Buy/Drive/Burn: Hot Japanese Sport Compacts From 2009

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
buy drive burn hot japanese sport compacts from 2009

On a recent Buy/Drive/Burn that featured some alternative Japanese compacts from 2008, frequent commenter theflyersfan suggested a second look at the same three cars, but in hotter variants. Today’s the day, and it’s 2009.

Note: To keep things fair we didn’t step up to the full-tilt Impreza and Lancer, as the less hot Mazdaspeed 3 can’t compete.

Mazda Mazdaspeed 3

Mazda introduced the Mazdaspeed 3 for the 2007 model year, and it continues largely unchanged for its final year in first-gen guise. Produced in Japan at Mazda’s plant in Hofu, all Mazdaspeed 3s are four-door hatchbacks. All examples use the same 2.3-liter turbocharged inline-four, an L architecture engine that shares its block with Ford’s 2.0-liter EcoBoost. Two-hundred and sixty-three horses travel to the front wheels via a six-speed manual, which is the only transmission on offer. Today’s trim is the fully loaded Grand Touring, which asks just $24,455 and makes the Mazda a value leader.

Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart

The Ralliart is the sportiest, fastest Lancer that does not wear an Evolution badge. Unlike other trims of the standard Lancer, the Ralliart gets more power for 2009. The 2.0-liter inline-four is turbocharged and smaller than the naturally aspirated 2.4-liter found in less sporty trims. Two-hundred and thirty-seven horses travel to all four wheels via the six-speed automatic. Fitting its sporty performance, the Ralliart sedan is considerably more expensive than other Lancer trims, at $26,690.

Subaru Impreza WRX

The current Impreza is in its second year for 2009, and a new turbocharged 2.5-liter engine joins the lineup. Thanks to that engine, the WRX experiences a bump in power over last year; a considerable 41 horses. The power enhancement means a total of 265 horses, which proceed through all four wheels via the six-speed manual transmission. Today’s sedan selection is the WRX Premium, which is a step down from the significantly more expensive STi. WRX asks $27,495.

Three fairly hot compacts, all of which offer much more performance and driving excitement over their standard trims. Which one goes home with you?

[Images: Mazda, Mitsubishi, Subaru]

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2 of 37 comments
  • Lightspeed Lightspeed on Nov 17, 2021

    Buy drive 'em all, you'll never see their kind again.

  • Alien1979 Alien1979 on Nov 17, 2021

    I feel somewhat qualified to comment on this as I owned both a 2007 Speed3 and later a 2010 Lancer Ralliart Sportback. Buy the Speed3. It was a great car and I cannot say enough good things about that MZR engine. Only reason I sold it is I got a great deal on a manual transmission Mercedes SLK. It did have 3 or 4 things fail on it the first few months I had it, but no issues after that. Drive the Ralliart. I had my Sportback for 48k miles and not one thing went wrong with it. Yes, the DCT was expensive to service, but it was very reliable and fun to drive. I also had the optional Recaros and they were awesome but a bit painful on long trips. Burn the Subie. I know too many people that had issues with those motors.

  • Tassos I also want one of the idiots who support the ban to explain to me how it will work.Suppose sometime (2035 or later) you cannot buy a new ICE vehicle in the UK.Q1: Will this lead to a ICE fleet resembling that of CUBA, with 100 year old '56 Chevys eventually? (in that case, just calculate the horrible extra pollution due to keeping 100 year old cars on the road)Q2: Will people be able to buy PARTS for their old cars FOREVER?Q3: Will people be allowed to jump across the Channel and buy a nice ICE in France, Germany (who makes the best cars anyway), or any place else that still sells them, and then use it in the UK?
  • Tassos Bans are ridiculous and undemocratic and smell of Middle Ages and the Inquisition. Even 2035 is hardly any better than 2030.The ALMIGHTY CONSUMER should decide, not... CARB, preferably WITHOUT the Government messing with the playing field.And if the usual clueless idiots read this and offer the tired "But Government subsidizes the oil industry too", will they EVER learn that those MINISCULE (compared to the TRILLIONS of $ size of this industry) subsidies were designed to help the SMALL Oil producers defend themselves against the "Big Oil" multinationals. Ask ANY major Oil co CEO and he will gladly tell you that you can take those tiny subsidies and shove them.
  • Dusterdude The suppliers can ask for concessions, but I wouldn’t hold my breath . With the UAW they are ultimately bound to negotiate with them. However, with suppliers , they could always find another supplier ( which in some cases would be difficult, but not impossible)
  • AMcA Phoenix. Awful. The roads are huge and wide, with dedicated lanes for turning, always. Requires no attention to what you're doing. The roads are idiot proofed, so all the idiots drive - they have no choice, because everything is so spread out.
  • Leonard Ostrander Pet peeve: Drivers who swerve to the left to make a right turn and vice versa. They take up as much space as possible for as long as possible as though they're driving trailer trucks or school busses. It's a Kia people, not a Kenworth! Oh, and use your turn signals if you ever figure out where you're going.