Mazda continues to say a hot-hatch version of its third-generation small car is not a priority, though the brand's global boss told Australian media on the eve of the Tokyo motor show that going away from turbo petrol power was an option.
"[For Mazda 3 MPS], I’d like to point out that diesel has very strong potential in the future. It’s a possibility, there’s potential,” said Mazda CEO and president Masamichi Kogai via an interpreter.
A turbo diesel engine would be an unorthodox step in a hot-hatch segment dominated by turbocharged petrol four-cylinders, in models such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI, Ford Focus ST and Renault Megane RS265.
Mazda already has a suitable engine ready – the 2.2-litre turbo diesel found in the Mazda 6 medium car and CX-5 SUV – and it does produce 129kW and 420Nm to be less powerful but boasting more torque than the previous MPS (pictured above). The previous Mazda 3 MPS featured a 2.3-litre direct injection turbocharged four-cylinder with outputs of 190kW and 380Nm.
It gives the MPS one of the fastest acceleration times in its class: 0-100km/h in 6.1 seconds. The 3 MPS remains the only Mazda to use the engine after the CX-7 SUV was discontinued in 2012.
Kogai-san said he wasn’t concerned the traditional extra weight of a diesel engine would blunt performance.
“If you put a turbo in the petrol engine I think they would be comparable with [the diesel] in weight. And because of the low compression ratio, the cylinder head is aluminium also contributing to lighter weight.”
Like many Japanese brands, Mazda has been reluctant to produce many turbo engines. The company's current range of Skyactiv engines doesn't feature any turbo petrols, though Mazda is understood to be developing at least one for future models.
It's not clear whether the MPS would be offered in both turbo petrol and turbo diesel forms to cater for different markets or tastes.
Volkswagen did produce a diesel-powered last-generation Golf hatch with some GTI cues that it branded GTD.
Mazda displayed some sporty concept versions of its new 3, due locally in January, at the SEMA show recently (a Club 3 shown main picture).