It's clear why we selected the Mazdaspeed 3 (along with the base Mazda 3) as an All-Star for 2010: the direct steering and crisp handling alone put it in the very upper echelon of sport compact cars, alongside the Volkswagen GTI and the Mini Cooper S. Still, I could never bring myself to buy a Mazdaspeed3 for two primary reasons: ridiculous torque steer (yes, I know it's slightly less severe than the previous-gen car) and an incredibly stiff and overly notchy gearbox. I thought that maybe this test car's gearbox hadn't yet been broken in, but the car has about 2500 miles on the odometer.
I agree with Rusty. Although I applaud Mazda for offering this hard-core compact, the Mazdaspeed3's violent torque steer and notchy shifter tend to overshadow all the things that put the standard 3 at the top of its class-precise steering, excellent ride and handling balance, great packaging. If you don't mind an arm-wrestling match every time you get behind the wheel, though, the Speed3's 263-hp, turbo four is an absolute blast.
- Jennifer Misaros, Production Editor
It's a shame Mazda didn't decide to offer all-wheel-drive on the Mazdaspeed3. Not only would this allow the hot hatch to put down all of its power all of the time, it would also potentially pull in buyers from snowbelt states who worry about big power and front-wheel-drive in the snow. The Volkswagen GTI doesn't have the torque steer that seems to define the Mazdaspeed3, but it also doesn't have nearly as much power when you jump on the gas at highway speeds. As it stands, I might be inclined to take a Mazdaspeed3 over a GTI just to have something a little different. I see a lot of GTIs running around and hardly ever a Mazdaspeed3.
- Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
Power isn't everything. Although the turbocharged, intercooled 2.3-liter four nestled under the Mazdaspeed3's hood cranks out a whopping 261 horsepower, it doesn't exactly make this vehicle an absolute blast. Instead, it tends to spoil a near-perfect, front-wheel-drive platform with gobs of torque steer. All-wheel-drive, as Phil Floraday suggests, could provide a solution, but the two-piece Revoknuckle front struts in the 3's distant cousin, the Ford Focus RS, could possibly be a quick and less expensive solution.