2007 MazdaSpeed3
2007 MazdaSpeed3; photo by Jil McIntosh. Click image to enlarge


Review and photos by Justin Pritchard

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Photo Gallery: 2007 MazdaSpeed3

Two Hundred. It’s a nice, round number that was, for a brief period, the standard in terms of horsepower for cars in the new-age import tuner marketplace.

We’ve got the Honda Civic Si, Chevrolet Cobalt SS Supercharged and Volkswagen Golf GTI as the main players in the scene, with appropriate add-ons and upgrades installed right at their factories. All three have enjoyed reasonably successful sales figures.

In the recent past though, there was one machine which entered the market like a heap of turbocharged sheetmetal on a rampage. For about the same price as its comparatively underpowered competition, the Dodge SRT-4 delivered a 230 horsepower turbocharged punch to the front wheels- offering buyers a taste of insanity on their daily commute. It’s short life was intended to send the Neon off with an un-muffled bang, and once it left the market, a space opened up for those after ridiculous speed and excessive torque. With the SRT-4 out of production, the streets were, for a while, safe for the rest of the gang.

But a problem has presented itself. There is a new kid on the block once again, and it’s a bit of a bully. In just about the same price range as its competitors, it offers up 263 horsepower and 280 lb. ft. of torque – meaning that someone at Mazda took the power per dollar bar and snapped it over their knee.

2007 MazdaSpeed3
2007 MazdaSpeed3; photo by Jil McIntosh. Click image to enlarge

It’s called the Mazdaspeed3, the Japanese carmaker’s second Mazdaspeed designated model and third in North America to carry the award-winning, torque-monster 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine under its hood.

Unlike its big brother, the Speed6, the Speed3 isn’t shy about its import tuner upbringing. There’s a wing overlooking the rear hatch glass, side skirts, a deep bumper, and a large exhaust tip in the back. Still, some folks might find that the Mazdaspeed designated model doesn’t go far enough to differentiate itself from the standard car. Others may be happy as it doesn’t scream for attention from the local police force.

But then, there’s the colour. It’s violently, excessively red – possibly the most vulgar and obscene shade of red possible, and everybody who admired the test car just loved it – which is good because it’s the only colour available.

2007 MazdaSpeed3
2007 MazdaSpeed3. Click image to enlarge

In fact, the Mazdaspeed3 comes just one way. Aside from a sole colour comprising the paint treatment, there is no optional sunroof, leather seats, or stereo system. Why no options? So far as this journalist can tell, it cements the Speed3 into a “must have” class of vehicle, although the horsepower per dollar figures were probably sufficient.

It is well stocked – with HID lighting, a 6-CD changer, i-Pod input, very supportive semi-racing seats, fog lamps, metal pedals, coloured stitching, and more. Of course, it rides on eighteens too, and they look totally sick – or so say the youngsters who admire the machine from their favourite racing video games where Mazda has targeted them at an early age.

2007 MazdaSpeed3
2007 MazdaSpeed3
2007 MazdaSpeed3. Click image to enlarge

The people after this sort of car love in-car advertising – and they’ll be happy to see brand reinforcement at its finest in the Speed3 with the Mazdaspeed logo presenting itself no fewer than three times before getting into the car.

While you’re there, all controls are easy to find and use, gauges are easy to read and automatic lights and wipers are a welcome high-end feature you won’t find anywhere else for the price. The visibility is also excellent, and the ride is reasonably quiet and comfortable.

However, the Mazdaspeed3 driver is more likely to be concerned with performance – and with 280 lb.-ft. of torque, performance is an exercise in excess. The Speed3’s got masses of power everywhere, and after just a quick period of turbo lag it sets off ripping the pavement to shreds. Traction in first and second gear is such that the tires fight to stay planted.

2007 MazdaSpeed3
2007 MazdaSpeed3. Click image to enlarge

Full throttle romps will see your head pressed into the seat, and the steering wheel tries violently to escape your grip should either front wheel encounter any anomaly on the road’s surface. Any little pothole, puddle or bit of dirt is like a landmine to the unleashed Speed3, and torque-steer really is class-leading.

There is a trick limited slip differential up front, and the turbo output is limited in the first few gears to keep your rubber intact. All the juice is routed through a six speed manual gearbox with a heavy and demanding clutch and long, rubbery shifter mechanism. It’s not typical Mazda fare, for sure though its decent once you get used to it.

2007 MazdaSpeed3
2007 MazdaSpeed3. Click image to enlarge

Turbocharged engines tend to lack very inspired exhaust notes, and the 2.3 MZR DISI TURBO mill is no exception. The sound of choice is a groan overlapped with a sucking sound when you plant your right foot. Even from outside, barely a peep aside from a rush of air escapes the tailpipe when you’re on it hard. Compared to a Honda Civic Si hitting its VTEC range, the Speed is whisper quiet, though far less exciting to listen to. It does rumble nicely at idle and low revs though. The sound won’t wake your neighbours up when you leave for work in the morning, but they’ll know when you’re home.

Rounding out the performance is a stiffened and lowered suspension providing crisp handling and enhanced road-feel. The big wheels get a little noisy over rough roads, although overall handling is favourable. Despite the constant threat of wheelspin, the Speed3 behaves well in hard cornering, taking a set quickly and hanging on for dear life. A stability control system keeps a watchful eye on overenthusiastic drivers.

2007 MazdaSpeed3
2007 MazdaSpeed3. Click image to enlarge

The brakes are powerfully matched for the output, though they stayed engaged for just a moment after releasing or easing off the pedal from a panic stop – not exactly confidence inspiring. Nose dive is pronounced in hard stops but doesn’t upset the overall balance of the chassis except in very severe, quick manoeuvres. As a note, the test car wore a set of Pirelli Sotozero winter tires, not the factory installed rubber.

Question is, will the Speed3 have Honda, Chevrolet and VW owners scrambling to buy a “FOR SALE” sign?

Maybe so, maybe no.

On one hand, the Speed comes with truckloads more power than any of its ringmates. It’s got more features, more space and makes more sense if you regularly travel with more than one person or like to ski, mountain bike or surf.

2007 MazdaSpeed3
2007 MazdaSpeed3. Click image to enlarge

On the other hand, it’s a bit of a hybrid performance car. True devotees will see the number of doors, tall stance or wagon-like configuration – and some will be turned away. To many, a true performance car has no business carrying a large backseat, two sets of doors or a big trunk.

Still, you’ll likely interpret the new standard in cheap speed as a real value leader, offering both power and speed unmatched for the price with a package sensible enough that your parents might even approve.

Not that it matters.


Pricing


Specifications: 2007 MazdaSpeed3

  • Click here for complete specifications


Competitors

  • First Drive: 2007 MazdaSpeed3
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 VW GTI
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Honda Civic Si
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt SS supercharged


Crash test results


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