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.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor