A few years back, Mazda nominated their capable Mazda3 Hatchback for the factory tuner game. They badged this sporty compact the MazdaSpeed3. The result was a killer combo of practical presence and unyielding performance. It was a true street racer at an affordable price. Well, now it’s take two for the MazdaSpeed3, as we wonder… what more can this little hot hatchback deliver?
The impression is immediate. Mazda’s 5-door 2010 MazdaSpeed3’s cartoonish presence makes the outgoing model look almost tame by comparison. And it’s the grill, with its leering mouthful of black plastic gills surrounded by swept-back cat-eye lighting that gets your attention and keeps it.
The most purposeful new front feature is a functional hood scoop that blasts the Speed3’s intercooler with fresh air. Rear styling is also more aggressive for 2010, with narrow, protruding taillights, more angular rear hatch, larger spoiler, and oversized dual exhaust tips. The RX-8 R3-inspired 18-inch alloy wheels are now shod with wider high-performance Dunlop tires.
But powering this front-drive, grocery-getting outlaw is the same direct injected, 263-horsepower 2.3-liter turbo four as before. Likewise, torque remains at an ample 280 pound-feet, all channeled through the Speed3’s only transmission, a very appropriate six-speed manual.
Gearing in second through fifth gears is taller for 2010, while a limited slip diff remains standard. Hard launches in the Speed3 still proved tricky, however. Too much throttle and the front wheels shudder; too little and it all bogs down. But making pavement connection has improved over our 2007 test, with the new tires, revised driveshafts and updated torque management electronics reducing torque steer in a big way.
In fact, our 0 to 60 time of 5.2 seconds is over a second quicker, with a similar improvement for the quarter mile at 13.9-seconds and 102 miles per hour. Short stops were never a problem with the Speed3: 60 to 0 in a fine average of 123 feet with a solid, vibration-free pedal. Plus, for 2010 Brake Assist has been added.
Through our long slalom, the MazdaSpeed3 again exhibited a more manageable amount of torque steer with less tendency to push at each apex. You still need to squeeze rather than stab the throttle for best control; but manage the gas well, and this little hatch rewards you with pure exhilaration.
We did notice that during the high speed lane change, the electro-hydraulic steering seemed to lose boost, going from light to very heavy in an instant. The previous generation Speed3 had a stiff ride, especially on rough roads. The new Speed’s strengthened body structure and suspension tweaks; stiffer springs, higher damper rates, and revised front stabilizer bar still leave most of the shock absorption to the comfy, high-bolstered seats.
They’re mostly black cloth, but the headrests and bolsters are trimmed in black leather and there are red highlights everywhere around the cabin.
The dash has a new-found flow, drawing the eye down the center stack to the brightwork around the shifter. The switchgear layout has been revised, and the digital display has moved to a shroud under the windshield.
Door sills, floor mats, and aluminum pedals are all unique to the MazdaSpeed3. A new LED turbo boost gauge between the tach and speedo is standard, as is Bluetooth and six airbags.
With our car’s Tech package, there’s also a 10-speaker Bose sound system, full-color navigation, and push-button start.
The back bench offers a reasonable amount of room for two adults, but not for three. But it’s impressively versatile. With the 60/40 seats up, there’s 17 cubic feet reserved for cargo. Folded flat, that figure swells to a useful 42.8 cubic feet.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for the 2010 MazdaSpeed3 are 18 city/25 highway. On our mileage loop, we bettered both, managing 26.1 miles per gallon of premium. With an Energy Impact Score of 16.3 annual barrels of oil, and a Carbon Footprint of 8.7 tons of CO2, the MazdaSpeed3 falls right in line with the Subaru WRX.
As ever, the 2010 Mazda MazdaSpeed3 is priced to move, with a base of just $23,945. The Tech package adds $1,895 more. Mazda’s frisky MazdaSpeed3 continues as one of our all time favorites. For 2010, in some ways - more refined, in others - more ferocious, but always entertaining. And, we might add, for a factory tuned hot hatchback, extremely affordable and even practical. Buy one and you’ll be grinning like a Cheshire cat, too!
Engine: 2.3-Liter Turbo Four
Torque: 280 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 5.2 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 13.9 Seconds @ 102 MPH
60-0 MPH: 123 Feet
EPA: 18 MPG City/ 25 MPG Highway
Mixed Loop: 26.1 MPG
Energy Impact: 16.3 Barrels Oil/Yr
CO2 Emissions: 8.7 Tons/Yr