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2011 Mazdaspeed3 Sport Review

2011 Mazdaspeed3 Sport 5-Door (select to view enlarged photo)
2011 Mazdaspeed3 Sport 5-Door

KNOWLEDGE BASE Mazda Buyers Guide

By John Heilig

Model: 2011 Mazdaspeed3 Sport 5-Door
Engine: 2.3-liter turbocharged and intercooled I4
Horsepower/Torque: 263 hp @ 5,500 rpm/280 lb.-ft. @ 3,000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Wheelbase: 103.9 in.
Length x Width x Height: 177.6 x 69.7 x 57.5 in.
Tires: P225/40R18
Cargo: 17.0/42.8 cu. Ft. (rear seats up/down)
Economy: 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway/24.6 mpg test
Fuel capacity: 15.9 gal.
Curb Weight: 3,272 lbs.
Sticker: $26,605 (includes $750 delivery, processing and handling fee; $2,519 in options (Mazdaspeed tech package))

My Bottom Line: Street tuners might want to take an economy car like the Mazda3 and tack on aftermarket pieces to make it seem like a Mazdaspeed3, but it would all be in vain. Mazda has done all the work themselves and come up with a car that will make the street tuners drool with envy. It’s probably cheaper, too.

Since we live near the local high school, we’re subjected to the buzzing of street-tuned Japanese compact cars racing down our street. I’m not sure which is more annoying, the buzzing or the excessive speeds.

These kids (and their parents) could probably save a lot of money (but not the fun of putting it together, I’ll admit) by going to their local Mazda dealer and getting a Mazdaspeed3. Get carried away and get the Sport version, it won’t set you back that much more.

I wondered what makes a Mazda3 (henceforth referred to as a 3) into a Mazdaspeed3 (henceforth referred to as a speed3)? Well, the 3 comes with a 2.0-liter inline 4 that delivers 148 horsepower. In the speed3, the engine is a 2.4-liter turbocharged 4 with 263 hp, a significant increase. Power gets to the front wheels through a 5-speed manual in the 3, a 6-speed in the speed3. The base 3 is about three inches longer, too, and rides on narrower 205/55R16 tires.

The speed3also wears a lower front air dam which, with round fog lights, frame an organic metallic-black grille. There’s also a hood scoop for the intercooler. From the side, there are the larger wheels and tires, of course, and sculpted side skirts. Inside, there are excellent front seats with good side support.

The result is an honest-to-goodness pocket rocket. The speed3 accelerates with all the oomph of a turbocharged 4, with just a hint of turbo steer. The 6-speed box is crisp, with a solid, comfortable feeling when shifting. Combined with a stiffer clutch, you truly get the sense you’re in a performance car.

Handling is also very good, with a stiffer suspension that aids then roadworthiness but doesn’t make you suffer with a harsh ride.

Ride quality is enhanced by those nice front seats. First, they have the very good side support, but the moiré pattern to the upholstery sets them off nicely. The pattern is repeated on the dash. The front seats adjust manually, but it isn’t that difficult to find the right settings. Besides, an owner will probably just set the seats once and the n leave them that way.

The rear seats are tight in legroom. My granddaughters kept asking me to move the front seats forward so they’d have more legroom when sitting in a car seat.

Since the speed3 is a hatchback design, the luggage capacity is very good at 17 cubic feet. Fold those rear seat backs down (after removing the car seats, of course) and the cargo capacity explodes to 42.8 cubic feet.

Orange lights dominate the clear instrument panel, which includes an LED turbo boost gauge along with the standards. The audio system was fine and included an AUX input in the center console/arm rest with a 12V power source next to it. The HVAC system left something to be desired, but to be fair the outside temperatures were in the 0-10 degree range and we took mostly short trips.

The nav system rides high on the dash and is small, but it isn’t a distraction. To set it you push buttons on the smart steering wheel so you don’t have to change your seating position. When it’s off, you press “info” and you get fuel economy, etc.

Although it looks tiny on the outside, the Mazdaspeed3 Sport has a big heart. If all you want is an economy car, go for the base Mazda3, but if you want a little fun, go for the speed3. You won’t be disappointed.

© 2011 The Auto Page