2.3L L4 Turbo DOHC 16-valve
263 @ 5500
280 @ 3000
11.5 / 8.0
I’ve always had a soft spot for hot hatches. I just love how you can take a normal hatchback and transform it into a track weapon. The 2013 Mazdaspeed3 is one of the most hardcore hot hatches out there. The VW Golf GTi is down on power and the Subaru Imprezza WRX STi is a lot more money, so the only real rival to this is the 2013 Ford Focus ST.
Unlike the Focus ST, it develops 263 BHP which is 13 ponies more and unlike the it also comes with a proper limited slip differential. This might not have the amazing Recaro seats the ST has, but at least in these humbler sporty seats my fat ass can fit without getting numb.
The interior is all familiar as there are no screaming differences compared to the Mazda3 except of course the aggressive leather stitching, some red racing accents, a turbo boost gauge and the bucket sport seats. You get virtually the same gear as in a Touring Edition regular 3 and the same space in the back and trunk.
The exterior however, screams on top of its lungs that this Mazda3 is a bit different. The hot body kit, rear massive spoiler, 18” dark grey rims and especially the intake on the hood all shout that this is another word stuck between Mazda and 3. Speed.
Under the hood there is a 2.3L Turbocharged 4-Cylinder engine that develops 263 BHP and 280 lb-ft of torque which is enough to propel the front-wheel-drive car to 100km/h in just 6.1 seconds. All the power comes between 3,000 and 5,000 rpm, so learn to shift the excellent 6-speed manual gearbox within that rev range and you‘ll be going very fast. Drive below that range and you will find that the engine is fuel efficient enough for your daily commute but the heavy steering, hard clutch and bone breaking suspension will be trying to steer you towards the nearest race track the whole time. Cruising at normal speed, we averaged a combined 9.9lt/100km of premium unleaded.
On the road the Mazdaspeed3 is like driving a race car and I am not kidding. The steering is heavy, the clutch is heavy, the gearbox is stiff but precise and most importantly, the suspension is rock hard. But it has to be if you want to pull more than 1g in the corners, which it does! We passed through our cone slalom test with speed we couldn’t believe and the big brakes brought the car to a complete stop from 100km/h in just 39m. The sticky summer tires do play their role, but the suspension is tuned to competition standards. So don’t expect much comfort when driving to work. It is fun though! Push it hard in the bends and once you manage to exceed the traction limits you will have to fine tune your understeer leveling techniques versus torque-steer. The rear end will never go wide, no matter how hard you try, so just opt to drive on a proper race line and focus on improving your lap times and skill.
Between this and the ST it’s hard to pick a winner. Sheer speed belongs to the Mazdaspeed3 but so does the harsh ride. The Focus ST is more fun to drive as the rear is playful and is softer for every day but that is conditional to your ass fitting in the Recaro seat. On the track it will have to move aside and let the Mazdaspeed3 go ahead. Bottom line, it’s amazing what $30K can get you now days and the Mazdaspeed3 is one hell of a car.
Very hard ride