A seriously compelling hot hatch
One of my colleagues described this car as being so ridiculous that it’s actually fun.
Prior to driving the 2013 Mazdaspeed3, my last real encounter with Mazda was with my first car; my pride and joy. It was a car that I took to its limits and more often than not, beyond them. Towards the end of its line, I had a feeling akin to when your wife of 30 years asks you if she’s beginning to look old. You know it’s true, but you can’t admit it. My MX-3 was beginning to show signs of age; it started costing me more to maintain than it was worth, so we parted ways.
At the time I was looking for a new vehicle, Mazda didn’t really have anything that I found myself falling in love with. The MX-5 was far too small, the RX-8 was impractical for daily commuting, and the Mazda6 came with the Duratec engine. I couldn’t see myself buying any of them. I went the VQ35 route and ended up with a Nissan Maxima; the last year it was (arguably) fully Japanese-built.
In 2012, I had the opportunity to take the Mazdaspeed3 we tested for a quick jaunt; and I was immediately floored by the hot hatch’s capabilities. It had me revisiting the Mazda brand as a whole. Fast forward to this past week; my tester was a 2013 Mazdaspeed3 decked out with the Technology Package. Dressed up in a Crystal White Pearl, which looks absolutely awesome, the Speed also came with a new touchscreen for the navigation system. This new system adapts the TomTom map systems previously found in on-dash devices and mobile applications.
I found that the Bose sound system in this Mazda was lacking a bit in the quality department, especially since we associate Bose with the premium audio brand image. I expected a little bit more given the quality presented by Bose in other automakers’ applications. Navigating the new system is awesome though, and everything is easy to find. The tiny screen of last year’s model was my biggest complaint, and Mazda has definitely answered user complaints about the unit.
The Mazdaspeed3 is propelled along by its zippy 2.3L DISI MZR (Mazda Responsive) engine, which lashies out a healthy 263 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque thanks to 15 pounds of boost. This car can only be had with the 6-speed manual transmission. If you have to ask if an automatic is available, the Speed3 is not for you.
The Mazdaspeed3 carries over essentially unchanged save for the addition of the TomTom navigation system, the powdercoated wheels, and some other very small cosmetic things. Unfortunately for the Speed3, it has yet to receive the full redesign that its “lesser” sibling, the Mazda3 has been given for 2014. Based on what rumours are speculating though, the Mazdaspeed version shouldn’t be too far behind. The Speed3 definitely sends out numbers we previously only saw in the Mitsubishi Evolution and the Subaru WRX, but seeing as it lacks all-wheel-drive, it’s compared to other hot hatches such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI and the Ford Focus ST. Despite the fact that the Speed3’s drivetrain hasn’t really been changed since 2007, it definitely keeps up with the others.
One huge gripe I have with the way the Mazdaspeed3 drives is the lag that it has in both first and second gear. This is due to the boost limitations Mazda has implemented in order to limit wheelspin and control torque steer. In third gear and beyond however, the Speed3 delivers full boost. I think this should be an option only when traction/stability control is turned on, but I’m sure a quick ECU flash can remedy it all. This should be especially simple considering the Speed3 (along with the other hot hatches) is extremely tuner-happy.
Torque steer. It definitely takes a few minutes to get used to the way the Speed3 behaves. One of my colleagues described this car as being so ridiculous that it’s actually fun. I have gotten so used to the torque steer from my daily driven front-wheel-drive Maxima that I didn’t even really notice the Mazdaspeed3’s adventurous front end by the end of my test week. The most surprising thing was that even with my supposed lead foot, I was able to manage a spectacular 9.6L/100km throughout a week with the car.
Temptation isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the Mazdaspeed3 continued to tempt me with its abilities. The chassis exhibited sheer confidence around every hairpin or sharp corner I threw at it, with minimal body roll for a hot hatch. I honestly could not stop giggling at how much of an absolute hoot this car is on Forks of the Credit, a favourite road of mine. I literally turned around and had to do it a second time.
The Speed3 isn’t exactly a smooth riding car on the dated country roads of southern Ontario. It’s a small price to pay for such an incredibly fun hot hatch. The exhaust drones a bit too much for my liking, but I’m able to overlook it. For an as-tested price of just under $35,000, the Mazdaspeed3 is one hell of a hot hatch. It definitely makes a compelling argument, and especially so since I forsee pricing for the 2013 dropping significantly the second the new ones begin to hit showrooms. I’m all in.
2013 Mazdaspeed3 Gallery