MazdaSpeed3 also comes standard with dual-zone climate control, a high-end stereo, electro-lumiscent gauge cluster, leather and aluminum trim, sport buckets, tile and telescoping steering wheel with redundant/secondary controls for the audio, roof spoiler, special exterior enhancements and power windows/door locks, cruise. You also get ABS, traction and stability control, front seat side-impact air bags and head/curtain air bags.

    For $22k ... sticker.

    The top-of-the-line Grand Touring version ($24,555) adds Xenon HID headlights, rains-sensing wipers, LED tail-lights, more leather trim, and an even nicer Bose premium stereo with multi-disc CD changer.

    And the Grand Touring version is still about a grand less than the least expensive version of the WRX wagon.


    The Mazda is a real counterpoint to its chief rival, the Subaru WRX. Both are very quick, very fast, superb-handling street machines. The difference is that driving the Mazda is a more involved experience, just as it was back in the day when you were behind the wheel of a V-8 brawler from the Motor City. The WRX is point and click - finessed performance that can be accessed by lesser-skilled and expert drivers alike.

    But the Mazda is a car for drivers who know what they are doing; who have the steely nerves and reserves of skill to cope with extremely high levels of power not filtered by ass-saving technologies such as AWD. Or damn well better!

    Turn off the traction control, grasp the six-speed's shifter. Blip the throttle - and dump the clutch. It's all on you, chief. Hang on for dear life, keep it pointed in the general right direction; fear not the gas pedal - and don't even think about backing off mid-corner.

    Mazda has fitted this beast with an electronic torque limiter that dials back some of the fury, but the experience is still much more raw - and thus, fun! - than running the Soobie all-out. You can take satisfaction in manfully handling the torque steer that sometimes crops up; in keeping it all under control - yourself. No computer, no AWD.

    Just like it used to be.


    You've heard the saying, "bang for the buck"? Well, lookee no further than your local Mazda shop. And if you listen closely, you might just hear John Z. whispering encouragement in your ear during that first test drive.

    It's a voice you really ought to listen to... .
    Last edited by Eric; 11-19-2008 at 08:17 AM.

  2. #2

    Thumbs up

    Sounds like you had fun man.
    I think the wrx folks should definatly take heed if one of these pulls up to the light. (even me), well, naaah! I don't nessesarily need to worry but stock owners should. Still think it should have AWD, then I would consider one! Still gotta hand to the Mazda corp. GOOD DEAL in fwd

  3. #3
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ItsallaboutME View Post
    Sounds like you had fun man.
    I think the wrx folks should definatly take heed if one of these pulls up to the light. (even me), well, naaah! I don't nessesarily need to worry but stock owners should. Still think it should have AWD, then I would consider one! Still gotta hand to the Mazda corp. GOOD DEAL in fwd
    I did!

    And for $22k, sticker, it's hard not to love this one. That is only a few k more than your typical reasonably optioned econo-box. And I bet that with a few well-chosen aftermarket parts, you could push the power up to 290-300, which would make it competitive with an STi or EVO... .

    Also: I'm a muscle car guy; I like being able to smoke the tires. I understand this loses you a few tenths vs an AWD car, which hooks up better, etc.

    But which is more fun?

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