2008 Mazdaspeed3 Performance
Test drivers find that the Speed3 offers quick acceleration and confidence-inspiring handling. Writers from the Motor Trend calls the Mazdaspeed3 a "gentleman's Evo," as it "delivers impressive numbers, but, more important, it delivers the elusive feel of a dedicated driver's machine." The agrees, calling it "fun, stable, and even able to help remedy a major mistake -- we entered a 90-degree turn way too fast." CNET adds that anyone "getting behind the wheel will feel a happy adrenaline rush as the engine growls and the car shoots forward."say that "'hot' doesn't even begin to describe the sensation of driving a Mazdaspeed3 GT."
Acceleration and Power
The 2008 Mazdaspeed3 Sport and Grand Touring editions come with a 2.3-liter Direct Injection Spark Ignition Turbocharged I4 engine, with peak horsepower of 263 at 5500 rpm and 280 pound-feet of torque at 3000 rpm. Most auto writers agree that the powerful four-cylinder engine produces great acceleration.
The Mazdaspeed3 revs with little effort and zips to the redline with relatively little turbo lag. Motor Trend reports that the Mazdaspeed3 motor "delivers power smoothly and progressively." Kelley Blue Book adds that straight-line acceleration is "nothing short of electrifying." The says the engine performs "remarkably for a high-rev tuner-type car," adding that there are "quick starts off the line, and the ability to pass gracefully and safely in sixth gear on a busy highway."
Auto writers from Automobile Magazine advise that the Mazdaspeed3 is definitely "not a car meant to be guided by dainty fingertips. Whenever your right hand is free from shifting duties, it needs to be on deck to help you hang on for dear life." The reviewers add, "Work the throttle like a rally pro and this partner faithfully follows your lead." The New York Times says you "can't really sample the full potential of the engine until you reach third gear," adding that their only complaint is "the exhaust noise," which "is inevitably a flat, unmelodious blat that sounds as if it belongs on a farm coming out of either a tractor or a cow." AutoWeek agrees, saying that "the booming exhaust was tiring after a long highway drive, although the kids will probably love it."
The 2008 Mazdaspeed3, Sport and Grand Touring come with a six-speed manual transmission, which auto reviewers generally find smooth and responsive. The Cars.com credits the manual transmission for making "highway driving fun," and allowing for "some gusty merges and lane changes in fifth, and even in sixth you can massage the gas pedal just right to get the turbo kick in and forego shifting." The says the gearbox is "the perfect partner for this engine, and its tight shift linkage is a joy to use."calls the transmission "smooth" with "short throws from gear to gear, and the light clutch was a pleasure to operate."
In contrast, a few reviewers note that the shifter occasionally takes added effort during gear changes. The Edmunds' auto writers echo this concern by saying that the shifter "doesn't like to be rushed, has effort appropriate for the job, but feels a bit disconnected compared to some of its competitors." Road and Track agrees, mentioning that shifting "could be more precise."argues that the shifter "gets balky, especially during rapid up-shifts."
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the 2008 Mazda Speed3's fuel economy to be 18 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.
Handling and Braking
Most reviewers agree that the Mazdaspeed3 shines in handling, with sporty confidence and tenacious grip on even the windiest of roads. The Road and Track says, "Handling-wise, the 3 is a mix of fun and endearing imprecision." Motor Trend says, "Through high-g turns, the car adheres to the asphalt, offering levels of grip that continually tempt you to push the limit another tenth." CNET concludes, "In all of the cornering we put the car through, it proved to be one of the best handling front-wheel-drive cars we've driven."says that the Mazdaspeed3 "is small enough and nimble enough to whip into any parking space and to zip in and out of lanes easily on the highway."
The Mazdaspeed3's steering, according to auto reviewers, suffers from a mild case of torque steer and understeer. The 2008 model is fitted with the Mazda Advanced Torque Management System, which Motor Trend reports "nearly nullifies torque steer by reading steering angle, retarding engine spark via the ECU, and bleeding boost through the wastegate. Some torque steer still rears its head, but it's of the gentle variety, more of a coax than a tug." The says, "Because it has front-drive with gobs of power, there's also some torque steer -- that sensation of the steering wheel trying to jump out of your hands when you punch the gas pedal hard. But it is less than expected and can be controlled." Motor Trend says there is "some mild understeer when takings twists too tight, but front-end bite is tenacious, overall balance seemingly neutral." The finds that steering the Mazdaspeed3 at lower speeds requires more effort and the adds that there is some understeer, commonly found in front-wheel drive cars, but calls it "muted."
While test drivers note these slight disadvantages, they also praise the Mazdaspeed3's solid electro-hydraulic steering. Car and Driver calls the steering on the Mazdaspeed3 "noticeably BMWish," with effort "that builds progressively and intuitively," also adding that the Mazdaspeed3 "bounds up and down to a fair degree and is also harder to position accurately, due to its less direct steering and less rapid rotation when you life the throttle." Auto writers from Edmunds say that the steering is "exceptionally responsive just off-center, which makes dispatching transitions as easy as it is quick."
The Mazdaspeed3 is equipped with MacPherson front strut suspension and Mazdaspeed rear sport independent E-type multi-link suspension. Most reviewers find the suspension fitting for a sport compact -- a bit firm and stiff but well controlled over the tightest of turns and road irregularities. The Mazdaspeed3's suspension is a "beefed up" version of the base model 3's suspension, says the Car and Driver reports, "Honed in Germany, this suspension and chassis package is terrific." CNET concludes that the tightened suspension "contributes to the excellent handling ability," but "also leads to a somewhat rough ride.", with stiffer spring, shocks and a bigger stabilizer bar, all resulting in a ride that is "a little stiff over bumps, but there's almost no body roll, squat or dive in fast curves and stop-and-go racing."
Both trim levels of the Mazdaspeed3 come with power-assisted ventilated front disc and solid rear disc brakes. Automobile Magazine says the "brakes feel great around town and are able to shed 70 mpg worth of speed in only 155 feet." Auto writers from the agree, calling the brakes on the Mazdaspeed3 "smooth, assuring stopping under all conditions and good pedal feedback that makes it easy to modulate the brakes." In contrast, AutoWeek calls the brakes "merely adequate," claiming that they'd "prefer better brakes" on the Mazdaspeed3. Car and Driver reports that the "brakes also get softer with increasing laps, but they repeatedly stop the car effectively."