Cars

The Mazdaspeed3 was the Hottest Hatch Before the Civic Type R

When it comes to hot hatchbacks, the Honda Civic Type R has been all the rage for the past few years. But a powerful, front-drive car is nothing new. The Volkswagen GTI was around long before and Mazda had a more powerful version of the Mazda3 hatchback about a decade before the Civic Type R ever existed in the U.S. It was called the Mazdaspeed3 and it was quite the performer.

A formidable contender

The Mazdaspeed3 was in production from 2007 to 2013 and it went through two generations. The first generation was based on the Mazda3’s 5-door wagon body style at the time and it was the “Mr. Hyde” to the Mazda3’s “Dr. Jekyll.”

The Mazdaspeed3 built upon the Mazda3’s sporty characteristics as it was much faster, handled better and it carried the same practicality as its plebeian stablemate, in other words, it was the ultimate grocery-getter.

Yet, it was so much more. The amount of power that it was able to churn through the front wheels was so impressive and car reviewers took note. The New York Times wrote, “The Mazdaspeed 3…is joyful in its turbo-ness, trading driveability for glorious, unadulterated power.”

The second generation came when the Mazdaspeed3 was redesigned in 2010 along with the rest of the Mazda3 lineup, complete with the huge “smiling face” grille. Improvements to the car came via a stiffer suspension, larger brakes, wider tires, and a functional hood scoop for better cooling.

2010 Mazdaspeed3

Engine and performance

The Mazdaspeed3 was powered by a turbocharged 2.3-liter, four-cylinder engine that produced 263 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. The power was transferred through a six-speed manual transmission and out to both of the front wheels, thanks to a limited-slip differential.

As some may know, putting that much power to the front wheels typically results in torque steer, which is when the steering wheel pulls hard in one direction during hard acceleration. It definitely had torque steer, but it was a minimal hiccup in the overall exhilarating driving experience.

Torque steer aside, the Mazdaspeed3 was still able to reach 60 mph in about 5.6 seconds and run down the quarter-mile in 14.1 seconds, according to Car and Driver’s testing.  

For reference, the Honda Civic Type R pulls off similar numbers, so you can see just how quick this car really was.

MZR 2.3L DISI T/C

Fuel economy

Another Mazdaspeed3 highlight was the fuel economy that it was able to achieve. It was rated at 18 in the city and 25 on the highway, 21 combined. Compare those numbers to the Mazda3’s 21 city/29 highway numbers and you’ll soon figure out that the extra power is definitely worth the monetary sacrifice at the pump.

NA, MPS, 6MT Half Leather, Instrumental Panel

Pricing

When it was new, the Mazdaspeed3 retailed for around $24,000. There weren’t different trim levels to choose from and there was only one option package; the Technology Package.

This package added features like blind-spot monitoring, a power driver’s seats, push-button start, keyless access, and a navigation system.

If you’re currently in the market for a Mazdaspeed3, or perhaps just curious after reading this article, you can expect to see used examples selling from $8,000 to $11,000. Just be aware that, due to the sporty nature of the car, the previous owner probably didn’t drive it gingerly.

If you do happen to find one that you like, then we suggest taking it for a test drive, you might just like it enough to buy it. And if you do, you can smile while driving it, knowing that you paid a fraction of the price of Civic Type R.