AT THE WHEEL REVIEWS: PERFORMANCE
2007 MAZDASPEED3: Always Keep' Em Guessing!
By Frederick Staab Cruise Control Radio.com
In recent years poker tournaments have found their way on to many a TV outlet. While this might not be the most exciting way to spend in front of the tube or plasma screen, a big part of that game involves keeping the other players guessing. Having a poker face and never revealing you potential winning hand are both keys to success.
This “Keep’Em guessing” strategy might have crossed the minds of the engineers and designers tasked with developing the MAZDASPEED3. It’s basis is the almost universally liked Mazda 3 five door hatch that combines everyday utility with a nice splash of zoom zoom sportness. The 3 is a hit for Mazda and sales are only constrained by the need for more manufacturing capacity. The Speed 3 does get some exclusive integrated exterior tweaks like bigger air inlets in the lower grill section a high hatch mounted spoiler and aerodynamic side skirts. With a factory suspension drop of about and inch, fenders widened by 20mm to hide the 215/45R18 wheels and tires the end result is muscular yet subtle. By the way all those body and suspension mods don’t just look cool; they help the MazdaSpeed put a very svelte 0.32 coefficient of drag.
Select your exterior color carefully; our test ride came in the subdued Cosmic Blue
DISI MY HEAD IS SPINNING
This capable compact packs something with a little more punch than the standard naturally aspirated 2.3 Liter. The MAZDASPEED3 uses a 2.3-liter DOHC 16 Valve turbo charged and intercooled four with Direct Injection Spark Ignition or DISI. I know, every time you hear DISI it makes you want to sing that Tommy James song but in this case the melody rocks out with 263 HP and 280lb-ft of torque at 3000 RPM. The engine is the same one found in varying forms of tune across the Mazda lineup, 244 horsepower for the CX7 and 270 for the Mazdaspeed 6.
But unlike the all wheel drive MAZDASPEED6 when it comes to the Speed 3 all the power leaves through the front wheels. There was no room underneath the current 3 for powering up the rear wheels and Mazda wanted to keep this vehicles price out of the 30K plus range where the VW R32 resides. But 280lb-ft. of torque and front wheel drive presented quite a problem for Mazda engineers with the potential for a “Get sideways” style of torque steer that could make drivers look like they were auditioning for a drifting team. To combat on throttle squirryness Mazda has developed a torque reducing system that uses intake volume and turbo boost pressure control to null out those unwanted pulls on the steering wheel. The system also monitors drive wheel angle to further reduce torque if you decide to nail the throttle going around a sharp corner.
I had a chance to put well over 500 miles on the test MAZDASPEED. Most of them were fun miles with the exception of that jam up on the New Jersey turnpike. The Speed 3 makes you want to work the six speed to wind up the turbo and generate some exhaust note music. Stab the throttle hard and you will close the gap between you and traffic that once seemed far ahead. When the turbo boost comes on, it does so with gusto so like the Boy Scouts say, be prepared!
I noticed early in my test drive that the clutch return spring has a lot of power. Push the pedal in and if you don’t control it, the spring pressure will snap it back with force. After a few miles you get used to this and avoid pushing the clutch pedal all the way in. A technique that leads to smoother and faster shifts. According to Mazda those stout clutch springs are required to deal with the almost 300lb-ft of torque.
Unlike the Subaru WRX the MAZDASPPED3 does not have a hood-mounted scoop feeding air directly to the intercooler. Instead keeping with the discreet theme there is a under hood air box with snorkels that lead to the grill. Mazda engineers had a bit of fun with spy photographers and journalists when they taped a shoebox to the hood of the test mule early in its development to simulate a hood mounted air grabber. If you like that scooped look just get your own shoebox and tape and you are in business.
Ride quality was comfortable even with the stiff lowered suspension. At times it did feel like bumpy road conditions caused the suspension to travel right up to the bump stops but that is to be expected when you shorten up springs and struts. Handling remained quick and pancake flat with zero body roll.
ALL STICHED UP
When it comes to interiors Mazda has always gone above its price point with regards to build and material quality. The MAZDASPEED3 is no exception building on the nicely designed standard Mazda 3 standard interior the speed treatment includes thickly bolstered front seats with distinctive red stitching and embroidered MAZDASPEED logos. Pedals and door thresholds get covered aluminum and stainless steel respectively. The dead pedal is sized to keep even a size 15 shoe comfortable during high G cornering.
During my extended test drive I came to enjoy the $1750 dollar optional navigation system that has a pop up screen
mounted topside on the dash and a console mounted controller that smartly offered a dedicated display dimming button. One interior downside that we hope will be addressed in the next generation Mazda3 is the limited rear seat legroom.
HEY THIS CAR IS FAST!
With its subtle and tasteful performance modified styling, low stance and gobs of turbo power, the MAZDASPEED3 just might win the street sleeper of the year award, or at the very least it’s a great way to keep other drivers guessing.
Specifications: 2007 MazdaSpeed 3
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