Remember Mazdaspeed? We do, but we wouldn’t be surprised if some of our younger readers have no idea what it is. Let’s start with a little history lesson. In the late 1990s and into the early 2000s, OEMs began to embrace the “tuner” scene and lean into marketing to the enthusiast demographic. As a result, larger portions of marketing budgets went to the performance divisions of several brands. There was SRT from Dodge, TRD from Toyota, Ralliart from Mitsubishi, and Mazdaspeed from, well, Mazda.
A brief history of Mazdaspeed
Mazdaspeed was unique among the others because the performance off-shoot had very strong ties to Mazda’s motorsport efforts. The same branding was seen on the track as on the road. Mazda started adding the Mazdaspeed badge to their cars in the early 90s, beginning with the Protege and eventually expanding to the MX-5. Some would argue the Mazdaspeed road cars’ peak was the Mazdaspeed 3, a turbocharged version of the Mazda 3 hatchback, and the Mazdaspeed 6, which had a turbo and AWD. While other OEM’s performance bands didn’t extend further beyond an exhaust and some graphics, Mazdaspeed was giving the tuners what they wanted.
Mazda’s performance brand built a loyal following and continued to keep a strong relationship with Mazda’s motorsport division which was eventually named “Mazdaspeed Motorsports.” Then, one day it all just sort of stopped. Mazdaspeed variants and products fizzled away.
Some might blame the economic downturn of 2008. Others might point to Mazda’s relatively small size compared to their competitors. Either way, Mazdaspeed faded from Mazda’s road cars, and we don’t really know why.
The crew at Fitment Industries YouTube channel looked into Mazdaspeed’s history to get some answers. This is what they came up with.
Mazda thought Mazdaspeed was ‘childish’
When Mazda changed its design language in 2006, it marked a shift for the brand. It was the first sign that Mazda wanted to get away from its image of producing low-cost, fun, sporty cars to a brand seen as more “upscale” and environmentally friendly.
Part of that shift was Mazda investing in their SKYACTIV engine technology which was all about efficiency. At the same time, their vehicles became more sculpted and elegant in their exterior and interior designs.
In a 2016 interview with Motoring.com.au, President of Mazda, Masahiro Moro famously panned Mazdaspeed variants and suggested that they were rising above it.
“As a brand we are trying to elevate again a little bit more, because execution of Mazda MPS or Mazdaspeed 3 or whatever you call it was a little bit – I am not afraid to say it – childish.” Said Moro.
Pretty harsh if you ask us. However, we can understand where Moro was coming from. For what it’s worth, the current Mazda 3 can be had with a turbocharged engine and AWD. It’s just missing the “Mazdaspeed” badge. It might be time to let go of that fun-loving Mazda of the past and get used to the “mature” Mazda of today.