A hatch that roared
The blazingly quick hot hatch has a badge you can trust
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.
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.
It ticks all the boxes a hot hatch should. Give it a go.
Wild child: There’s no mistaking the purpose of the MPS