2007 Mazdaspeed3 Review / Road Test

Performance motoring at Long Beach

Watching Talladega Nights star Will Ferrell clown around a NASCAR track half-asleep and pretty drugged - me, not him, I had a cold - I couldn't help feel that rush of blood to the head and right foot when, and I hope you've seen the movie, they engage a "slingshot" maneuver to overtake the race leader and vault to the front of the pack.

For I had that exact same feeling when, at any speed, I planted the right foot and a MazdaSpeed3 catapulted me into the back of my seat and the car into oblivion.  Almost. That night, all that rushing of blood sent me back to bed, with a quart bottle of Nightnurse for company.

Steer away from driving, remember, even with non-prescription meds but don't under any circumstances avoid driving the absolutely non-sopophoric MazdaSpeed3. In fact, I'll go further and advise you to take one for a test drive: You won't be disappointed.

OK, I'll hedge that: If you watched Talladega Nights you won't be disappointed as you're no doubt a performance loving gear-head or one of millions who thought Sony had given the movie one of the funniest taglines ever - The Ballad of Ricky Bobby - and watched the movie as a big thank you for a cheap laugh.

And the Mazda provides plenty thrills and amusement as a result of Mazda's careful positioning of it as a fun runabout for kids of any age who remember or have just discovered what it's like to drive a compact car that's substantially quicker than 90% of cars out there.

Clean lines

18-inch rims

The combination of massive pace and power for a relatively small injection of cash for me seems to sum up what Mazda should and does stand for, alongside its range that includes niche products such as this one and the RX8 we'll test in upcoming weeks and utilitarian mobiles such as the Mazda6 or CX sisters.

It's front-wheel drive, lightweight and muscular and boasts outrageous styling hints like a massive exhaust and wings and 18-inch real good looking rims that should have widespread appeal. Under the hood it's reined in 263 horses in a 2.3-liter direct injected turbo engine.  It's also got super-stiff suspension and all-manner of stability controls.

In low gears, or 1 through 3, torque is negated -  combined with a tire-slip limiter -  but at the top end torque is substantially weightier than its nearest competition.  That keeps it pushing out power at a substantial clip until you hit the high revs up top. Theoretically.  I pushed this as much as I could while staying under the speed limit, but more to hear the gorgeous exhaust note more than directly pushing it to the limit.

I remember when these little pocket rockets first hit 150mph a few years back, led by Subaru and  VW's Spanish imprint, Seat.  Mazda boasts that its Speed3 is the fasted hatch in the world and others are quite rightly are concerned about it eroding their market shares, VW and some of the Japanese imprints most prominently. The Speed3 will hit 155mph all in, with probably an MPH or two to spare with the inevitable computer hacking of its electronic speed limiters.

Space for stereo woofer in back

Massive air-intake capacity

Standout interior

Inside sets this car apart; it's all rubber-molded cloth seating which feels great and you're really held tight going round curves in those sweet bucket seats. Its electronluminescent dials aren't overbearing  and result in racer ambiance all through the cabin that also looks good from outside. One gripe, the Bose 7-speaker stereo sounded great but the chunky display looked like a Betamax LCD display, which means it couldn't display the names of tunes on satellite radio. Also not quite sure why you have to pay extra for  power windows, but hey ho. Those pedals look real good and close together, perfect for heel-and-toe maneuvers.

Which any Mazda fan will appreciated and there are a whole lot of already-satisfied customers out there, who have grown to love the brand, and especially the Mazda3, with the same loyalty - and repeat buying - we've come to associate with several other Asian car manufacturers.

And, of course, Will Ferrell fans.

*MazdaSpeed3 MSRP is $22,340, invoice $20898 (not including options).*

Muscular front grille

Wraparound headlights

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