Mazda introduced a revamped Mazda3 for 2012 and with it came an updated version of the model we’re most interested in, the 2012 Mazda Mazdaspeed3.
Priced from $24,795 including destination, a rise of just $300 on the outgoing 2011 model, you get a very well equipped hot hatch packing a turbocharged and direct-injected 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 263 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque.
You’ll note that the new 2012 Volkswagen Golf R only packs 256 horsepower and 243 pound-feet of torque and is priced from $33,990, although it comes with all-wheel drive as standard whereas the Mazda only drives the front wheels. The 2012 VW GTI is closer in price to the Mazdaspeed 3, though it's significantly down on power compared to the Mazda.
As mentioned, the 2012 Mazda Mazdaspeed3 comes quite well equipped and includes 18-inch alloy wheels, a 10-speaker Bose stereo (previous an option), a sports-tuned exhaust, uprated brakes and suspension, a limited slip differential, and leather accents in the cabin.
Only a six-speed manual is offered, and if you want extras there's a $2,135 Technology Package, which adds navigation, blind spot assist, adaptive bi-xenon headlights, Sirius satellite radio, a perimeter alarm, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a keyless entry system with push button start for the engine.
Mid-range power is great though as the rev climbs power starts dissipating fast. Spool the turbo up, get the engine to about 3,500 rpm, and you’re in the sweet spot. The last 800-1,000 rpm on the rev-counter is basically there just to keep you from having to shift in awkward spots--there's almost no power at the top end. But between 3,500 and 5,500 rpm, it's a rocketship.
Being a front-driver with so much power, torque steer does like to raise its ugly head every so often though the car’s traction and stability system do a good job of keeping things in order. We're not complaining, though. It's character like this that makes the Mazdaspeed3 a true hot hatch.
The interior is nice but not quite on par with the 2012 Volkswagen GTI. You'll have to make do with the slightly lower-quality seats and lack of upgraded interior materials, as well as the slightly cheesy trim available on some models.
Practicality is a strong suit of the Mazdaspeed3, as it has been since the model's inception. Fair room in back allows even taller adults some comfort for shorter trips, while children and the sub-six-footers won't have much to complain about at all. Cargo room in the back is good, especially with the rear seats folded down.
For more details, check out our review of the almost identical 2010 model by clicking here.