As car enthusiasts, we are quite familiar with Mazda's history of making exciting sports cars thanks to icons such as the Miata and the rotary-powered RX-7. Yet, there were cars Mazda produced that were, by all means, enjoyable rides but did not imprint their image on the automotive history as much.

A good example of this was the first and second-generation Mazda3. It sold well across the globe and was an overall success for Mazda, but it never received the same recognition as other iconic Mazdas. Well, it was not intended to do so. The Mazda3 was a tame small car for everyday driving with just enough power to avoid boring the driver.

However, this was not the case for the Mazdaspeed3, which was a compact sports hatchback produced by Mazda's performance and motorsport division, Mazdaspeed; the same group behind the creation of the legendary 4-rotor Mazda 787B, which was the first Japanese car to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Mazdaspeed3 was an amazingly balanced sports car that satisfied owners and received several awards. Still, it doesn't get the recognition it truly deserves considering its capabilities.

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The Mazdaspeed3 Is Quick

2012 Mazdaspeed 3
via Mazda

The performance-oriented hatchback is a significant improvement on the Mazda3. It received an aggressive suspension, tires that allow for more grip, a limited-slip differential system, and a turbocharged four-cylinder 2.3-liter engine producing 263 HP and 280 lb-ft of torque.

The mighty four-banger paired with a six-speed manual transmission as the only option available, combined with other performance features present in the Mazdaspeed3, guarantees an electrifying experience.

The suspension system, the driveshafts, the brakes, the anti-roll bars, and many other parts and details Mazda refined and brought to perfection in the car cause it to be especially swift and efficient in turns and corners.

It is worth mentioning that there are two generations of the Mazdaspeed3, with two distinct exterior designs. With the introduction of the second generation in 2010, the hot hatch received some minor upgrades but essentially stayed the same when it came to performance.

Some of these upgrades include an ECU tweak to improve the power curve, a wider gear ratio, electric-assisted steering, and a functional hood scoop. The second-generation Mazdaspeed3 weighed more than its predecessor but balanced itself out thanks to the improvements.

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This Little Hatchback’s Practicality Is Outstanding

2012 Mazdaspeed 3
via Mazda

While at first glance, the Mazdaspeed3's numbers might not seem like much, you must consider that this is a relatively compact car comfortable enough for daily driving, with just enough space to be suitable for a road trip.

However, compared to some rivals, such as the Volkswagen GTI, the ride quality, and the interior design and features are inferior. Yet the Mazdaspeed3 redeems itself with significantly better performance competence.

The Japanese hot hatch is also pretty light at about 3100 lbs (the first generation). This combination makes the Mazda an excellent option for those looking for a more thrilling experience compared to other sports hatchbacks of this era.

You Can Find A Mazdaspeed3 For Cheap

Front 3/4 view of the Mazdaspeed 3, right side
via Mazda

The factor that ties this package together is the affordability of the compact Mazda on the market. The price tag for the Mazdaspeed3 commonly ranges between $7,500 and $12,500. The second generation tends to be on the expensive side, while some first-generation Mazdaspeed3s in good condition are available for around $8,000.

Nevertheless, the aftermarket support and the community behind this underrated hot hatch make the experience that much better.

While it might not be the absolute best compact sports car out there, it is the most amount of fun you can have for the money. The Mazda also aged well, and the body style is not outdated. Yet, it looks innocent enough to be a sleeper if modified to produce a bit more power.

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Mazdaspeed’s Hatchback Is Perfectly Balanced

via Mazda

The reason we deem the Mazdaspeed3 overlooked and underappreciated is not only the performance, the price, comfort, or reliability. It is the well-balanced design that puts it all together.

The Mazda is fast for what it is, and it's cheap, and somehow you can still count on it to be a grocery-getter since it's comfortable and doesn't burn too much gas. And looking past all the numbers and the factors that make or break a car, the Mazdaspeed3 is fun to drive.

This is what a car should be about; the pure joy and satisfaction you experience with your ride at every turn and on every road without having to pay insane amounts of money. This is the aspect of the automotive world that we embrace and encourage.

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