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2013 Mazda MAZDASPEED3 Overview

One of the joys of writing about the automobile industry is typing out some of the ridiculous names manufacturers dream up. Start with some ridiculous letter/number combo from Infiniti and end with the next freedom/power-inspiring SUV name and you’ve got yourself a healthy serving of the absurd. But none of that comes close to typing out Mazda MAZDASPEED3. Now, depending on where you look, some people don’t throw the MAZDASPEED3 in all-caps. I’d much rather just pretend Mazda was yelling at us, desperately trying to attract attention over the roar of manufacturers like VW and Ford and their hot-hatch competition.

And that would make sense, as Mazda has long had to compete with companies who have a lot more money to throw at development, marketing and the like. It makes even more sense this year, with the MAZDASPEED3 now facing competition from the fancier and much more svelte VW GTI as well as the Ford Focus, which is threatening to be the best offering of them all.

But we’re not here to talk about anything other than MAZDASPEED—specifically about the MAZDASPEED3! In the face of all this new competition, you’d expect a host of new changes so that Mazda can stay in the game, no?

You’d be wrong.

Sure, there are changes to be seen. Side mirrors and the rear valance get a black finish to match the gunmetal added to the 18-inch wheels. The Tech package now comes with Pandora and HD radio for the 265-watt, 10-speaker Bose Surround Sound audio system, and a USB port is standard. The biggest change is a larger, centrally located touchscreen for the navigation system.

Mid-cycle refresh this is not. But you still get the MZR 2.3-liter engine, sourced from the now-deceased CX-7, and that will deliver 263 hp at 5,500 rpm and a positively unmanageable 280 lb-ft of torque, ready to tear the front wheels clean off. While the regular MAZDA3 is available with your choice of transmissions, configurations and flavors, the MAZDASPEED3 comes solely with a 6-speed manual transmission, in hatchback configuration and in Touring flavor. That means standards like rear spoilers, fog lights and hood scoops, front air dams, leather seats and a neat LED boost gauge nestled neatly between the speedo and tach. And because it’s a hatchback, you can lower that 60/40 split-folding rear to increase interior storage from 17 to 42.8 cubic feet.

There’s even more on the SPEED side of things, including a limited-slip differential and 4-wheel disc brakes that can bring things to a halt in just 113 feet. Of course, that’s achieved with the standard summer tires, so not a direct comparison with everything else out there. And you’d better not want a sun- or moonroof for your hot hatch—Mazda doesn’t even offer one.

If you want to add some extra, the Tech Package will stuff your SPEED3 with automatic, adaptive bi-xenon lights, LED taillights, keyless ignition and entry, a blind-spot warning system and the aforementioned upgraded navigation system.

Unfortunately, all this adds up to a car that is still a few years behind its competitors. The GTI is more upscale, and the Focus will out-accelerate and out-turn the MAZDASPEED3, helped immensely by showing up at the scales nearly 200 pounds lighter than the Mazda. More than that, the MAZDASPEED3 just looks a bit dated. It’s immediately evident from the front, as the matte black plastic that dominates the front simply screams design from nearly a half-decade ago. The trip through automotive design history continues inside, where there are hints and inspirations to be picked out from as far back as the mid-'90s. It doesn’t mean the MAZDASPEED3 is a bad car, just that competitors have caught up since it last got a massage. That’s okay—its name is still the most fun to type.


A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.

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