2012 Mazdaspeed3

Does "Zoom Zoom" finally mean something? Over the last decade or so, essentially since the introduction of the Mazda3/6, Mazda has been actively trying to develop their own identity.

Over the last decade or so, essentially since the introduction of the Mazda3/6, Mazda has been actively trying to develop their own identity. The Mazdaspeed performance-oriented line went MIA for a few years with the discontinuation of the Protegé, until they decided to re-introduce it with the Mazdaspeed3 in 2007. This past week I was fortunate enough to boot around with the 2012 Mazdaspeed3 and see how it fares.

 

Essentially a turbocharged version of the existing Mazda3 GT with the 2.3L engine and the addition of a (much needed) 6th gear, the Mazdaspeed3 was an instant hit with the enthusiast (*cough*, ricer) community. People began mounting things like big intercoolers, huge exhausts, and of course, appearance modifications. However, there were a select few, whom I’d call absolutely brilliant, bought this car for its purist driving experience.

 

2012 Mazdaspeed3 at Mazda factory

 

This 2nd generation Mazdaspeed3 is fundamentally no different than the first. In order to make sure of this, I managed to track down a friend who owns an unmolested 1st-generation Mazdaspeed3 and compare it to my tester 2012 with the Technology Package. Powered by the “old faithful” 2.3L turbocharged 4-cylinder with 263-horsepower, the Speed3 is an absolute hoot that put a huge grin on my face every single time I stepped on the accelerator. The handling is absolutely excellent for a front-wheel-drive car, if not as quite at the benchmark of FWD handling, the Mini Cooper S. I did have to keep in mind though that with this much power to the front wheels, the Speed3 was a torque-steer disaster. If not too much power, I’d definitely go as far as to say that this is the absolute most power I feel is appropriate in a front-wheel-drive car. I observed a conservative 9.7L/100km in day-to-day driving on 91-Octane fuel; exactly what Mazda says the car should get.

 

The performance-oriented exhaust on the Mazdaspeed3 is intended to give it a presence on the street. When you’re idling in traffic, the car has a low growl that isn’t unlike a tiger ready to pounce. When you step on it, the engine sounds great from the cockpit, but you can’t hear anything from the outside. I personally feel as though in a performance car, I’d like to hear at least something from the exhaust when I’m going wide-open-throttle. On the contrary though, cruising on the highway in 6th gear definitely gave a little bit of exhaust drone. It wasn’t enough to be a buying deterrent, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind.

 

2012 Mazdaspeed3 side profile

 

The Mazdaspeed3 definitely gets looks, except they’re generally from the youth male demographic that’d be most likely to purchase this particular car. It’s unfortunate that the vast majority of motorists wouldn’t be able to differentiate it from the standard-issue Mazda3. Unique cues on the Speed3 include bigger wheels, a hood scoop, a larger rear spoiler, and a few sportier touches on the body. My car was equipped with the Technology Package, which included nice toys such as a Blind Spot Monitoring system, an Intelligent Key system, Adaptive HID headlights, a Bose 10-speaker audio system, rain-sensing wipers, and a GPS navigation system that is compatible with Bluetooth audio streaming.

 

Unfortunately, the Speed3 still doesn’t come with a sunroof or full leather. The seats are extremely supportive and definitely hold their own, but they’re faux-leather with cloth centre inserts. One nice thing Mazda managed to do with the Speed3 was improve the quality of the interior. The Mazda3, from our experience, has been absolutely horrendous for interior quality starting with the 2010 redesign. The interior materials on my tester Speed3 were adequate. They weren’t amazing, but I certainly wasn’t complaining at how cheap the car felt. My main gripe with the Speed3 was the navigation system. It’s absolutely horrendously unfriendly to use, and the screen is unacceptably small. If they’re going to equip the car with such a terrible system, they may as well not include one at all. It actually took away from the allure of the car in my eyes.

 

2012 Mazdaspeed3 tachometer

 

At an as-tested price of $32,380, the 2012 Mazdaspeed3 is one of the best “bang-for-your-buck” cars you can get. It’s absolutely brilliant in the sense that it’s able to bring out the youth in even the most conservative driver. If I were in the market, I’d say skip the $2,440 Technology Package, live without a few of the toys, and still have a phenomenal daily driver that gets great gas mileage while being completely practical to haul four people in relative comfort.

Zoom Zoom, fellow drivers!

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Adi Desai
Adi Desai
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