During a recent Buy / Drive / Burn that showcased a few alternative Japanese compacts from 2008, frequent commentator theflyersfan suggested a second look at the same three cars, but in hotter variants. It’s today and we are in 2009.

Note: To keep things fair, we didn’t go for the Impreza and Full-tilt Lancer because the cooler Mazdaspeed 3 can’t compete.

Mazda Mazdaspeed 3

Mazda introduced the Mazdaspeed 3 for the 2007 model year, and it remains largely unchanged for its final year as the first generation. Made in Japan at the Mazda Hofu plant, all Mazdaspeed 3s are four-door sedans. All of the examples use the same turbocharged 2.3-liter inline-four, an L-architecture engine that shares its block with Ford’s 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine. Two hundred and sixty-three horsepower move to the front wheels via a six-speed manual transmission, which is the only transmission offered. Today’s version is the fully-equipped Grand Touring, which costs just $ 24,455 and makes the Mazda a leader in value.

Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart

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

Subaru Impreza WRX

The current Impreza is in its second year for 2009, and a new 2.5-liter turbocharged engine is joining the lineup. Thanks to this engine, the WRX is experiencing an increase in power compared to last year; a considerable number of 41 horses. The improved power means a total of 265 horsepower, which goes through all four wheels via the six-speed manual transmission. Today’s selection of sedans is the WRX Premium, which is a step up from the much more expensive STi. WRX is asking $ 27,495.

Three pretty hot compacts, all of which offer much more performance and driving excitement compared to their standard versions. Which one goes home?

[Images: Mazda, Mitsubishi, Subaru]

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