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 wouldn't necessarily steer others away from the MS3, though, since its price is highly competitive and it offers tons of horsepower. Plus, the Mazda comes in a versatile hatchback body style (which we liked during a year with a non-Speed Mazda3) and very supportive seats.
- Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor