Mazda’s hottest hatch
The MPS zoom-zooms to a new level, writes NEIL McDONALD
IT’S no real surprise that Mazda has finally confirmed its hot turbocharged MPS version of the Mazda3. Except for these teaser photos, details are scarce. The company is saving the best for the car’s first official airing at the Geneva motor show, which opens on March 3.
However, Mazda Australia spokesman Glenn Butler has confirmed the MPS will be in local showrooms by September.
The MPS comprises a small but important portion of sales of the 3000 Mazda3s sold locally each month. But Butler says it has a strong following.
‘‘It’s reason for existence is more than just sales,’’ he says. ‘‘It’s the halo car for the Mazda3 and for the brand.’’
Visually, the new MPS gets the go-fast bits that so characterise the current car, but the letterbox bonnet air intake for the turbo is new.
It gives the car an edgier, more aggressive look that is obviously designed to compete with that of the Subaru Impreza WRX and Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart.
There is also low-profile performance rubber, dual exhausts, rear diffuser, sports body kit and a rear roof-mounted spoiler.
Power comes from the carry-over, turbo-charged, direct-injection, 2.3-litre, four-cylinder engine shared with the CX7 and mated to a sixspeed manual gearbox.
The company isn’t revealing performance figures, but power could be as high as 200kW, just enough to eclipse the Subaru Impreza WRX and Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart.
The current car develops 190kW/ 380Nm.
Butler says there was no need to upgrade the 2.3-litre to a normally aspirated 2.5-litre, which will power the new Mazda3 SP25.
Mazda has not said whether the new MPS is all-wheel drive like its key Japanese rivals, or still frontwheel drive.
There is some speculation it could borrow the new Revoknuckle frontwheel-drive suspension from the Ford Focus RS, because the new Mazda shares much underneath with the Ford.
The Revoknuckle suspension is designed to eliminate torque steer.
According to Mazda3 program manager Yoshiyuki Maeda, the MPS is ‘‘is the ultimate sporting expression of our new-generation Mazda3 range’’.
‘‘It builds on the already capable new-generation Mazda3 hatch with higher levels of ferocity and exhilaration, and, like all new Mazda models with an eye to environmental concerns, powering responsibly into the motoring future.’’
The price is expected to be about $40,000.