WEEEEEEEE! (Gasp for air) WEEEEEEE!
Although the term “pocket-rocket” seems like a shoe-in as something thought up by the gay community, when used properly it describes a small but speedy car. It’s a clever nickname given to cars such as the Honda Civic Si and VW GTI, but seems wholly inadequate when applied to the 263-horsepower MAZDASPEED3. I think something like “pocket-ICBM” might better suit this little five-door terror. For the record, MAZDASPEED is Mazda’s in-house racing technology division. Every so often, Mazda throws them a bone and they turn it into Filet Mignon.
Placed side-by-side, the differences between the Mazda3 and MAZDASPEED3 are instantly visible. The MAZDASPEED3 is more aggressive up front, with a larger grille and lower air intake (the later needed to help shuttle air to the intercooler), a raised dome hood and wider fenders. The expanded wheel openings house stylish 18-inch wheels surrounded by high-performance tires, while around back an exaggerated spoiler is prominently affixed atop the hatch. Unseen changes include additional bracing for improved rigidity (remember girls, stiffer is better) and bigger brakes for improved stopping power. The upgraded interior features a set of thickly bolstered front seats, aluminum foot pedals and a six-speed manual shift knob.
While the cosmetic changes make the MAZDASPEED3 look and feel better than Belgian chocolate poured over fresh strawberries, none make the MAZDASPEED3 go faster. A brilliant 2.3-liter turbocharged direct injection four-cylinder mated to a short-throw six-speed manual transmission receives that honor. Considering the stock 2.3-liter in the Mazda3 pumps out 155 horsepower, the jump to 263 is nothing short of amazing. Billed as one of the fastest front-wheel drive cars on the planet, the MAZDASPEED3 can leap from zero to 60 in less than six seconds and reach a top speed of 155 mph. Zippity-Do-Da indeed!
Whenever this much power pours into a car’s front wheels, a syndrome known as torque steer (excessive wheel spin and pulling to one side) inevitably occurs. To minimize torque steer, the MAZDASPEED engineers employ a two-prong strategy by combining a limited-slip differential with an advanced Powertrain Control Module, or PCM. The PCM works by bleeding off added pressure at the turbo, thus controlling torque spike in first and second gear. The system works well under most conditions, but it’s not foolproof.
Now I know what you’re all thinking. “Enough tech talk, bitch, how does the damn car drive?” Well, the answer is “Like a bat out of hell.” The MAZDASPEED3’s turbo spools up quickly and rockets the tachometer to red line almost as quickly as one can change gears. Handling is taut and very tractable thanks to the enhanced suspension and wide tires, but the ride is far from compliant, especially over uneven or choppy pavement. The high interior sound levels result from a combination of increased tire noise and a booming exhaust note. For 20-somethings and true driving enthusiasts, the added decibels won’t be a distraction, but this fermented plum prefers piano bars to punk rock, and so the MAZDASPEED3 is bit too loud to be my daily driver.
Regardless of these minor complaints, one can’t quibble with the MAZDASPEED3’s price. Offered in two trims, Sport and Grand Touring, the MAZDASPEED3 starts at just $22,800, which includes destination, and when fully loaded with leather seats, Bose audio, SIRIUS Satellite Radio, DVD Navigation, xenon headlights, rain-sensing wipers and automatic climate control, tops out around $27,000. The only feature not available to the MAZDASPEED3 is a power sunroof, which would undermine the car’s rigid frame.
Now for the bad news; Mazda plans to build 5000 cars this year, barely enough to meet the demands of Southern California, let alone the entire country. If you want a MAZDASPEED3, you’d better reserve one quick because just like virginity, when they’re gone, they’re gone.
Mazda is a gay-friendly company.
Read other Mazda reviews by Gaywheels.com’s writers