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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