Mazda 3 MPS
17 October 2006
|Category:|| Lower medium|
|Key rival:|| Ford Focus ST|
It seems that everyone's jumping on the 'halo' bandwagon of late - all the major players are developing steroidal hatches to irradiate a dull, but worthy, range of cars with a brand-building glow.
Drivers love them, but not as much as the engineers who create them. Every time a new banzai shopping trolley is wheeled out it's more powerful than the competition. Where 150PS was once deemed enough to spearhead a range, now anything less than 200PS is labelled lukewarm.
Behold the new horsepower king. Endowed with 260PS, the Mazda 3 MPS jumps to the top of the class, punching harder than any other hatch before.
Not surprisingly, as it possesses the power of an '80s supercar, the MPS leads the class for performance, sprinting to 62mph in just 6.1secs and going on to an artificially reigned-in top speed of 155mph.
Despite the headline power figures it will take a trained eye to distinguish the MPS from the rest of the 3 flock. The car receives a very modest level of body kit, 18-inch alloys and a lower retuned suspension. Inside it feels barely anymore special than the regular, cheaper 3 Sport. The sport seats, despite looking special, aren't, and struggle to hold through corners. Mazda UK hopes to address the conservative looks with a more aggressive styling kit that will cost £500 and adds a big whaletail spoiler, lower suspension and sportier wing mirrors.
The car should should be a rapid uncontrollable beast. It should be, but isn't. Despite lacking the 6 MPS' 4WD, that shares the same engine with the 3, there's nowhere near the frantic wheel tugging a power output like that would guarantee. It's all down to a 'super' limited differential sophisticated traction control and full steam only available from third gear. Power, in this case, doesn't corrupt.
Despite being a sharp, competent handler through the bends, little communication or even connection is made with the driver, and little feel is filtered through to the driver. It's also disappointing that the 3 MPS sounds very average with none of the in-car harmonies offered by the Focus ST for example. Only the occasional sound of a man blow-torching the engine's internals can be heard.
The Mazda 3 MPS is a good all-rounder and at times shocking in its quickness, but it doesn't look as good as the Seat Leon FR, sound as good as the Focus ST, nor is as special as a Golf GTi. Prices are expected to be between £19-20k with 1000 UK sales predicted during 2007.