By James Bergeron

Day 1:

2007 Mazdaspeed3
Click Image to Enlarge

Quelle surprise! My test vehicle for this week literally showed up unexpected to me today. I was originally booked in another vehicle for this week, but it was canceled and replaced with this wonderful morsel of fun. And it could not have come at a better time. In fact just Sunday I was admiring one these bad boys during an autocross event here in Ottawa and spoke to the owner for a bit.

Owning a Mazda3 Sport GT myself you can only imagine my excitement. I can’t wait to put this vehicle through its paces and determine what exactly (besides the gobs of extra power) Mazda has incorporated into this hot hatch to improve upon one of the best selling compact vehicles in Canada.

2007 Mazdaspeed3
Click Image to Enlarge

The colour of my tester could not have been better either: black mica; the perfect contrast to my white hatch. Yin and yang, good vs evil, perhaps? I immediately was able to spot some of the differences between the ’06 and ’07 Mazda3 but I’ll try to leave that out of this and focus on the differences between the Mazdaspeed3 and the regular Mazda3.

The first obvious difference is the price. Depending on options added to the regular Mazda3 Sport the price difference can be $10,000 more for the Mazdaspeed version, but when comparing to a GT model the price difference drops to closer to $5,000. The Mazdaspeed3 has no options which makes things rather simple; the only extra would be a Crystal White Pearl exterior for an additional $200.

Behind the wheel other differences become quite obvious: the seats provide more support, the steering wheel feels stiffer and the pedals are larger. Under the hood Mazda has come up with a monster of a 2.3L inline four cylinder turbocharged engine pumping out 263hp and 280lb-ft of torque mated to a six-speed manual transmission. Standard features include: traction control and stability control which are not offered in the Mazda3 Sport, 18″ Mazdaspeed wheels with 215/45 summer tires, Mazdaspeed styled body bits and HID lamps as well as climate control (available with the premium package on the GT only)

Should be an exciting week; I hope to keep my license in my wallet. I’ll have to be mighty careful though with all those ponies under my right foot.

2007 Mazdaspeed 3
MSRP as tested: $30,995

For more information on Mazda and the Mazdaspeed3 visit Mazda Canada


Day 2:

2007 Mazdaspeed3
Click Image to Enlarge

I’m sure all my readers want to know how it drives now and would rather me skip the interior comments and such but I’d rather get more time behind the wheel before passing too much judgment on the driving dynamics.

I will mention one thing about driving the Mazdaspeed3 today: I noticed the turning radius was not nearly as good as the standard Mazda3. A quick check with Mazda’s specifications and my concerns are legitimate. The Mazdaspeed3 takes 70cm more curb to curb to turn and offers only 2.7 turns lock to lock, where as the Mazda3 Sport offers 2.9 turns. This doesn’t sound like much but I noticed it trying to maneuver in a few parking lots today: coupled with the stiffer steering it made parking lot driving not so much fun.

2007 Mazdaspeed3
Click Image to Enlarge

The interior isn’t all that much different than in the standard Mazda3. The leather wrapped steering wheel is stitched with red thread all around; the seats, besides being more supportive, are clad with red baseball stitching and then there’s the MazdaSpeed logo. The pedals are aluminum with a gigantic dead pedal and the pedals are also closer together allowing for smoother and easier heel and toe down-shifting.

The standard automatic climate control seems to work really well. I set it to 21.5 Celsius yesterday; this morning it was 17 degrees when I entered the car and it warmed it up slightly, on my way home this evening it was 33 degrees and it kept it cool without having to touch it. The same rattle-prone glovebox is used on the Speed3 as any other Mazda3 so there is no upgrade there either.

Being a hatch, of course, the Speed3 is ultra-practical with the ability to swallow large items with ease, and the standard tonneau cover provided by Mazda keeps your valuables hidden in the same way a trunk does in a sedan — personally I see no downside here.

The real changes to the Speed3 are to the driving dynamics, which I’ll get to tomorrow.

Day 3:

2007 Mazdaspeed3
Click Image to Enlarge

Okay: day 3 is here and I have put over 250km on the Mazdaspeed3; took a few moments to head out in my own Mazda3 to get a feel for the differences, as well. There is a short answer and a long answer to explain the differences: the short answer is AWESOME — the long answer? Read on.

Let’s start from the front and move backwards. The biggest, most obvious change is the engine. The standard 2.3L engine is pretty peppy; I certainly would not classify it as slow and for city driving and even back country roads it is a blast. The 2.3L turbocharged engine in the Mazdaspeed3 is simply a beast; describing it is very difficult. Below 2500rpm the pull is not significantly stronger than a normally aspirated 2.3L engine but once that boost kicks in, hold on to your hat. First gear (although power is electronically limited) pulls you quickly to 60km/h; shift into second gear and well, let’s just say that before you can say “too fast” you are going too fast.

2007 Mazdaspeed3
Click Image to Enlarge

The clutch, transmission, steering and brakes have all been stiffened and sharpened up to give the driver a sense of urgency. The brakes grab instantly, where as the standard Mazda3brake pedal feels mushy in comparison. The clutch is downright firm, which makes upshifting quickly and smoothly a difficult task, and makes slower, more casual driving a little more difficult than in the standard 3. The shifter is also stiffer, with shorter throws providing a nice chunky and well connected feel.

Steering feel can change dramatically from tire to tire and the stickier rubber on the Mazdaspeed version certainly attributes to a firmer steering feel, but I still believe it has been stiffened up. The ratio certainly has changed as I mentioned yesterday and is noticeable. Continuing this “stiff” theme is the suspension. Mazda does a great job on suspensions and this one is no exception. For some drivers the ride may be a little harsh as I have heard complaints that the vanilla Mazda3 is stiff. Although firm, I do not find the ride jarring; somehow this stiffer ride gives the vehicle a more solid feeling as well, especially around corners.

What I have noticed is the Mazdapeed3 feels less “tossable;” the standard Mazda3 with it’s light steering gives the vehicle a sense of playfulness that allows you to toss it in and out of corners without worry. The Mazdaspeed3, although more capable, has a feel that conveys respect. Entering a corner, you feel as though you better be fully committed to taking that corner at neck-snapping speeds or else. The Speed3 is definitely a vehicle targeted towards a more hardcore enthusiast than the casual-spirited fun type.

Day 4:

2007 Mazdaspeed3
Click Image to Enlarge

Well last day of the blog, but lucky me I get to keep this little guy for the long weekend. Not much bad to say about the Mazdaspeed3, there certainly is lots good to say about it. I actually drove my own Mazda3 again today to get a feel for the differences one last time.

As noted before the ride is firmer in the Mazdaspeed but really not that much, the Mazdaspeed certainly feels stiffer and more hardcore as mentioned before as well. They are very similar except for power and feel — so yeah they are not that much alike than except for body style and interior design.

I was on the go pedal quite a bit this past week as you can imagine but even with the lead right foot I averaged 10.9L/100km with mixed city and highway driving. This isn’t that much worse than my Mazda3 which generally returns 9L/100km over the course of a week of driving.

The Mazdaspeed3 does take premium fuel so you might want to take that into account if you are looking, but at only $30,995 the speed3 really is a bargain for the power per dollar available. The speedometer is a little hard to read with only the 20,40,60,80,120 being large numbers and all the others before 120 being small — this tends to mean a lot of speeding.

A must test drive for any enthusiast looking for a fast car with practicality.

*Rating out of 5:

2007 Mazdaspeed3
Acceleration 4half"
Handling 4half
Comfort 3half
Interior 3half
Audio System 3half
Gas Mileage 3

*Rating based on vehicle’s classification

2007 Mazdaspeed 3
MSRP as tested: $30,995

For more information on Mazda and the Mazdaspeed3 visit Mazda Canada

Connect with Autos.ca