The VW GTI isn't the only game in town.
Volkswagen may have invented the hot hatchback segment with the GTI, but rival automakers have long since caught on. The concept of taking a relatively basic hatchback and adding power and suspension tuning is so simple it's brilliant. This was impossible for some brands to ignore. Mazda's entry was the now dearly departed Mazdaspeed3, first launched in 2007. It only survived two generations before being discontinued in 2013.
Despite rumors claiming the Japanese automaker is about to re-enter the segment with its latest generation Mazda 3 Hatchback, we remain doubtful. Mazda made the strategic decision to move upmarket and a hot hatch aimed at a younger crowd is probably not a top priority, though never say never.
The good news is that existing Mazdaspeed3s can easily be found. For some, the second-generation is the preferred choice, though one of its main drawbacks is too much torque steer. That's what happens when there's too much power directed at the front wheels.
The first-gen Mazdaspeed3 also won near-universal praise for its balance of good performance at an affordable price, and today that price had dramatically dropped in some cases. This 2009 Mazdaspeed3 may have clocked 105,000 miles, but it still appears to be in solid condition overall. Power comes from a 2.3-liter turbocharged inline-four (fun fact: it also powered the Mazdaspeed6 sedan) with a total of 263 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. Power goes to the front wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox. No automatic was offered.
Why not have an all-wheel-drive system? Two reasons: to save weight and cost. Some standard features include a limited-slip differential, ABS brakes, traction and dynamic stability control, and a boost reduction in first and second gear in order to limit wheel slip. Compared to the standard Mazda3 hatch at the time, the Mazdaspeed3 received a rear spoiler, unique badging and wheels.
Performance was also quite respectable with a 0-60 mph time of less than six seconds and a clocked quarter-mile time of 14 seconds flat at 101 mph. Two trims were offered, Sport and the more expensive Grand Touring.
This example is the Sport and includes leather seating, a Bose stereo with a 6-disc in-dash CD changer, automatic Xenon headlights, and LED taillights. All first-gen Speed3s came standard with 18-inch wheels, logo-infused sill plates, aluminum pedals, and red interior stitching. Given its output and rock-solid build quality and reliability, this '08 Mazdaspeed3 could be the ideal first car for any gearhead on a budget.
The asking price is just $6,995 and it can be found New Gen Auto Group in West Babylon, New York.