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

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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  • 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.

  • FreedMike Back in the '70s, the one thing keeping consumers from buying more Datsuns was styling - these guys were bringing over some of the ugliest product imaginable. Remember the F10? As hard as I try to blot that rolling aberration from my memory, it comes back. So the name change to Nissan made sense, and happened right as they started bringing over good-looking product (like the Maxima that will be featured in this series). They made a pretty clean break.
  • Flowerplough Liability - Autonomous vehicles must be programmed to make life-ending decisions, and who wants to risk that? Hit the moose or dive into the steep grassy ditch? Ram the sudden pile up that is occurring mere feet in front of the bumper or scan the oncoming lane and swing left? Ram the rogue machine that suddenly swung into my lane, head on, or hop up onto the sidewalk and maybe bump a pedestrian? With no driver involved, Ford/Volkswagen or GM or whomever will bear full responsibility and, in America, be ambulance-chaser sued into bankruptcy and extinction in well under a decade. Or maybe the yuge corporations will get special, good-faith, immunity laws, nation-wide? Yeah, that's the ticket.
  • FreedMike It's not that consumers wouldn't want this tech in theory - I think they would. Honestly, the idea of a car that can take over the truly tedious driving stuff that drives me bonkers - like sitting in traffic - appeals to me. But there's no way I'd put my property and my life in the hands of tech that's clearly not ready for prime time, and neither would the majority of other drivers. If they want this tech to sell, they need to get it right.
  • TitaniumZ Of course they are starting to "sour" on the idea. That's what happens when cars start to drive better than people. Humanpilots mostly suck and make bad decisions.
  • Inside Looking Out Why not buy Bronco and call it Defender? Who will notice?