Nothing screams fun quite like a bonnet bulge. Driving enthusiasts take note, the Mazda3 MPS is a sure thing – smiles are guaranteed.
Since its introduction to the Australian market in July 2006, the Mazda 3 MPS has secured its position as a solid performer on the hot hatch stage. A popular choice for males in the past, the good looks, nimble handling and comfortable, high spec interior of the MPS should see it gather far broader appeal.
The 2.3-litre turbocharged engine in the MPS is an absolute winner. With just 1,470kg to shift, the MPS is energetic, fast and nimble. The Mazda3 MPS has at its disposal, 190kW at 5,500rpm and 380Nm at 3,000rpm. With a top speed of 250km/h, and a sprint from 0-100km per hour in just 6.1 seconds, the MPS boasts some exciting credentials. Add to this a very tight six-speed manual gearbox and you’re sitting pretty.
The MPS leaps to pace from stand still, sucking up every bit of power and torque at hand. Well spread gear ratios allow you to squeeze through the revs with little down time between changes. You feel a part of this car – it’s a team effort. Drive it well and you’re blessed with an exciting and fun drive. The steering is incredibly obedient, it’s a case of point and go. Nimble, sharp, precise… those words all come to mind behind the wheel of the MPS.
Be mindful of torque steer on high speed cornering however, or you may find yourself a little out of shape. A torque-sensing limited-slip differential and new, stiffer drive shafts help in this regard, but common sense must also come into play.
While the engine of the MPS does ring through the cabin quite clearly, it would be a shame to not hear this note. Consider it a not so subtle reminder of what’s under the bonnet. There’s also a bit of road noise to be heard in the cabin.
The MPS gives the otherwise cutesy looking Mazda3 a serious edge, and dash of street cred, too. Mazda has achieved a nice sporty look without breaching the boy racer aesthetic. Side skirts, a large rear spoiler, a low slung grille, 18 inch aluminium alloy wheels and that bonnet air-intake set the scene. Those in the know quickly spy the badge and appear keen to see the MPS in the flesh.
Inside, the MPS is nicely finished. The cabin is snug and the semi-bucket sports seats hold you firm and give good support. The instrumentation and dash are uncluttered and fairly basic in their form. It’s a fairly understated dash arrangement which incorporates some nice textured plastics. The interior trim however is anything but understated. The red pattern on the door trim extends across the dash into the plastic finish, while red stitching is a nice contrast on the steering wheel, seats, door trim and armrest. Keyless entry and push-button engine start are other nice touches.
The location of the satellite navigation screen in particular is brilliant – in line with and to the left of the instrumentation – it’s very easy to watch the screen while driving. It is however a very small screen at just 4.1 inches.
Cabin ergonomics are fantastic in the MPS. The gear shift sits high and close to the driver, and slips straight into your ready hand. The eight-way electric seats with seat memory offer good adjustability and the multi-function wheel ensures everything is at your finger tips. All instrumentation and controls are clear and in perfect view and reach of the driver. The layout is ergonomically very smart and this adds to the overall comfort of the MPS.
Two second row passengers will be more than comfortable, but three passengers will be rather snug. Seats are low slung and window sills are high, giving a fairly enclosed feel to the second row. Two child seat anchor points can be found on the second row seat backs.
The cabin is rigid and suspension is very firm, bordering on harsh. This stiffness does mean however that the MPS corners near perfectly flat. Steering on demanding roads with tight corners, the MPS excelled.
The audio interface is good, with iPod, MPS and USB connectivity and the ten speaker sound system from Bose delivers brilliant sound.
Average combined fuel consumption (per ADR figures) for the Mazda3 MPS is quoted at 9.9 litres per 100km.
Stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes, brake-force distribution and emergency brake assist are standard on the MPS. Driver and passenger front, front side and front and rear curtain airbags keep all passengers well protected.
Despite its small proportions, the MPS offers some good usable space. There are a variety of storage options and cup holders in the cabin. The boot capacity of 268 litres can easily swallow a couple of suitcases or a pram, and the split fold seats up the capacity again. I love the button on the rear of the vehicle that allows you to lock the car without the key once you’ve finished loading the boot.
Priced at $43,290*, the Mazda3 MPS Luxury pulls a $3,600 premium over the standard MPS. In exchange you get auto dimming rear view mirror, bi-xenon headlamps with adaptive front lighting system and auto on/off, that premium Bose amplifier and 10 speakers with subwoofer and rain-sensing front wipers.
There is some worthy competition in the hot hatch segment. If you’re after a turbocharged hot hatch, the Ford Focus XR5 Turbo and the Volkswagen Golf GTI put forward two interesting alternatives.
While $43,290* is a significant price tag for a small car, the Mazda3 MPS is a significant car.
*Pricing is a guide as recommended to us by the manufacturer.