IT’S A CHESHIRE WILDCAT
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Sat, Mar 13, 2010
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By Richard Uyekawa Owning a Mazda3 with a manual transmission as a daily driver, I was expecting to have the 2010 MazdaSpeed3 pretty well-pegged. That notion ran into some trouble as soon as I sat inside the all-new MazdaSpeed3. The seats are Recaro-like, and the car feels distinctly lower to the ground. I found the push-button start a nice touch and once I started it up, I can hear a nice growl coming from the engine bay. Once I pulled away and got it up to third gear, I realized this is no ordinary Mazda3. That’s when the 2.3-lite, 263-horsepower turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4 engine really kicks in. It kicks in so much, in fact, that I can feel the steering wheel trying to pry itself away from my hands. In gearhead lingo, they call this torque steer – and the MazdaSpeed3 has a boat load of it. After living with the car for a while, however, I am almost used to wrestling with the steering and actually kind of enjoy it.
I definitely enjoy the acceleration of this MazdaSpeed compared to the normal (i.e., slower) speed of my own Mazda3. I do find myself getting a little carried away on the freeway, and managed to blow by a few sport cars that surely cost two-to-three times more than the MSRP of the $25,000 MazdaSpeed3. Alas, I did get humbled by an Audi S4, which left me behind in a cloud of dust. As for the interior of the car, those Recaro-like seats are very supportive and come in handy when you’re wrestling with the steering. The 242-watt audio system with Bose 10-speaker surround sound and in-dash six-disc CD changer with Sirius satellite radio is a very nice addition (I really miss Howard Stern’s absence from terrestrial radio). The navigation is centrally located, but it’s a bit on the small size. The 5-door configuration with the rear hatch-back makes for plenty of storage space, especially with the rear seats folded down.
The exterior of the car is a different story. The hood scoop provides a great look. So do the front and rear spoilers. However, the front face (grille) of the car takes a while to get used to, to put it mildly. My colleague says it looks like a shark’s smile, but I say it looks more like the Chesire Cat from “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” In the end, however, it probably doesn’t matter that much when you’re able to blow by all those ‘prettier’ pocket rockets. In summary, I really like this car. Yes, one is constantly fighting with torque steer. And the ride is a bit rough and tumble with the HD shocks and springs that come with this car. But it’s like being transported back into time when I owned an ‘import tuner’ before the term was coined (yes, I was a road warrior back in the 1970s). Sadly, I am brought back into reality when I return to my (anemic-by-comparison) Mazda3. Oh, the withdrawal pains when I step on the accelerator! Gone is the loud growl from the engine, or the immediate rush of acceleration – and the steering wheel just stays calmly in my hands. Like Alice, I wake up from the dream.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT: Get me back to Wonderland. For more information about Mazda products, go to mazdausa.com
SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2010 MazdaSpeed3 Price: $23,945 (base) $25,970, as tested (with Technology Package, wheel locks, all-weather floor mats, regional adjustment, and destination charges) EPA rating – miles per gallon of gas (city/highway/combined): 18/25/21 Engine: 2.3-liter dual overhead cam, 16-valve in-line four-cylinder, turbocharged and intercooled engine Horsepower: 263 at 5500 rpm Torque: 280 pound-feet at 3000 rpm Transmission: 6-speed manual Drive configuration: Front-wheel drive Steering: Power-assisted rack & pinion Suspension Front: MazdaSpeed-tuned McPherson strut with 26mm solid stabilizer bar Rear: MazdaSpeed-tuned multi-link with 25mm solid stabilizer bar Brakes: 12.6-inch ventilated disc (front), 11-inch power-assisted solid disc with aluminum calipers (rear), power-assisted, with ABS (anti-lock brake system) and EBD (electronic brake force distribution) Wheels and tires: 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels with 225/40-R18 high performance tires Dimensions Length: 177.6 inches Width: 69.7 inches Height: 57.5 inches Curb weight: 3245 pounds