2007 Mazda MazdaSpeed3
It's easy to think that all sports cars are two-seaters that barely have room for two people and an overnight case, but the Mazda-speed3 wagon erases that notion in a flash. This compact wagon has the heart of a giant killer.
This burly little wagon has the chops to run with cars costing twice as much as its $22,935 base price ($24,055 for the Grand Touring model). It is as comfortable delivering groceries as it is blasting through the cones of an autocross course on Sunday.
Mazda has created a performance reputation by building cars with spirited handling and spunky acceleration, but the Mazdaspeed3 is zoom-zoom squared.
The heart of this jewel is a turbocharged 2.3-liter, direct-injection four-cylinder that pumps out 263 horsepower that makes it, according to Mazda, one of the most powerful front-wheel-drive cars on the market. Similar versions with slightly less power reside in the Mazdaspeed6 and CX-7 crossover vehicle.
This engine has a broad powerband and docile low-speed behavior, yet when you lean into the throttle the car bursts forward in a blur. Cranking this much power through the front wheels can be tricky, and the Mazdaspeed3 exhibits some torque steer as the front wheels pull slightly to one side or the other as they search for traction. The torque sensing, limited-slip front differential plays a big role in keeping torque steer in check.
The six-speed gearbox is the perfect partner for this engine, and its tight shift linkage is a joy to use.
The Mazdaspeed3 is available only as a wagon, and this wagon is one of the best looking out there. The tapered roof ends in a slightly pointed hatchback, sharp fender flares bulge over 18-inch wheels, and the nose has a vaguely hawk-like grille.
Compared to the standard model, the sports suspension in the Mazdaspeed3 gives the car a slightly lower ride height and a squatter profile. The ride is firm without being overly harsh. The payoff for this tighter ride is sports-car handling. Body lean is almost nil.
The anti-lock brakes are strong and powerful. Stability and traction control are standard as well.
The test car was a Grand Touring model that was very nicely equipped. It has a Bose audio system, a tilt and telescoping wheel, power windows and locks, automatic climate control, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control and steering wheel controls for the audio system.
The front seats were deeply sculpted buckets that provided excellent support for long distances behind the wheel. The split-folding rear seat gives the Mazdaspeed3 hauling flexibility. The cargo hold is not overly generous in size.
The gauges are mounted in three pods almost like those of a motorcycle. The red numerals were pleasing in the dark.
The optional navigation system consists of a screen that pops up from the top of the dash. The radio system is separate from the LCD screen, which can be folded when not in use.
Price The test vehicle's base price was $24,055. Options included a navigation system and satellite radio. The sticker price was $26,730.
Warranty Three years or 36,000 miles, with a five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Cars.com Expert Reviews
|David Thomas||Cars.com National||September 25, 2006|
|Mike Hanley||Cars.com National||April 24, 2006|
|Steven Cole Smith||Orlando Sentinel||June 16, 2007|
|Tom Strongman||KansasCity.com||April 28, 2007|
|Royal Ford||Boston.com||March 4, 2007|
|Anita And Paul Lienert||The Detroit Newspapers||November 22, 2006|
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