|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
At first, it seems like an interesting play of names: there’s a ‘Mazdaspeed 3’ out there, so understandably, some people got confused: is it the same thing? Although the Mazda3 will undoubtedly form the basis for the often rumored on-and-off again Mazdaspeed 3, the Mazda3 Speed serves as the top spec variant of the 2.0 R hatchback. It could also be a clever marketing move to subconsciously introduce the ‘Speed’ name, but perhaps that’s overthinking things. Already a stunner in every angle, Mazda sure had squeeze out every creative juice to make the Speed even more stunning. And boy, have they pushed the right buttons. The jet black 18-inch alloy wheels immediately draw your attention. Though the finish doesn’t look particularly durable (as evidenced by numerous paint peels near the lug nuts), it knocks your socks off. Then, you notice the subtle wrap-around body kit. It’s painted in high-gloss black with the side mirrors now echoing that finish. It adds just the right pinch of sportiness to an already sporty design. It doesn’t disrupt the Mazda3’s lines like what most body kits do and neither does it hamper ground clearance (thankfully).
Inside is where things take a less than subtle turn. Out goes the 2.0 R’s all-black leather seats and in its place come cream white leather seats. Yes, there are still some black pieces of leather, particularly in the bolstering, but for the most part you read that right: Cream. White. Leather. Seats. It sounds like Mazda took a page out of a 1970s pimp fashion manual, but they’re actually nicely executed. It actually gives this car a much more futuristic rather than retro feel. It certainly won’t look out of place as a star in The Minority Report. The use of white also sounds like bad news for those who cringe at the thought of scuffed seats, but they’re better wearing and tougher than they look. Yes, dirt (i.e. libag) will eventually transfer and discolor them, but soapy water or light leather cleaner is enough to take them off. This particular tester has done some 4,000 kilometers on the clock and the seats still look, objectively, fine.
Another hint to the Speed’s big change is found on the doors where the speaker grilles are embossed with the eponymous ‘Bose’ logo. As you guessed it, the Mazda3 Speed comes standard with a 9-speaker Bose sound system; the only compact car in the market to do so. It’s one hell-of-a-sound system and makes cranking up tunes a bliss with clear mid- and high-end sounds. The low-end is just as good, if only a bit strong. Bass levels have to be adjusted to a lower than usual setting to balance things out. Still, if you’re into bass-heavy tunes (electronica or dance music for instance), then this sound system will do your playlist justice.
Speakers and cream white seats aside, the rest of the cabin is shared with the standard Mazda3 2.0 R so pretty much the same adjectives apply: driver-centric, logical, understandable, and ergonomic. In a word, perfect. It’s one of the best driving environments of any car bar none. Where other cars, including so-called sports cars, confuse and conquer you with needless and gimmicky displays, the Mazda3 lays it down in a clear manner. Speed, engine revs, vehicle parameters—they’re all where you expect them to be. Of course, the flipside is that the rear seats could be bigger (fitting three would be a squeeze) and the shapely rear end doesn’t give that much luggage room, though the rear seats can be folded in a 60/40 split.
It’s the same story with the Speed’s driving dynamics. Mechanically, it’s a twin of the 2.0 R hatchback, so expect the same experience. It’s powered by the same rev-happy and throaty 2.0-liter SKYACTIV-G 4-cylinder engine good for 155 horsepower and 200 Nm of torque. It still needs to be wrangled to get decent pace going but thankfully its paired to the same responsive 6-speed automatic. The transmission’s so good, the paddle shifters are almost unnecessary. It also comes with the same i-Stop and i-ELOOP system which boosts fuel efficiency to almost absurd levels: 9.70 km/L in heavy bumper-to-bumper Christmas traffic and 12.98 km/L when things lighten up. All in all, it means the Mazda3 can go beyond 400 kilometers between fill-ups—an amazing feat for a non-diesel or non-hybrid set-up. More than just its engine, the Speed is also mighty fun behind the wheel with a responsive suspension and quick steering. It also returns a surprisingly comfy ride despite the low-profile ties. In fact, it’s slightly more compliant over the rough stuff than the sedan. Like the sedan, however, road noise is prevalent at just about any speed.
This new variant of the Mazda3 certainly isn’t for the masses anymore: it commands a premium of P 100,000 over the 2.0 R hatchback (the SRP is effectively P 1,298,000). At first that additional cash doesn’t seem to get you far: body kit, blacked out trim, cream white seats, and Bose sound system. Dig deeper though and you’ll realize that the Bose sound system is more than worth it. Not only is it a great sound system, it can’t be installed as an aftermarket job. It’s been designed from the ground up especially for this car (they use different wiring harnesses for one). And that alone makes the Mazda3 Speed worthy of serious consideration; especially if you’re lusting after a Mazda3 hatchback in either Snowflake White or Soul Red (the Speed is only available in those colors). Certainly, Mazda Philippines has done a great job in making the complete compact car even more complete. It’s so good, that after spending time with one, every other compact will feel ordinary.
2015 Mazda3 Speed
|Ownership||2015 Mazda3 Speed|
|Body Type||5-door hatchback|
|Engine / Drive||F/F|
|Under the Hood|
|Aspiration||Normally Aspirated, Direct Injection|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||Inline-4|
|BHP @ rpm||155 @ 6,000|
|Nm @ rpm||200 @ 4,000|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Gasoline / 91~|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,310|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Independent, Multi-Link|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Tires||Dunlop Sport Maxx TT 215/45R18 W|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Seating Adjustment||Electronic (driver)|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 60/40|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|Power Mirrors||Yes, with Fold|
|No. of Speakers||8|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|