Mazda’s hottest hatch

The MPS zoom-zooms to a new level, writes NEIL McDON­ALD

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

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.

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