2008 Mazda Mazdaspeed3 new car reviews

Better than: Caliber SRT-4
But not as good as: WRX STI
GRM Bang For The Buck Index: 94.88

The days of simply adding forced induction to a good car in an attempt to develop a great car are behind us. Thankfully, the engineers at Mazda have been aware of this. When it came time to develop a sporting variant of the highly capable Mazda 3, they didn’t cut corners on chassis development, suspension tuning or interior amenities along the way.

Wrapped in a convenient and comfortable five-door hatchback, there’s a lot of utility in this front-wheel-drive offering from Mazda. Capable of seating five adults with more comfort than an M3 sedan, the car also features rear seats that fold flat to make an absolutely cavernous storage area behind the driver. Coupled with the high level of interior quality, the Mazdaspeed3 has all the comfort and taste required of a responsible family car, and it manages to do this at a bargain price.

Don’t think this level of civility means the car isn’t fun, however. The Mazdaspeed3 has enough power and dynamic goodness to run away from anything else at its price point, and it can keep pace with much costlier machinery. The meaty helping of low-end torque helps to maintain momentum, but it also contributes to some directional misgivings under power. We’re also unsure if we love the 18-inch wheels, though they seem to be part of the admission price for cool cars anymore.

Other staff views

David S. Wallens David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

While the WRX and Evo have been getting all of the attention lately, perhaps the Mazdaspeed3 is the winner here. While it doesn't get all-wheel drive, the bang-for-the-buck performance is out of this world. This might well be the sleeper of the decade--tons of acceleration, practical shape and a very fair price tag. If I had one gripe, I wish the color pallet was bigger--or at least included some of the standard Mazda3 hues. I guess in the grand scheme of things that's pretty minor.

J.G. Pasterjak JG Pasterjak
Production/Art Director

Having lived with my own Speed3 since March, I have to say that I haven't had the first shred of buyer's remorse. I've really yet to find anything the car isn't good at. I initially thought that I might have a twinge of regret in shelling out the extra bucks for the GT package, which nets you the Bose stereo, trip computer, HID headlights, LED taillights and some leather insets on the seats. Nope. Love that stuff, too--especially the Bose.

Performance-wise, the car seems to have loosened up quite a bit after break-in. Yes, the FWD layout means that there's a little bit of torque steer when compared to an AWD car, but it's perfectly manageable and really just reveals itself as some additional tension in the steering and not any weird chassis disruptions.

We are planning some upgrades to our car--Mazda has lots of stuff available through dealerships that comes with the blessing of the warranty gods. And the car could definitely benefit from a little freer flowing intake system. Packages are arriving soon at the GRM offices, and you'll know how the stuff works shortly after I do.

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Comments

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aircooled
aircooled UltimaDork
7/18/08 10:35 a.m.

Another very nice aspect about this car (not mentioned in this review but was in the magazine) is the fact that it is somewhat difficult to distinguish from a non-speed Mazda3. The most noticeable differences are the logo on the hatch and the rather large tail pipe. Thankfully there are no ridiculous wings or big TURBO stickers. A VERY easy car to drive with all the torque available. You can putt around in 6th at anything over 35 mph pretty easy, and using only 2nd, 4th and 6th is pretty easy in most circumstances (and should give a bit of a MPG boost). Ours has done pretty consistent mileage of low 20's city and high 20's highway, which is pretty insane considering what the current crop of small "economy" cars does and the HP difference between the two.

Can't say I love the HID lights, not sure how/why they are necessary, and they where likely (high amp draw, coupled with the automatic headlight setting which turns the headlights on even when the engine isn't running) the cause of the early death of the battery (covered under warranty).

keethrax
keethrax HalfDork
7/21/08 4:02 p.m.

Picked up our new MS3 over the weekend. It's a Sport trim level in gray. Hoping the color helps keep it stealthy.

I've never had so much fun in a FWD car. As a bonus, it hauls more stuff than any of the rest of our cars.

The interior isn't excellent, but it's good enough, especially at the price.

This car is a combination of price, performance and practicality that is tough to beat. Though I do need to get new wheels/tires on it before winter hits.

Xceler8x
Xceler8x UberDork
10/12/08 12:14 p.m.

I am, and quite likely will always be, a V8 guy. The first time I felt the torque of this motor I was hooked.

Planet_Scott
Planet_Scott New Reader
10/7/09 9:41 a.m.

Had mine new since March of 2008 and I am still amazed at it's power, handling and overall refinement. If the American car makers could make a car like this, they would not be in trouble.

Tom Heath
Tom Heath UberDork
12/10/13 12:00 a.m.

The days of simply adding forced induction to a good car in an attempt to develop a great car are behind us. Thankfully, the engineers at Mazda have been aware of this. When it came time to develop a sporting variant of the highly capable Mazda 3, they didn’t cut corners on chassis development, suspension tuning or interior amenities along the way.

Wrapped in a convenient and comfortable five-door hatchback, there’s a lot of utility in this front-wheel-drive offering from Mazda. Capable of seating five adults with more comfort than an M3 sedan, the car also features rear seats that fold flat to make an absolutely cavernous storage area behind the driver. Coupled with the high level of interior quality, the Mazdaspeed3 has all the comfort and taste required of a responsible family car, and it manages to do this at a bargain price.

Don’t think this level of civility means the car isn’t fun, however. The Mazdaspeed3 has enough power and dynamic goodness to run away from anything else at its price point, and it can keep pace with much costlier machinery. The meaty helping of low-end torque helps to maintain momentum, but it also contributes to some directional misgivings under power. We’re also unsure if we love the 18-inch wheels, though they seem to be part of the admission price for cool cars anymore.

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