Mazda3 MPS

A sleeper with a true sting in its tail

Motor (Australia) - - THE HEROES. LOST IN TIME -

IN 2006 MAZDA tur­bocharged the new 3 to create its first se­ri­ous hot hatch. Yet this is a car that time is be­gin­ning to for­get, quite un­fairly if you ask us.

The Mazda Per­for­mance Series (MPS) ver­sion of the 3 joined the RX-8, NC series MX-5 and 6 MPS to es­tab­lish one of the com­pany’s most per­for­mance-fo­cused model line-ups. At its heart was a 2.3-litre di­rect in­jected four-cylin­der shared with the all-wheel drive 6 MPS. And de­spite its pow­er­train driv­ing only the front axle, the 3 MPS wasn’t pe­nalised a sin­gle kilo­watt or new­ton me­tre.

Its 190kW and 380Nm tow­ered over the four-cylin­der hatch com­pe­ti­tion in its day. In fact, the only hatches that came close to it for stonk had an ex­tra two cylin­ders and asked for much more than the 3 MPS’s rea­son­able $39,990.

For that money, the MPS of­fered de­cent per­for­mance and en­gi­neer­ing in the way of a Torsen LSD, un­equal length half shafts and spe­cially tuned sus­pen­sion. Ad­mit­tedly, it was a lot of power for the 3’s pack­age, and even though it was boost-lim­ited in the six-speed trans­mis­sion’s lower gears, the MPS was known for torque steer and nose-heavy han­dling.

Mazda claimed 6.1 sec­onds for the 0-100km/h sprint, but all MO­TOR could man­age was 6.61. It did even­tu­ally hook up, though, as it ac­tu­ally crossed the stand­ing kilo­me­tre with a higher trap speed than the 6 MPS at 199.74km/h.

It was up­dated in 2009 when the base car tran­si­tioned to a new gen­er­a­tion. Mazda tried to ad­dress the han­dling is­sues with re­vised steer­ing, sus­pen­sion and wider tyres. Its looks, too, were fi­nally re­worked to suit the car’s dy­na­mite per­for­mance that cen­tred around the car­ried-over 2.3-litre pow­er­plant.

Sadly, Mazda dropped the MPS brand when the lat­est gen­er­a­tion 3 ar­rived, ap­par­ently more fo­cused on de­vel­op­ing SkyAc­tiv en­gines and SUVs in­stead, leav­ing us with the good, but far from ex­hil­a­rat­ing, SP25 in its wake.

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