Wednesday, September 16, 2009

New Mazdaspeed 3 is a bargain blaster

Mazda stiffened the body shell of the new Mazdaspeed 3 for better handling without harshness.

We've always liked the Mazda Mazdaspeed 3, always thought it a fine little road blaster. When we ran a long-termer a few years ago, we were sad to see it go.

So, back at the New York auto show, when Mazda told us that its new 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 would blow us away, we couldn't wait to get behind the wheel. Now, having just finished winging our way up the California coast in one, we can say unequivocally that Mazda has improved the recipe.

To start with, there is oodles of power from the turbocharged, direct-injected, 2.3-liter four-cylinder. It produces 263 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. We thought the power delivery was nice and smooth. Mazda says it smoothed things out with better breathing and taller gearing. Mazda also says that to cut torque steer, it fiddled with the torque-management system, which adjusts power based on steering position and gear. It works. This is a terrific engine.

On our way to Monterey, the stiffer suspension carved the roads with almost no wallow in corners and without ruining the nice, not-too-harsh ride. To get to firmer suspension tuning without compromising ride comfort, Mazda stiffened the body shell. Use of high-strength and ultra-high-strength steel has nearly doubled in places such as the bumpers and side-impact beams. Suspension mounting points all use thicker metal in high-stress areas. It all adds up to a car that will blow away plenty of sports cars but one that won't beat you up.

The rear spoiler and new fascia front and rear add a tough look to the Mazdaspeed 3.

The new Mazdaspeed 3 looks mean, with a new hood scoop and flared front fenders. New front and rear fascias, side skirts and rear spoiler add to the styling's toughness.

The interior is pretty much the same as the regular Mazda 3's, though the Mazdaspeed 3 interior is black with subtle red stitching and awesome seats. Our car had the technology package, which includes a navigation system, push-button start, a six-disc CD changer and a killer Bose stereo.

The base price will be less than $24,000. That's a bargain.


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