2010 Mazda Mazdaspeed 3

Ignore, if you can, all the various 'MPS' emblems on this hot hatch. They won't be on the car when it's sold in North America as the 2010 Mazda Mazdaspeed 3.

Like its staid sedan and hatchback siblings, the latest iteration of the Mazdaspeed 3 is far from revolutionary. In fact, most changes are cosmetic, including the new wide-eyed front fascia, revised hatch and taillights, and a new hood scoop.

Evolutionary also applies to what's under the hood. The turbocharged 2.3-liter I-4 seen in the last-generation Mazdaspeed 3 soldiers on in the 2010 model, producing the same 260 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. Likewise, it's still mated only to a six-speed manual transmission, channeling power to the front wheels.

Still, there are a few things to love about Mazdaspeed's latest compact. To start, the car benefits from additional chassis tuning, including new reinforcements in the firewall and body tunnel to add stiffness. Mazda claims new half shafts were designed to reduce torque steer, and new 18-inch wheels, patterned after those on the RX-8, are capable of handling wider Dunlop 225/40R18 rubber.

And there's also the matter of the car's interior. While the previous 3's cabin wasn't intolerable, the new car's living quarters are a vast improvement. The wraparound dashboard is both slick and sophisticated, and it's highlighted by red-tinted carbon fiber accents. This theme continues with the seating, which wears black leather skins with bright red stitching.

Although it may not represent a quantum leap in power, the 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 mixes new refinements with an already potent performance car. We can't wait to get our hands on one when it arrives in the U.S. later this year.

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