A hatch that roared

The blaz­ingly quick hot hatch has a badge you can trust

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Used Car - GRA­HAM SMITH gra­ham.smith@cars­guide.com.au

NEW

THE hot hatch has been part of the mo­tor­ing land­scape since the Mini Cooper be­came a cult clas­sic back in the 1960s. The Mini be­gan with a cute lit­tle com­muter then ac­quired a dis­tinc­tive paint scheme and badges, a low­ered stance and a hot­ted-up engine to be­come the gi­ant-killing Mini Cooper. Then came its suc­ces­sor, the even hot­ter Mini Cooper S. The for­mula was set. Since then most car mak­ers have ven­tured down this route. Mazda’s take, the Mazda3 MPS, hit the mar­ket in 2006 and was updated in 2009 with the BL model.

The MPS is read­ily iden­ti­fied by its bon­net scoop and ag­gres­sively styled front, along with its side skirts and rear spoiler. Inside, it has a sporty man­ual gearshift, ped­als re­ar­ranged to make driv­ing smoother, hip-hug­ging seats and a splash of leather. But if the looks are im­por­tant for a hot hatch, it’s the per­for­mance that re­ally mat­ters, even if it’s rarely ex­ploited. In the case of the MPS, the per­for­mance comes cour­tesy of a 2.3-litre four­cylin­der tur­bocharged engine pro­duc­ing a whop­ping 190kW and 380Nm. To put those num­bers into per­spec­tive, they were V8 num­bers of a decade or so ago.

Pressed hard, it races through the six ra­tios of the gear­box. When it’s can­nily driven, the mas­sive torque avail­able can be ex­ploited for eas­ier and safer over­tak­ing and sharper re­sponse in traf­fic.

If there’s any­thing to be con­cerned about, it’s that the MPS is front-wheel drive in­stead of be­ing all-wheel drive, and with that amount of per­for­mance on tap it can be chal­leng­ing to drive.

The per­for­mance, how­ever, is well sup­ported by the sus­pen­sion and steer­ing, which have been re­tuned for bet­ter han­dling and re­sponse.

On the safety front, the MPS has an im­pres­sive ar­ray of gear, in­clud­ing front, side and cur­tain airbags, as well as ABS and elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol.

NOW

Mazda3 own­ers have lit­tle to com­plain about. The only is­sue they reg­u­larly raise with Cars­guide is the level of in­te­rior noise. Mostly road noise trans­mit­ted through the body from the rear of the car, it could be an­noy­ing.

The BL ad­dressed that is­sue with a stronger body shell and bet­ter noise in­su­la­tion so that prob­lem should be a thing of the past. Other than that there is lit­tle to be con­cerned about.

When in­spect­ing an MPS look for signs of abuse. Most own­ers are con­tent to let the looks do the talk­ing but some will put them to the test on the road and other ex­am­ples might find their way to a mo­tor­sport venue.

SMITHY SAYS

It ticks all the boxes a hot hatch should. Give it a go.

Wild child: There’s no mis­tak­ing the pur­pose of the MPS

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