The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

2012 MazdaSpeed3 Review By John Heilig

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)


SPECIFICATIONS: 2012 MazdaSpeed3
Model: 2012 Mazda MAZDASPEED3 Touring 5-Door
Engine: 2.3-liter turbocharged I4
Horsepower/Torque: 263 hp @ 5,000 rpm/280 lb.-ft. @ 3,000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Wheelbase: 103.9 in.
Length/Width/Height: 177.6 x 69.7 x 57.5 in.
Tires: P225/40R18
Cargo volume: 13 cu. ft. (est.)
Fuel economy: 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway/26.8 mpg test
Fuel capacity: 15.9 gal.
Curb weight: 3,281 lbs.
Sticker: $27,545 (includes $795 delivery charge, $3,050 in options, mostly for the Mazdaspeed tech package)

Top 5 Reasons To Buy MazdaSpeed3

1. Street racer
2. Economical
3. Surprise your friends
4. Impress the teenagers in your neighborhood
5. Have a car that smiles at you

My Bottom Line: While the Mazdaspeed3 may not be the type of vehicle that appeals to my demographic group, I can see where its raucous exhaust note, quickness off the line, firm ride and precise handling might be just what your local teenager might want.

I have had the fortunate opportunity to drive several variants of the Mazda3 compact car; the base, the GT version, and not the Mazdaspeed3, which is a whole 'nother animal.

The Mazdaspeed3 (henceforth to be known as the MS3) is powered by a 2.3-liter turbocharged inline four that puts out 263 horsepower and 280 lb.-ft. of torque. This is a lot for the 3,281-lb. MS3. The result is a lot of torque steer, where the car wants to turn whenever you tromp on the accelerator.

Power reaches the front wheels through a 6-speed manual transmission. What else would you expect in a street racer? The 6MT is firm with stiff gating and crisp shift points. We used fifth most of the time as a high gear and sixth on the highway.

To handle all the power, Mazda has infused the MS3 with a stiff suspension that gives the car a harsh ride. The upside of this, of course, is very good handling on winding roads. The downside is that the harshness of the suspension matches the harshness of the engine. It all makes for a nice street racer, but it isn't a very comfortable car to drive or ride in, despite the cloth and leather seats that offer very good side support.

My granddaughter's first comment when she saw the MS3 in our driveway was, "Poppy's new car is smiling at me." Yes, the MS3's grille does have an upward sweep that makes the car look as if it's smiling. On the back is a large rear spoiler that identifies it as an MS3.

Overall, the MS3 is like the M3, but with the turbocharged engine and performance accessories.

While I'm carping about the MS3, I fully realize the car is not designed for my demographic. That said, the front seats offer good side support and are comfortable to ride in. They are manually adjustable, but in our family's case, only one person drives the cars we have, so powered seat adjustment isn't a requirement. It's nice and I'll take it when it's there, but it isn't a requirement.

There's good legroom in the front that compromises rear seat legroom a bit. Rear seating is tight. Indents in the backs of the front seats help rear knee room. The high center hump makes is difficult for any center passenger. The rear seats fold flat to increase cargo carrying capacity. If you want, you can keep them folded all the time and have a two-seat sports car with a lot of cargo volume.

I felt the dash was informative. There are a large speedometer and tachometer with a fuel level gauge in the middle. There's also an information panel in a nacelle under the windshield that has audio and HVAC info as well as a small map, with no navigation.

The audio controls on the dash take some getting used to, but the simple three-knob HVAC system is a dream.

While the MS3 may not be my cup of tea, I can see where it would appeal to a younger audience, and more power to them.. I'd prefer the base M3 myself.

2012 The Auto Page