Benign Neglect

If youre a little squeamish about driving little hot hatches like this one on ice, February was a good time to give the mighty turbocharged Mazdaspeed 3 some benign neglect. Most of us scoured the C/D car board for four-wheel-drive machines during this snowiest of months, meaning the Speed 3 has acquired its latest miles at a more relaxed pace.

If you havent driven the Speed 3 in some time, you almost need practice before bolting into traffic (and you will bolt). The clutch engages when the pedal is two inches off the floor, and strikes like an angry cottonmouth. The throttle requires a sensitive foot to squeeze out the power in a smooth flowdont pay attention, and suddenly youre doing the herky-jerky, or youve stalled at a stoplight. Not good. Leave your fashionable loggers boots at home, too, because you cant drive with them. Even after youve mastered the clutch and throttle, its still a harsh ride over rippled or broken pavement.

A couple of drivers here have decided that the 3s flashy exterior styling, highlighted by our cars Celestial Blue Mica paint, was a mistake compared with that of the previous model. The new car looks like it has swollen glands, with one editor calling it a monstrosity and saying the stylist responsible for it should be run out of the company; another described it as half comic book and half boy-racer weird.

That said, the Mazdaspeed 3 follows the standard formula for a modern-day pocket rocket. Its very quick, has gobs of power, and excellent steering for a Saturday drive in the woods. Plus, it gets good fuel economy, which is now up to 23 mpg overall. That mix is why enthusiasts like them. And the other good news is that nothing has failed, flopped, or fallen off. Thus far, our service tally is only .37 for the scheduled 7500-mile service, which included an oil change and a new oil filter, as well as a tire rotation and vehicle inspection. With a clean bill of health and its 18-inch Dunlop Sport 2080 summer rubber back on, our Speed 3 is ready for warmer weather and its next adventure.

benign neglect