What's new then? Well, it now meets the strict Euro-V emissions standards thanks to the world's first single-nanotechnology catalytic converter. It's also more efficient, returning 26 mpg combined on the Euro-cycle, an improvement of nearly two mpg over the old car despite a 0.01 increase in the drag coefficient from 0.31 to 0.32. Mazda has also beefed up the frame around the front cowl and rear suspension to stiffen the car up and improve the handling. They even took it out to the Nurburgring to sort out the suspension and make it more stable in turns and especially over broken or wavy pavement. Wider tires on new 18-in wheels no doubt help the cornering performance as well.
The biggest changes, though, are skin-deep. The new Mazdaspeed3's Nagare-style grinning grille remains largely the same up front, but features reworked air intakes that feed passing air to the brakes more efficiently. Also of note on the front clip is the deletion of lower ducts set below the fog lights. More aggressive side skirts continue the Mazdaspeed theme along the flanks and to the rear, the enhancements culminate with a blacked-out rear diffuser sporting a dual exhaust. A more pronounced wing also perches above the five-door's hatchback. Bolder fenders house the larger wheel and tire setup, while the bulging hood features a gaping scoop to feed the intercooler.
The Euro-spec and U.S.-spec Mazdaspeed3 aren't identical, but the Mazda3 MPS should give us a pretty good idea of what to expect from the U.S. model. Though the U.S. car is more powerful than the Euro model, turning out 263 hp and 280 lb-ft, it looks as though we may not see a power increase either. Mazda has also put to bed rumors of an AWD Mazdaspeed3, telling Motor Trend that the AWD system that would fit the car takes up too much space and wouldn't stand up to the power of the Mazdaspeed3's engine. We'll find out all the exact specs on the U.S. model when it debuts at the New York Auto Show in April 2009.