Craig Scime: In the world of hot five-passenger compact hatchbacks, the turbocharged Mazdaspeed3 delivers a thirst-quenching mix of power and practicality.
Amanda Salas: The Mazdaspeed3 is a super-tuned version of the front-wheel-drive Mazda3 designed for maximum thrills at under $25,000.
Craig: There's no doubt that this car is aimed at the buyer who wants high performance that won't break the bank.
Amanda: And it's decked out with plenty of upscale features as well.
Craig: Plus, its big 18-inch wheels, functional hood scoop and low-profile tires are exactly the kind of style a person my age is looking for.
Craig: The GTI is a little more refined but not nearly as powerful. And the WRX has the advantage of all-wheel drive, but its starting price is almost $1,500 higher.
Amanda: Mazda also has a flair for style, and it's pretty evident inside. I really love these leather seats, and the red stitching on the leather steering wheel is a nice touch.
Craig: And Mazda didn't shortchange the tech side, either. Our test model came with the 10-speaker Bose surround sound system that plays CDs, MP3s or whatever you plug into the audio jack, and you can talk on the phone hands free with Bluetooth capability.
Amanda: I love that if you fold the back seats down, you can easily fit lots of luggage, groceries or whatever back there.
Craig: And with the optional on-board navigation, getting to where you want to go, well, it's pretty easy.
Amanda: Acceleration is impressive, thanks to its 263-horsepower turbocharged 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine.
Craig: And with that engine, this little powerhouse will rocket to 60 miles per hour in under six seconds.
Amanda: If you don't mind burning up your gasoline budget. Even with its well-connected six-speed manual transmission, EPA mileage ratings are just mediocre: 18 city, 25 highway.
Craig: So, Amanda, I feel that the ride is pretty smooth, except for a little roughness over some of the broken pavement.
Amanda: Blame it on that firm sport-tuned suspension and those low-profile tires. What you gain in performance and handling, you lose in comfort, but with the Mazdaspeed3 it's not too bad. Gotta just avoid the bumps!
The Mazdaspeed3 hatchback is an amazing deal starting at $24,000. It's roomy, hot-looking, rides well and has loads of that zoom that Mazda raves about.
Craig: So if you're looking for a little more excitement than just an everyday hatchback, then the Mazdaspeed3 is the car for you.