2013 MazdaSpeed3 review

2013 MazdaSpeed3
Photo courtesy of Mazda Canada

Torque steer? What torque steer? I feel as though I can’t write a review about the factory-souped-up MazdaSpeed3 without acknowledging the elephant in the room that is the front wheel drive layout of the monster hatch with a 263-horsepower engine lurking within.

There is no doubt that in first gear at full throttle, attempting to travel in a straight line can prove challenging. I was lucky to be able to take the car on an extended road trip from B.C. to Alberta, and under mixed driving conditions where passing on straights was a regular occurrence I didn’t find it too difficult to keep things from getting out of hand.

But more on that later. The 3, especially in MazdaSpeed form, is so much better looking than when the model was first introduced a decade ago. The air intake scoop right in the middle of the hood is an immediate indicator that the car means business. Along with the large 18-inch wheels and huge rear wing on the back, the MS3 is a definite looker. Our tester came in flashy “Velocity Red” that just added more to the effect. Unfortunately I didn’t find the interior to possess the same wow factor — there’s lots of cheap-looking black plastic everywhere. The seats look odd, too, with leatherette-looking bolsters and the middle sections made out of a funky red patterned fabric. I found the TomTom powered navigation system cumbersome and slow to respond, and after extensive investigation I simply could not find a way to change the units from imperial to metric. I also understand the safety issue of disabling input while the car is in operation, but the destination memory clears each time the car moves meaning you have to pull over to do any route corrections, even if you have a passenger.

2013 MazdaSpeed3 rear spoiler
Photo courtesy of Mazda Canada

Back to the important stuff. The MS3 is fast, in a silent-but-deadly kind of way. The turbo spool up is so quiet that you forget there’s any forced induction going on, and the only thing you notice is how fast the power comes on tap and the cool digital boost gauge next to the speedometer spike. As I mentioned earlier, there were plenty of long and narrow stretches of Trans-Canada Highway with opportunities to pass slow moving long haul trucks.There was no struggle, no hesitation, only pure acceleration that reduced said trucks to a small dot in the rearview mirror. The 280 pound-feet of torque coming on at a low 3,000 rpm certainly has a role to play in that. And while it is also the reason the car seems like it’s having a seizure under hard acceleration, it really only factors in from a dead stop.

2013 MazdaSpeed3 engine bay
Photo courtesy of Mazda Canada

When you’re driving almost 11 hours straight, one notices little nuances of a car that may not manifest themselves fully when you’re puttering about town. For instance the MazdaSpeed sport-tuned suspension is great for keeping the car planted in turns and while making high-speed maneuvers. The tradeoff that it’s very firm, almost reminiscent of aftermarket adjustable suspension systems that I’ve run on my own previous personal vehicles. I’m used to a stiff ride, but others (or significant others) may not be as tolerant of having their fillings rattle when going over potholes or uneven terrain. For a sporty turbocharged car such as this, fuel consumption numbers of 11.5 L / 100 km in the city and 8.0 on the highway is respectable. Certainly beats the $300 of fuel the truck my cousin’s dad ate up during his last trip to Calgary.

Notable features (as tested)

Price: MSRP $32,635

Engine: 263 hp @ 5,500 rpm/280 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm

Drivetrain: front engine, front wheel drive

Fuel economy: 11.5 L/100 km (city), 8.0 (highway)

Curb weight: 1,509 kilograms

Safety and security: Anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbags, engine immobilizer

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