2010 Mazda Mazdaspeed3 new car reviews

Better than: a 323GTX.
But not as good as: an all-wheel-drive Mazdaspeed3.
GRM Bang For The Buck Index: 91.15

We’ll get this over with quick: Early adopters shouldn’t be envious of the 2010 Mazdaspeed3. The latest version of Mazda’s most powerful sporty car (take that, RX-8 owners) gets a few tweaks plus a new interior and sheet metal. However, it sees no changes that shove the original 2007-'09 version into obsolescence.

Which is not to say the new car isn’t any good. Quite the contrary, it’s every bit as good as the screaming original. The new looks are the most obvious change, with the MS3 adopting the grinning, "Creature From the Black Lagoon" visage of other contemporary Mazda products. It also features a revised interior that's not so much better or worse, just different. The car's outward looks frighten some, entice others, but somehow intrigue everyone. It doesn’t have the tough, pitbull stance of the old version, but there is something to be said for the more flowing approach to the design. The grille, however, is still a little weird.

Under the hood, the same 263-horsepower 2.3-liter MZR turbo powerplant remains, which is a good thing. The engine in the new car feels like it revs a bit more willingly at the top end in stock form. Mazda says they’ve taken steps to reduce torque steer in the 2010 version, although the car still moves around a bit when you put your foot into it.

Our favorite change, and the only one that really sets the new car apart from the old car in any material way in our minds, is the revised transmission with slightly taller first and second gears. The engine has plently of torque to work with these longer gears, and acceleration is still more traction-limited than gear-limited.

Handling is as sharp as ever in the new car, though the suspension has supposedly undergone some tweaks. This is still a 3100-plus-pound front-wheel-drive car with nearly a ton on the front axle and a whole mess of power, so understeer is available whenever you need it--not that you ever really do. Still, it's possible to drive around this trait; it can even be tuned out with a few simple mods.

The MS3 is still an acquired taste; it’s more of a modern take on a GLH than a refined front-wheel-drive sporty sedan like an RSX. Even so, it’s hard to go faster for less money. Couple that potential with the five-door utility, and the MS3 remains on our list of fun favorites.

Other staff views

Tom Heath Tom Heath
UberDork

It's sad when a great car gets screwed up during a model update. I'm not sure what crazy anime the designers were watching when they styled the latest Mazda 3, but it must have had tentacles in it. The changes made to the new Mazda 3 are simply unattractive to me, and unfortunately the Mazdaspeed version doesn't revise the look much.

The car is quite fast however, especially at this price point. The Mazdaspeed 3 has an aggressive and eager engine that seems to love being at full throttle. The factory suspension didn't seem to be at the same level of aggressiveness, however, so the gap in potential between the drivetrain and suspension left me wondering what an owner would have to do to resolve the dichotomy. Maybe a set of springs and dampers would make it all better, but in factory trim I simply didn't like it as much as the earlier version.

David S. Wallens David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

The original Mazdaspeed3 was a fast, angry car, and the new one continues that theme. Okay, maybe it doesn't seem quite as angry, but it hasn't been softened one bit.

The new gearing helps tone things down a bit, but it doesn't eliminate torquesteer. This will bring back memories of other devilish cars like the Omni GLH and Dodge SRT4. Sadly, it's also a reminder as to why most powerful cars use rear- or all-wheel drive. Stab the gas at the wrong time, and you'll be looking at the guard rail. This seemed most noticeable on clockwise on-ramps.

And then there's face. Um, yeah. “Creature From the Black Lagoon” sums it up well, but not in a flattering way.

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Comments

View comments on the GRM forums
Shaun
Shaun HalfDork
12/8/09 10:50 p.m.

Just read a piece in "0-60" that describes a angular sensor that keeps track of where the the front tires are pointed and tattles to the to the ecu limiting powa unless you are centered. The 2 pro rally driver/testers did not like it a bit. It might be the biggest functional difference in the refresh.

miwifri
miwifri New Reader
12/9/09 4:11 p.m.

What happened to the nose on that car?!! Eeesh.

How did this car get so heavy? Okay, I know how, but I wish they would stop it.

Timeormoney
Timeormoney Reader
2/11/10 4:18 p.m.

Wow, nice butter face on the new one.

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
12/10/13 12:00 a.m.

We’ll get this over with quick: Early adopters shouldn’t be envious of the 2010 Mazdaspeed3. The latest version of Mazda’s most powerful sporty car (take that, RX-8 owners) gets a few tweaks plus a new interior and sheet metal. However, it sees no changes that shove the original 2007-'09 version into obsolescence.

Which is not to say the new car isn’t any good. Quite the contrary, it’s every bit as good as the screaming original. The new looks are the most obvious change, with the MS3 adopting the grinning, "Creature From the Black Lagoon" visage of other contemporary Mazda products. It also features a revised interior that's not so much better or worse, just different. The car's outward looks frighten some, entice others, but somehow intrigue everyone. It doesn’t have the tough, pitbull stance of the old version, but there is something to be said for the more flowing approach to the design. The grille, however, is still a little weird.

Under the hood, the same 263-horsepower 2.3-liter MZR turbo powerplant remains, which is a good thing. The engine in the new car feels like it revs a bit more willingly at the top end in stock form. Mazda says they’ve taken steps to reduce torque steer in the 2010 version, although the car still moves around a bit when you put your foot into it.

Our favorite change, and the only one that really sets the new car apart from the old car in any material way in our minds, is the revised transmission with slightly taller first and second gears. The engine has plently of torque to work with these longer gears, and acceleration is still more traction-limited than gear-limited.

Handling is as sharp as ever in the new car, though the suspension has supposedly undergone some tweaks. This is still a 3100-plus-pound front-wheel-drive car with nearly a ton on the front axle and a whole mess of power, so understeer is available whenever you need it--not that you ever really do. Still, it's possible to drive around this trait; it can even be tuned out with a few simple mods.

The MS3 is still an acquired taste; it’s more of a modern take on a GLH than a refined front-wheel-drive sporty sedan like an RSX. Even so, it’s hard to go faster for less money. Couple that potential with the five-door utility, and the MS3 remains on our list of fun favorites.

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