REVIEWS: 2010 Mazda 3 vs MazdaSpeed 3 - Comparison

December 8, 2009
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A bright red Mazdaspeed 3 recently showed up at the Automobile Magazine HQ, giving us the perfect chance to compare it side-by-side and back-to-back with our long-term Mazda 3s Grand Touring hatchback, which, conveniently, also happens to be red. After more than 10,000 miles in our long-term 3, how do our editors feel about getting behind the wheel of the boy-racer turbocharged edition?
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I know that I'm supposed to like the Mazdaspeed 3's turbocharger, stiff handling, and studlier looks (bigger wheels, hood scoop, smilier front end, larger spoiler) compared with its more pedestrian sibling. But I must admit that my favorite part about the Speed 3 is that its gearbox and clutch are so much more user-friendly than those in our Four Seasons Mazda 3 hatchback, which has a clutch that seems to engage as soon as you brush the pedal and a gearbox that's nice but not quite as buttery-smooth as that in the Speed 3. The Speed 3, of course, also offers a 96-hp advantage, which is desirable but results in fairly extreme torque steer that tugs at the steering wheel. The regular 3's normally aspirated 2.5-liter four provides perfectly ample power but with little to no torque steer. Now that we've installed Continental winter tires on our Four Seasons Mazda 3, however, the car feels almost as torque steery as the Mazdaspeed version.
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Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
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Like Rusty, I'm close to the target demographic of the Mazdaspeed 3. I've certainly sung its praises in the pages of Automobile and on these Web pages, and all of that has been well-deserved. But if given the choice, I'd put my own money towards the base Mazda 3 without a second's hesitation.
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There's no question that the Speed 3 is faster, but a car's ability to accelerate is only one small piece of the puzzle. And in the case of the Speed, it comes at too great a cost to the rest of the driving experience. I think the 2.5-liter four-cylinder in the regular Mazda 3 hatchback produces more than enough power to make for a fun runabout. It does it, however, with instant response and linear power delivery. The Speed 3 suffers from far too much turbo lag for my tastes, and it has far too narrow of a power band.
The Speed 3 is a near-perfect specimen where body control is concerned - but remember, it's called the Speed 3, not the Fun 3. The base car is more enjoyable to toss around; its rear end is far more willing to come around (the Speed 3 has become an understeer-only proposition), and its limits are lower and more attainable on public roads. And ultimately, I think it's more fun to drive. Is the Speed 3 a bad car? Of course not. But I think the base car is even better.
Jason Cammisa, West Coast Editor
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What's the point of 263 hp and 280 lb-ft if you can't -- or at least don't want to -- use it? Flooring the Speed 3 in first or second gear means fighting with the steering wheel. At this point, there are a lot of powerful, front-wheel-drive cars on the market, and very few of them behave this wildly under acceleration.
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Aside from that, there's little to dislike about the Speed 3, which preserves much of the easy-going charm of the regular hatch while adding noticeably sharper steering, nicer seats, and a much, much, better clutch pedal. Rear-seat passengers have told me the ride is rather punishing, but from the driver's seat, I'd say the ride is acceptable for a performance-oriented vehicle.
For its price, the Speed 3 is still a good option if you prioritize power over finesse and refinement. Otherwise, a Volkswagen GTI or a slightly more expensive Subaru Impreza WRX are better bets.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
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For the sake of full disclosure, I was once lured into Mazda showrooms by the Speed 3's predecessor, the Mazdaspeed Protegé. I ended up with a fatter, less powerful, and (most importantly) more affordable Protegé5 instead, but the Mazdaspeed products have always had a special spot in my heart.
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It's no secret that the original Mazdaspeed was absolutely gutless with a 170-hp, low-boost turbocharged four-cylinder. It seems with the 3, that Mazdaspeed engineers wanted to banish all memories of that past car's shortcomings. The power here is prodigious. If you have a serious racing habit, the Mazdaspeed 3 sure makes a lot of sense. This is the car for someone who wants to race on a budget while owning only one car. Arrive at the track with a jack and four grippy rollers inside the hatch, and you can be ready to race in a half hour. All those niggling Speed 3 habits of torque steer and wheel spin melt away when you're focused on using every bit of performance.
Now, as with back then, I'm won over by the more modest Mazda. As crazy as it sounds, I feel like the regular 3 hatch is more unique than the Speed when each car is taken in its context. Compared with other compact offerings, the Mazda offers an unparalleled chassis that delivers ride comfort without compromising handling. The 3 even drives better than more expensive cars.
The Mazdaspeed 3 sits in its own performance/price niche, but that still wouldn't keep me from seriously thinking hard about cars on both sides of the Mazda, from Subaru and Volkswagen. The Speed 3 definitely has a special air about it, but the power delivery feels more like the car came from a small, local tuning shop rather than a factory. I know Mazdaspeed engineers have broadcast their reasons for not using all-wheel drive, but a quick Google search for "all-wheel-drive Mazdaspeed 3" yielded some YouTube footage that made me more excited than the last time I drove the car.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
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2010 MazdaSpeed3
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Base price (with destination): $23,945
Price as tested: $25,840
Standard Equipment:
Turbocharged 4-cylinder engine
6-speed manual transmission
Torque sensing conical limited slip differential
Front-wheel drive
18-inch aluminum alloy wheels
DSC & TCS
Independent front/rear suspension
Options on this vehicle:
MazdaSpeed Tech Package - $1,895
-242-Watt Bose surround-sound with 10 speakers
-In-Dash 6-disc changer
-Full color mid with compact navigation
-Sirius satellite radio
-Advanced keyless system with push-button start
-Perimeter alarm
Key options not on vehicle:
None
Fuel economy:
(city/hwy/combined)
18 / 25 / 21 mpg
Engine:
Size: 2.3L Turbocharged, intercooled I-4
Horsepower: 263 hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 280 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm

Redline: 6700 rpm
Fuel cut-off: 7100 rpm

Drive: Front-wheel
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Weight:
Curb weight: 3263 lbs
Distribution (percent front/rear): 62/38
Wheels/tires:
Type: Dunlop SP Sport 2050
Size: 255/40 YR-18
Competitors: Volkswagen GTI, Honda Civic Si, Hyundai Genesis 2.0T, Mitsubishi EVO
Acceleration
0-60 mph: 6.3 seconds
0-100 mph: 15.0 seconds
0-110 mph: 18.3 seconds
0-120 mph: 22.2 seconds
0-130 mph: 28.1 seconds
0-140 mph: 31.5 seconds
0-150 mph: 49.4 seconds

1/4 mile: 14.9 seconds @ 99 mph
30-70 mph passing: 6.2 seconds
Peak g: 0.50

Speed in Gears
1st: 34 mph
2nd: 58 mph
3rd: 81 mph
4th: 108 mph
5th: 140 mph
6th: 151 mph

Braking
70-0 mph: 170 ft
Peak g: 1.04

Cornering
L: 0.95 g
R: 0.95 g

2010 Mazda3 s Sport 5-Door
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Base price (with destination): $19,900
Price as tested: $22,570
Overview
Body Style: 4-door hatchback
Accommodation: 5-passenger
Construction: Steel unibody
Powertrain
Engine
2.5-liter I-4
167 hp @ 6000 rpm
168 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Drive: front-wheel
Fuel economy: 21 / 29 / 24 mpg (city/hwy/combined)

Redline: 6200 rpm
Fuel cut-off: 6500 rpm

Chassis
Steering: Power-assisted rack-and-pinion
Turns lock-to-lock: 2.9
Turning Circle: 35.8 ft
Suspension, Front: Strut-type, coil springs
Suspension, Rear: Multilink, coil springs
Brakes F/R: Vented disc/disc, ABS
Wheels: 17 x 6.5 in
Tires: Yokohama Avid S34
Tire Size: 205/50VR-17
Measurements
Headroom F/R: 38.1/37.4 in
Legroom F/R: 42.0/36.2 in
Shoulder Room F/R: 54.9/54.0 in
Wheelbase: 103.9 in
Track F/R: 60.2/59.6 in
L x W x H: 177.4 x 69.1 x 57.9 in
Cargo Capacity: 17.0 cu ft
Curb Weight: 3056 lbs
Weight Dist. F/R: 60.1/39.9%
Fuel Capacity: 15.9 gal
Est. Range: 382 miles
Fuel Grade: 87 octane
Standard Equipment
ABS
Front, side, and side curtain airbags
Push-button ignition with intelligent key
Power windows, locks, and mirrors
Bluetooth
Auxiliary audio input
Tire-pressure monitoring system
Options
Moonroof/Bose Package $1395
-242 watt Bose Centerpoint 10-speaker surround sound
-Moonroof with one-touch open
-In-dash 6-disc CD changer
Technology Package $1195
-Color display with compact nav-screen
-Advanced keyless system with push-button start
-Sirius satellite radio with 6-month subscription
Acceleration
0-60 mph: 8.1 seconds
0-100 mph: 21.6 seconds
0-110 mph: 28.6 seconds

1/4 mile: 16.1 seconds @ 88 mph
30-70 mph passing: 8.9 seconds
Peak g: 0.50

Speed in Gears
1st: 32 mph

2nd: 53 mph
3rd: 79 mph
4th: 106 mph
5th: 118 mph
6th: 100 mph

Braking
70-0 mph: 170 ft
Peak g: 1.01

Cornering
L: 0.89 g
R: 0.89 g

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