• Jan 4, 2008
click above for high-res images of the 2007 Mazdaspeed3

After the second or third hard right-hander, there was a noticeable lack of conversation in the car. Brad, my intrepid photog friend, grew quiet as I caned the Mazdaspeed3 through corner after corner, increasing the pace each time, braking later and laying into the throttle sooner. With the LSD working overtime, the handling bar continued to move until finally the howl coming from the front tires evolved into understeer. A quick lift off the throttle tucked the nose in without drama and then the quest to find the limits began anew.

I turned to ask my camera-clutching companion if all was right on that side of the car. He nodded in the affirmative and the fun continued. Mile after mile of twists and undulations were dispatched without complaint. When we finally pulled off to take stock, both of us were convinced that Mazda's 'Speed team is one of the best in-house tuners in the biz. Not particularly because of the MS3's prodigious power, but because its creators took the already competent 3 and created a cohesive package that ticks off all the right boxes for the enthusiast on a budget.

All photos Copyright ©2007 Damon Lavrinc / Weblogs, Inc.

Granted, we're a little late to the game. We've seen enough Mazdaspeed3s on the road to know that the combination of price and performance has landed it on the shortlists of people looking for a competent corner carver with a healthy dose of practicality. But we weren't content to assume that the MS3 was just another valid option for speed merchants with $25k burning a hole in their pocket. We had to see for ourselves, so when our Sunlight Silver Metallic tester found its way to the Autoblog Garage, we almost forgot to lock the door before we made our way to the nearest desolate road.



One of the more appealing aspects of the MS3 is its understated exterior. Only those in the know, or people able to scope out the Mazdaspeed3 badge on the hatch, will be able to tell that this is more than the standard five-door model. Mazda is intent, however, on making its 'Speed models standout from its lesser siblings, albeit in some very subtle ways. The hood is a bit taller, with a steeper rake angling towards the headlamps that accommodates extra cooling ducts for the intercooler and turbo, the front fenders are a bit wider and the front fascia gets a deeper air dam with restyled fog lamps. Making your way out back, passing the ten-spoke 18x7-inch wheels, you'll find a beefier rear spoiler perched above the rear window and a mildly restyled bumper with a larger exhaust tip.



On the inside, Mazdaspeed-emblazoned doorsills tie in nicely with the matching brushed-aluminum pedals, while the chunky steering wheel found on the standard Mazda3 is left intact (with some added red stitching) and fitted with redundant audio system controls. Our tester came in Grand Touring trim, which includes rain-sensing wipers, a Bose premium auto system with a six-disc, in-dash CD changer, LED taillights and Xenon headlights that allow you to adjust the angle of their projection with a dash-mounted scroll-wheel. The fit and finish inside is standard economy car fare; not quite as good as the Honda Civic, but considerably better than the Lancer we tested last year. The heavily bolstered seats specific to the MS3 are perfect in both their dimensions and execution, particularly the optional leather fitted to the sides proving that Mazda's engineers know that slipping and sliding is mutually exclusive to corner-carving fun.

While interior and exterior appointments deserve note, it's the DISI 2.3-liter turbocharged inline-four, revised suspension and chassis tweaks that inspired our call to Mazda PR. The MS3's engine seems to get the majority of the press, but it's little more than a slightly revised version of the same mill fitted to the CX-7 CUV and Mazdaspeed6. That means 263 hp and 280 lb.-ft. of torque routed to the front wheels via a six-speed manual transmission equipped with a mechanical limited slip differential. We'll get to how that works on the road in a minute, but the chassis improvements were what impressed the most.



It's hard to see under the acres of plastic fitted inside the engine bay, but if you were to strip it all away you'd find that the front strut towers were beefed up and tied into the firewall to boost torsional rigidity, while reinforced lateral links underneath reduce roll and increase steering feel. The combination of new dampers and springs drop the hatch by 10mm, which is relatively insignificant from an appearance standpoint, but when matched with the larger front and rear anti-roll bars and 18-inch rollers, the changes in handling are a revelation compared to the base model.

There's a bit of consternation around the Autoblog offices about how well the Mazdaspeed3 handles the daily rigors of getting from one place to another. A particularly lively debate ensued in the halls of an LA hotel that pitted Führer Neff and yours truly against each other, with the former complaining about his back, while the latter insisted that it was entirely livable with no Chiro work required. Then again, I'm the idiot that drives Project MR2 around on a 6/8 kg spring setup, so my opinion could be somewhat askew. Regardless, jounce and rebound might be a bit much when navigating pothole-strewn roads, but it's firm in all the right ways and when things turn twisty, the MS3 is an absolute masterpiece.



During our time with the 3, we made regular pilgrimages to our favorite roads, and in one case spent time jockeying with a mildly-tuned WRX. The Mazda hung with the Subie in all but the trickiest of bends, easily keeping up on the straights and doing more than holding its own under braking thanks to the upgraded single-piston calipers, 12.6-inch front rotors and Potenza RE050 tires. Fade was non-existent up until a particularly demanding stretch of road where short bursts of acceleration were followed by repeated threshold braking. After a quick cool-down drive that lasted all of a half-mile, everything was back up to snuff and the punishing continued.

Now, onto the hotly contested issue of torque-steer. Mazda's team of engineers did an admirable job of employing some techno tweaks to limit power in first and second gears. Since output is based on the amount of steering dialed in, we made three separate launches on a less than perfect road with the steering wheel pointed dead ahead. With the traction control enabled, the power restrictions set by the ECU were noticeable, but it allowed the Mazda to dart off the line with a minimum of wheel spin and a few twitches in the wheel. With the electronic nannies defeated, it was a smoky mess, providing plenty of forearm exercise. While traveling around bends, laying into the throttle in second and third did little to upset the MS3's composure, but if the tire is in close proximity to anything resembling a rut in the road, it's advised that both hands are on the wheel.



With that out of the way, we can't speak highly enough of the engine. Even with the performance limitations employed to prevent simultaneous tire destruction and unintended hedge trimming, the direct-injected 2.3-liter turbo is an absolute hoot. Power comes on strong down low, with a bit of lag before 2,500 rpm, and then races to the 6,500 rpm redline. The only complaint is that the last 500 rpm are completely devoid of forward momentum, so shifts between 5,500 and 6,000 rpm became the norm. From the feel of it, we're assuming it's the engine outrunning the turbo, something that could be rectified by those brave enough to begin making changes underhood.

Any modifications to the Mazdaspeed3, however, could easily corrupt a vehicle that strikes a perfect balance between lively and livable. In the end, the MS3 is considerabley more than the sum of its impressive parts. It handles the daily rigors without complaint and offers up the type of performance that can only be had with extensive tuning and considerable cash.



All photos Copyright ©2007 Damon Lavrinc / Weblogs, Inc.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 71 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      How do you think this would do in snow with the LSD? Within the next 2 years I plan to get one of thoses or a WRX wagon. I've always had AWD cars, but I've never driven an LSD equiped FWD car.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I have to start by saying that the MS3 is a very nice car. It is a very capable performance car from everything that I have read, particularly given the price class it plays in.

      However. I, for one, cannot fathom why anyone would choose this over a WRX. They're both ugly (thanks to the WRX's restyle...), but the WRX has a smooth-running boxer 4 and it isn't wrong wheel drive.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Mark Wan's article on boxing engines is flawed.
        He should get a copy of the Bosch Automotive Handbook.
        The boxing 4 (Left Left Right Right) has a second order moment imbalance.
        So an inline4 with the 'sophisticated' balance shafts assembly, is smoother than a boxing4. (the new QR25 upgraded because of the CVT)
        http://www.saabcentral.com/~munki/technical/engine/tech_specs/balance_shafts.htm
        A 'basic' balance shafts I4 is about at parity with a boxing4.
        http://asia.vtec.net/Engines/R20A/balancer.jpg

        and everyone knows the neon, and Mazda3 2.0, no balance shafts.
        • 7 Years Ago
        I've been shopping cars in this class. I got a 97 Miata I really enjoy, but my commute distance has been bumped up to 60miles a day in Chicago vs 15 miles a day in Bay Area. Lets just say I don't get the top down as much, the car in nearly as many corners, and 60 Miata miles is a lot harder than 15....

        I really like the WRX, but I'd get the MS3 (I also considered the GTI). Heres why: $$$

        The WRX (I get supplier pricing for both Subaru and Mazda) is easily $25,000+ w/premium package, and you really almost need the premium package or you get stuck with a real bare bones WRX. But here is the kicker. The insurance. I would pay nearly $1600/year on a WRX. I pay $850 in the Miata and would pay about $1050 for the MS3.

        I love the lack of torque steer in the WRX, and the boxer motor really pulls. But then on the flip side, you can't get Xenons, you get crummy MPG, a crummy stereo, the car really leans in the corners, a 5 speed gearbox, and honestly, strange styling too.

        Meanwhile you give up the AWD (I'm not so sold on the boxer engines myself...), get a bunch of other stuff on the Mazda, it costs about $2000 less, and about $600 less/year in insurance.

        Car to car, yeah, I'd probably take the WRX. Unfortunately, the Subaru is overpriced while the Mazda is a screamin bargain.....
        • 7 Years Ago
        Yeah. My '85 Cabrio made it 200k miles. Albeit with 2 complete changes of CV joints, 2 alternators, multiple left side seat bolster upholstery replacements, multiple sets of front rotors, wheel bearings...and the dreaded heater core re-do. Only my experience with 4 of Munich's best cost more time in the shop (actually made mom's mid-'70's Jag look dependable).

        I have since put nearly 750k on Subarus and 1 SVX transmission aside, they are bulletproof. I am totally sold on the dependability of their H4's and H6's and love my Legacy GT Spec B with its Pirelli Sotto Vocce Snow Tires...especially here in RI, where they haven't quite gotten their snow disaster plan set up yet.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Kevin is just a tad* biased.

        *In a world where tad = incredibly.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Quentin:
        I've got an '07 STI Limited; my sister drives an '08 Legacy 2.5GT Limited, and I work for a repair shop that specializes in German cars, Volvo and Subaru (an odd combination, but it's what we do).

        I won't discount your experience, but the F4s in the Subarus that I've driven-my own, my sister's, and countless customers', are far, far smoother than any I4 in any VW/Audi, BMW, Volvo or Mercedes that I've driven. It's not even comparable. Are there engines that run smoother? Of course; the V12 in my parents' '08 S600 (and the '03 they traded in on the 08) comes to mind, as does just about any BMW I6, to name a few.

        That being said, surely you understand that in a perfect world, all boxer engines, regardless of cylinder count, cancel out any and all vibration that they generate (as do I6s and V12s). I4s are simply not capable of doing this.

        Obviously, the world is not perfect, and you'll never get a rotating assembly in an engine to be absolutely perfectly balanced. Thus, you'll always get some vibration. But all other things being equal, a horizontally opposed engine will ALWAYS run more smoothly than an I4.

        Put simply, I6s, V12s and horizontally opposed engines are fundamentally superior, from a refinement perspective, to any other engine configuration found in a modern production automobile. Well-designed V6s (to an extent, at least), V8s and (presumably) V10s have enough power pulses per revolution to effectively mask a lot of this disparity, particularly if they also have decent engine mounts. But an I4? I have yet to see one that I didn't consider laughable from a refinement perspective.

        I suggest you read this article; they discuss horizontally opposed vs. inline 4s on page 2, inline 6s on page 3, and V12s on page 4:
        http://www.autozine.org/technical_school/engine/smooth1.htm

        With respect to drive wheels... Of course AWD does not guarantee better handling than FWD. However, I dislike FWD in performance applications due to issues with torque steer, the tendency to understeer, etc. Can AWD cars exhibit those traits? Absolutely. Does the WRX? Yes. Is it manageable? Yes. Is it manageable in the MS3? Apparently. Is using a computer algorithm to cut power based on steering angle and gear selection to keep it under control to make up for a fundamentally inferior powertrain layout acceptable? Not to me. Short of the original Mini, I will not own or recommend a FWD performance car to anyone, at any price, for any reason, period. And with few exceptions (the Honda S500/600/800, the Datsun 510, the Porsche 944 Turbo, the E30 M3, the Miata, the Mitsubishi Evolutions, and the 190E 2.3/2.5-16 amongst them), I will not seriously consider anything with an I4 either.

        As far as the GTI goes... They're OK cars, but they've never done anything for me. I dislike the operation of the VW transmission and clutch intensely, and every single liquid cooled Volkswagen I've ever seen (and I see a BUNCH) except for a single '96 VR6 GTI, has fallen apart by 100k, most of them by 80, sometimes sooner. Even with careful, regular maintenance.

        B:
        I hear what you're saying and I don't disagree at all. The MS3 is a steal. I wasn't aware of the insurance difference as I was never in the market for either car, but hat could bias a lot of people towards the MS3. Really, honestly, you can't really go wrong with either one. They're both relatively quick, relatively cheap cars that should be basically well-built and reliable. I just think the Subaru is a superior car; so much so that the mpg and insurance differences are meaningless to me, and I'd even be willing to put up with the 5spd (eugh). *shrug*
      Jon thomas
      • 6 Years Ago
      Anyone have issues with Second gear in a 08 Speed3 ? it seems to get "Stuck" and try to grab the gear even with perfect shifts clutch fully pressed .. i want to know if theres something wrong with mine of it its just part of the car
        • 6 Years Ago
        @Jon thomas
        ALWAYS 3rd with me. It's a known issue with these cars. 3rd grinds like an italian with with cheese.

        I love my car. I have a Black Mica 07. The 2008.5 model will come in white. I wish like hell I could have got a White one. I love my black one, but White in this car owns. I also want some wheels. Any suggestions? im open to 17's, not a fan of 990.00 replacement 18 inchers.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I like a lot of the comment so far.

      I have now put near 10k on my 2007 Speed3. I have never been more impressed with a car. I was so impressed, for the first time, I have visited many forums from websites, like Car & Driver and Edmunds.com etc., to give full reviews on the car.

      My only mod so far is the Mazdaspeed Cold Air Intake (a must…mega horsepower increase over what a CAI would normal do for any other car out there…due to a massively restrictive and resonated stock air box). Nevertheless…I am still wildly impressed by this car. The lack of AWD was the only thing that really hesitated me from purchasing this car; well that AWD myth is now broken. AWD does have its benefits, but they are so minor, performance wise, compared to FWD it is a non-issue.

      In fact, all the people saying…it would be a better/perfect car if it was AWD truly are polluted by racing video games. Unless you are getting into Veryon performance...in the realm of auto-cross or affordable sports cars, FWD can perform as well as the rest.

      Even if you compare new performance figures from the new STi…the MS3 is just behind it in performance (in fact I am not impressed buy the new STi’s performance stats). If Mazdaspeed re-turned the MS3 from a WRX competitor to a STi competitor…it would not be much of a feat. The STi would always beat it off a launch, but add all the bells and whistles, plus performance tweaks that the STi has and it is quite obvious that it would be a contender.

      In fact, I think it was Car & driver, who did a test with merely adding on all the Mazdaspeed parts that any owner can buy through their dealership. With those unimpressive parts, the MS3 was already looking like a STi contender, it was pulling 91g’s over the 88g average of the stock MS3; if I recall right. Thy only used upgraded tires from Mazda as well…what if it had tires equal to the STi's 245/40R18 Dunlop SP Sport 600…who wants to bet it would have a better g-pad than the STi? (The Sti is only averaging between 90-93g depending on the testers).

      I guess my main point is, FWD can hang with the best of them. With the dynamic stability control, and my extreme winter rated tires…I burn through the snow with more confidence than in a 4x4 with no stability control. I drove a 1983 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Brougham for years in the snow…and never got stuck…AWD is not the solution to all car woes (did I mention it sucks more fuel too?).

      It is all in the driver’s hands, plus a brilliant tune!The MS3 has the tune and IMO there is more room for future tunning to hang with even greater cars, which are priced far higher!
      • 7 Years Ago
      This car continues to get rave reviews everywhere. I just sold my STi (regular WRX and 2 C5s before that) and was eager to give one of these a test drive. I must say that my impression was polar opposite of all the reviews I've read. It rode just as stiff as my STi, yet fell short in handling. I also was expecting a lot of power. Power to the wheels should only be 30-35hp short of an STi, but it felt much less. It had ad much turbo lag as my 2.0L WRX, yet hit a brick wall at 5500 rpm. 3500-5500 is it's usable power range, and even that was less than impressive. I realize it doesn't compete in the same category as the STi, but the one I test drove stickered for 26k and the dealer was firm at sticker. A Suby dealer close by still had a new 2006 STi in the showroom that they wanted 26k for...and '07s can be had at a discount, making the price differential less than it appears at first. At 22k the car may be in-line, but not at 26k.

      • 7 Years Ago
      he he he...

      I love all these MS3 vs WRX/STI comments.

      MS3 is under-tired, and not that much, and well over-worked traction, and power isn't always available like a light switch, especially when hot.

      The WRX is soft looking, soft handling, and cheap inside, but has the engine and drivetrain in order, and loads of traction.

      A subaru boxer 4 is not the smoothest idling engine. I know that first hand, and it is due to it's firing order and unequal length stock exhaust manifolds. But it revs very easy, and above idle, pulls smooth and VERY HARD with a turbo.

      The 6-cylinder boxers in the outback, Legacy and Tribeca is not as forceful as the turbo 4, but as smooth running as satin, as the firing order is more balanced between 6 opposed pistons. I had one for a few days on loan, and was well impressed. It isn't a weakling, but it isn't a power-hitter, either, nor is it intended to be.

      That is why I bought a Legacy GT. Turbo, AWD, and manual transmission in a good looking car.
      5-speed manual, granted, and with 250lb-ft of torque from a fairly big displacement 4-cylinder turbo, you don't absolutely need 6 gears, although it might not be bad to have one, and Spec B has it.
      Legacy is better looking inside and out than the WRX, leather, sunroof, (but no audio upgrade possible, unfortunately)

      The Legacy sedan looks better than an impreza 5-door hatch, the Legacy wagon looks better, and is even more practical than both the impreza 5-door and the Mazda 3 5-door. The Legacy sedan actually looks like a more normal size car, but remarkably similar lines to a Mazda 3 4-door, both quite decent looking 4-doors.

      It is just unfortunate that the Legacy GT wagon has been cancelled (and ONLY in the US, everyone else still gets it), and the ugly impreza 5-door has been foisted on subaru buyers, instead.

      Also unfortunate, is that the non-limited version of the Legacy, at $26k has also gone down, and only the Limited version, at ~30k remains, and the 34k Spec B. The base Legacy GT was a performance bargain, and a nice size. Not huge, but more comfortable than the Imprezas.

      Interestingly, the Legacy, 2005-current, weighs within a couple of pounds of the similarly equipped WRX, and the WRX has minutely more interior room in the rear seats, otherwise nearly identical in interior volume, only shorter in the rear overhang, outwardly.

      IMHO, they supported the wrong car, and the Legacy options have lost out to the uglier and slightly less powerful (by subaru's intentional engine tuning) WRX.

      I wonder if the Mazda 6 can similarly be compared to the 3... probably not as closely.

      But I would buy a Mazdaspeed6 well before buying a Mazdaspeed3. Although I do wish the MS6 had the 5-door bodystyle, and a scoop in the hood, or a front-mounted intercooler.

      The stock Mazdaspeed6 isn't quite as fun, IMHO, as my lowered and engine-tuned Legacy GT, though. Not as tuneable, or cool running as the Legacy, and too Front-biased, even with AWD, although probably slightly better suspension handling, and racier looks than base 6 on the MS6.
      • 7 Years Ago
      My wife, the red-hot (shoe) granny, has completely worn out a set of Eagle RS-A's in 21k miles on her '06 automatic 3 hatch. Also her front brake shoes. How long will the 'speed parts last? A month?
        • 7 Years Ago
        The car weighs 3100lbs, that's why it's so hard on the brakes and tires. Weight = enemy of performance.
        • 7 Years Ago
        It's widely acknowledged that the stock Goodyear R-SA tires stink. The Speed doesn't have those. Brake wear depends a lot on the driver and the conditions. I've had 3 Mazdas, and they have fantastic stopping power. It has been my experience that good brakes tend to wear faster, probably due to the composites used. Small price really. Next time get a Corolla.
        • 7 Years Ago
        The basic Mazda3 comes in at 2800 lbs. Just like everyother car in its class. People who drive dumb kill pads and tires that quickly. Give that old dummy a 2002 Lancer. See if she treats her Mazda3 a little better after driving a crap bucket Lancer.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Yes you hit it right on the head, the tires wear out quickly so the
        rest of the car is gonna fall apart anyday.. HAHA

        I'm not really sure how you could wear out a set of pads in 21K miles
        but I'd have to guess either the brakes are dragging or your granny
        drives with 2 feet on the pedals all the time...

        And just for the record I have an 04 Mazda 3 Hatch with over 40K
        miles and original pads and they are about half worn out.
        • 7 Years Ago
        My wife wanted what she got. She doesn't coast. Ever. She's either on the gas or brake. She gets terrible mileage. It's her (almost) only failing. As she pays for her sins, I can only try to give friendly advice from somebody who's never needed brakes in less than 40k miles, and whose Mazda6 wagon gets better mileage than her 3, which has two fewer cylinders and is 600# lighter. She's been driving for forty years. Think she'll change?
      • 7 Years Ago
      My VW's heated seats are the main thing holding me back now that the 08 got rid of the gray fabric on the seats. No contest in performance though, this is THE fwd car if you want to go fast and have fun.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Re: Damon Lavrinc

      I own a 2006 Mazda 3s GT and there is nothing inferior about the interior of this vehicle than any current Civic with regards to materials quality or workmanship.

      Not to mention the better design of the Mazda interior versus the spaceship styling of the Civic.

      And let's not even forget the auto-sensing wipers, leather, automatic climate control, HIDs, heated seats etc that I have in my Grand Touring model. I don't even think you can get half of that stuff with a Civic EX.
      • 7 Years Ago
      real AWD, and it would be spectacular.

      the drawbacks of FWD for performance, (torque steer and lack of traction on the throttle, especially when actually trying to turn) make it a no-go for me.

      But that is how a car of that design should look, inside and out.

      This car's looks and handling, with Subaru turbo boxer power and symmetrical AWD, it would be sensational.

      The Impreza is nowhere near as good looking, and if this is too hard, the WRX is too soft in the handling department, but has the turbo rush, and traction to spare. Not to mention that the 08 WRX 2.5 engine can likely be easily tuned to nearly 300hp, like my Legacy GT currently is.

      The 2.3 turbo DISI engine is a nice one, but the same engine in the Mazdaspeed6 has some reported heat-soak issues with the shrouded top-mount intercooler, which is why hoodscoops are a good thing.

      If one could just pick and choose car components and designs... Mazda looks and handling, Subaru AWD traction and turbocharged power...
        • 7 Years Ago
        Right now the car doesn't have enough tire.
        It should have 235/45 17 on 8x17. (Flare those wheel wells)
        Look at the new WRX STi, 245/40 18s, same with the new EVO.

        Will the next 300hp front drive MS3 will have 255/40 17s?
        How can it compete, other than on the price & practicality front?
      • 7 Years Ago
      Now if only they would offer a DSG version I might be tempted.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I just test drove this along with an audi a3, 08 WRX and 06 STI the other day. I was really quite impressed with the speed3, although it was 18 degrees outside and I could spin the summer tires in nearly any gear... Same problem with the a3 though.

      Compared to the WRX, I though the speed 3 was a better car. Slightly roomier, better looking (a matter of opinion), cheaper, more powerful, handled better. The new WRX is really quite soft, they've refined it a bit which is good, but they also seemed to dull the personality of the car. It just didn't feel all that fun, more like a quickish practical small family car than a compact sport car. It's as quick as the old WRX but doesn't feel it, the power delivery is smoothed out and it just felt a bit tame... I wasn't too impressed with it.

      The a3 was really quite nice, but suffered from a lot of torque steer and easily overdrove the tires. The biggest thing it offered over the speed 3 was that it had more low end grunt, power was always on tap, making it feel a little quicker, even though it's not. But, it's rather expensive for what it is. I did love the dual moon roofs though, not even a single one available on the 3.

      Now the STI, wow. That car drove like a beast, combined with AWD even on icy roads in 18 degree weather it was a blast. It had a wealth of usable power even in bad conditions, and handle like it was on rails. Unfortunately, the interior is dated, the blue boy racer seats are a bit much and the huge wing is ugly. And the car is load, lots of road noise, steering is a bit too sharp making for constant minute corrections. The throttle took way too much pressure making it hard to dial in a minute amount of throttle (may have been the cold weather). Basically, extremely fun to drive but lacked the refinement and modern features I'd want in a daily driver.

      We don't have the 08 STI's here yet, but I suspect they'll be a winner. If they can combine the fun and handling of the previous STI with the new refinement and smoothness of the 08 WRX, it'd be about perfect for me. However, $40k out the door is pushing it, for that money you could get a hell of a slightly used bmw or mercedes...

      As it is, the speed 3 is in the lead, bang for the buck it's hard to beat. If it had AWD I'd have no reservations. And people like to point out how you don't need AWD with snow tires, that's correct, but the biggest advantage you get with AWD versus FWD is the lack of torque steer. And even if mazda has done a good job of dialing down torque steer, it's still going to be a lot more than you'd have in an AWD car, and you're still not going to have as much usable power you can put to the road during launch or poor road conditions.
        • 7 Years Ago
        See, I don't even care about the torque steer. They have done a good enough job of making it a non issue. For me, the AWD is all about the snow in NH with an hour commute to and from work every day.

        As I mentioned in my previous comment, I do feel the same way - the WRX just doesn't have the same level of refinement as the Speed3.

        I'd love an A3, but you have to go up to the $37k S-line to get AWD there too.

        The Mazda dealership was trying to sell me on the CX-7 when I mentioned the AWD, but I've driven one of those and it didn't seem to have anywhere near the same level of fun as the Speed3...plus a bit too big.
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