Mazdaspeed Isn't Coming Back, Which Might Be Okay

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
mazdaspeed isnt coming back which might be okay

We’ve spent the last few years wondering how Mazda’s upmarket push would impact its focus on performance. But keeping tabs gradually devolved into holding out hope that the brand wouldn’t totally snub fun-to-drive products to broaden its appeal. While there’s a wealth of Japanese brands ready to sell you comfortable and well-appointed automobiles, there aren’t many devoting a sizable amount of resources into maintaining engaging driving dynamics for the whole of their lineup. Mazda used to be the exception but now seems interested in banking on its above-average styling and novel luxury aura to drive sales.

It’s not a bad strategy but appears to have come at the expense of performance. Despite Mazda products rarely being famous for the output of their powertrains (unless we’re talking in the context of size), the brand is not making up the difference in handling anymore. It also hasn’t built any new Mazdaspeed performance products in years and doesn’t seem interested in trying.

While the automaker spent the last decade issuing noncommittal answers about the fate of its performance appendage, Mazda Motor of America CEO Masahiro Moro famously insulted Mazdaspeed back in 2016 and said the company needed to grow up.

“As a brand we are trying to elevate again a little bit more, because execution of Mazda MPS or Mazdaspeed3 or whatever you call it was a little bit — I am not afraid to say it — childish,” he explained.

It was also much more thrilling to drive (even with gobs of torque steer) than anything currently in Mazda’s lineup that isn’t the MX-5. But it was not a premium vehicle — far from it. The Mazdaspeed3’s level of NVH would probably be deemed unacceptable by today’s standards and this is where the root of the problem begins to take shape. Mazda isn’t looking to build cars that cost substantially more than the competition and has decided to shore up luxury and comfort at the expense of its zoom-zoom persona.

That decision also appears to be final. According to comments intercepted by CNET during a question and answer session with media, Mazda has unofficially announced it’s done with Mazdaspeed.

From CNET:

That doesn’t mean Mazda vehicles will turn floaty and start driving in an uninspired way. Quite the contrary. The company still plans to keep a heavy focus on driving dynamics, and the latest Mazda6 and Mazda3 make good on those promises. We’ll soon know if the Mazda3 Turbo carries that torch, which you could consider as the spiritual successor to the Mazdaspeed3.

There’s also been an RX model rumored forever that’s alleged to incorporate a rotary-hybrid powertrain. But we’re doubting it’ll have anything to do with Mazdaspeed and have to reserve judgment until we’ve heard more. It sounds like wishful thinking at this point. Meanwhile, the Japanese automaker has been adamant that it’s not abandoning performance, though it’s less ready to deny claims that fun-focused trims are a thing of the past. Mazda somehow sees thrilling dynamics as a foundational aspect of the brand, whether or not it’s giving it the attention it needs.

Frankly, we’re pretty excited about the upcoming turbocharged 3 — as it should be giving both entry-level German performance and quick Asian hatchbacks a bit of competition. But it’s not attempting to provide an experience you couldn’t get elsewhere, just another way to go upmarket within the brand that happens to incorporate a truly desirable engine option. It will not be a raucous, scrappy Mazdaspeed product, nor deserving of the badge.

And that’s okay if you’re looking for something a bit more mature and less interested in keeping a smile permanently plastered on your face. If not, Hyundai’s 275-horsepower Veloster N is priced extremely close to the upcoming 2021 Mazda3 2.5 Turbo. Otherwise, the not-quite Mazdaspeed3 will set you back $29,900 for the sedan ($30,900 for the more-attractive hatchback) while offering 250 hp and 320 pounds-feet of torque on 93 octane fuel. Those figures come down a bit for those who had to settle for 87 octane on their last fill up. But customers do get all-wheel drive by default, which is fairly uncommon within the segment.

[Images: Mazda]

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  • Jalop1991 Jalop1991 on Nov 09, 2020

    sigh. Even VW ignores the obvious "GTI all the things". Give me a Tiguan R...

  • DungBeetle62 DungBeetle62 on Nov 10, 2020

    I just don't think Mazda really has the volume to manage the additional niche marketing that a proper Mazdaspeed redux would require. Honda sell sooo many Civics that justifying the Type R is a lot more logical. I'm willing to be grateful Mazda's still got the Miata even after others have tried and failed, or moved on. Grateful enough I'm planning to get a new one soon as I can make the numbers work. I try and try to like the new 3 hatch but just can't get past that C-pillar. If anyone wants a 2007 Miata PRHT Grand Touring a grown up has put all but 14 miles on and personally did 21 out of 22 oil changes, keep me in mind right about tax refund time 2021.

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion: https://xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper2/thoreau/civil.html
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?
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