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Headline:FastHatchbacks.com UK Road Test of the Mazda 3 MPSDate:12/02/2007
Source:FastHatchbacks.com   (Click Here for more details).OurRoadTests
   
Review:FastHatchbacks.com UK Road Test of the Mazda 3 MPS

FastHatchbacks.com
Review


Mazda 3 MPS UK Road Test



Our Thoughts
How will the little MPS fair on
UK roads?

Background

This review is a follow up to the Mazda 3 MPS review that Andy did back in November. In that test we travelled over to Germany to be one of the first to sample the new car. Now we venture up to the blustery far reaches of North Scotland to get the first UK drive of the same car. Top of agenda is how the car will translate to UK roads.

First let me get the usual preconceptions out of the way. The Mazda 3 is a 260ps (258 bhp) front wheel-drive car. I know from my own Mini Cooper S works that sometimes getting the power down through the front wheels is a bit of a challenge, and that pushing power through the wheels that steer has a number of compromises. The thought of 60bhp more, puts pictures of a hoodlum car that is all brawn and no finesse.

It also brings to mind the scariest car that I have ever had been the morfortune to be a passenger in. Going back, probably far more years than I care to mention, I was invited to sample a car owned by a friend of a friend. At the time I was driving a Toyota Corolla 16v Gti which wasnít a bad car for itís time. The car in question was a tuned Renault 5 GT turbo. In normal guise this car had an equivalent 120bhp to my Corolla. However thanks to its turbo, the car had been tweaked to c. 225bhp. (I was also informed that it could be tweaked up to 275bhp but it backfired a lot and was a bit much for road use). What happened next was the first and last time that I have actually asked to stop the car. Now Iíve been hurtled around tracks and airfields by all sorts of nutters since, the guys at Evo magazine and the late Richard Burns being amongst them. None of these subsequent experiences seemed anyway near as extreme as that old Renault 5. Iím sure most of it was the tinny build quality and sheer lack of size of the car. However, It launched forward with the ferocity of a missile, it literally slammed your brain into the back of your skull. Equally thanks to very big brakes it stopped as quickly and helpfully slammed your brain back into the front of your skull. I took just five minutes in the car to give me an almighty headache and to ask the driver to stop.

Things have moved on, but 258bhp and an equally impressive 280lb ft of torque still are mighty figures for a front wheel drive hot hatch. This should be an interesting trip.

Exterior Styling

Styling wise the standard Mazda 3 doesnít overwhelm. The MPS adds a bit of muscle to the shape but again is not a car to snap heads. This is both an issue and a good thing. In many respects you want people to look at you and think nice car, on the flip side it is sometimes quite nice to slip into the background and go about your business quietly (and very quickly). Fundamentally then, the car suits someone who wants performance but not the attention.



Pretty subtle for the most powerful hot hatch on the market.
Details of the MPS styling over the standard 3 are:

Front Ė lower and bigger front air intake opening; press lines in the bonnet following the existing lines of the bonnet (moving diagonally outwards to the rear of the bonnet); new fog lights with a floating design

Side - side skirts (similar to those fitted to the sport models) and 18-inch 10-spoke alloys.

Rear Ė cut out design of rear bumper (achieved using matt black colour); Larger 102mm exhaust; and a roof spoiler (again similar to the sports models).

For me the MPS looks a little under tyred. The 18-inch wheels have a relatively small 215/45 tyre on them. Either the profile could have been lower, making the car look lower, or the width could have been wider, giving it a more muscular stance and look. Granted either of these changes would probably have compromised the cars handling but it would have given the car just a bit more road presence.

The conclusion then is that the most powerful hot hatch on the market is a bit of a wolf in sheepís clothing.


Interior Styling


Seats most obvious change over standard models.
The MPS gets a number of touches to distinguish itself from the models in the Mazda 3 range. Most obvious are the part leather semi-bucket seats which have red stitching and MPS logo stitched into the seat back. Closer inspection reveals stainless steel scuff plates; aluminium pedals with rubber nubs; MPS black mats with white edging and logo and a MPS plaque above the glove compartment. The car also gets a Bose sound system with seven speakers, richbass woofer and 6-CD changer.

The rest of the interior is standard 3 and is pretty well layed out. The MPS flourishes add to the appeal and whilst it is again not hugely different to the rest of the range it has a subtle appeal.


Ride, Handling & Steering

Of all the sections of this review this for me is the most interesting.



Hard to believe but the MPS handles all the power with no problems.
It is a bit of a revelation to reveal that far from a bruiser the Mazda 3 MPS is very well behaved on the road. Even under full acceleration the car is very civilised and well mannered. As a result the MPS is very deceptive and at times you glance at the speedo and find you are travelling 20mph faster than a) you realised b) thought possible.

The car behaves well through corners too and it is pretty impressive how fast you can hustle the car along twisty Scottish roads. Power delivery is well measured and the car really does hold the road well.

At high speeds too the car feels very safe and very sure footed. Again there is a feeling of being in a bigger car Ė certainly as far away from the Renault 5 GT turbo feel I was expecting.

Steering is good, with the action feeling well weighted. Steering feel is ok and the general responsiveness suits the car.


Engine, Gearbox and Performance

At the heart of the car is the 2.3-litre DISI (direct-Injection Spark ignition) Turbo engine delivers 258bhp (191 kw / 260 PS) is produced at 5,500 rpm and 280lb ft (380 Nm) at just 3,000 rpm. The car uses an electronic throttle and an electronic boost control (waste-gate) to avoid turbo lag and give a lively pedal response. Official figures for the MPS are 0-62mph of 6.1 seconds (meaning 0-60 is c. 5.9secs). Top speed is limited to 155mph (250km/h).



2.3-litre turbo gives 258bhp and 280lb ft that the MPS can really exploit.
As youíd expect the car has equally impressive mid range performance: 50-100 km/h (c. 30-60mph) in 3rd gear is 4.2 seconds, and 80-120 km/h (c. 50-75mph) in 5th gear is just 5 seconds.

In practice it is the lack of drama, but very effective acceleration that distinguishes the MPS. On a damp road you can floor the throttle and without any drama the car will accelerate away. This is achieved by limiting the extreme power surge using the throttle valve and waste-gate on the turbo. In addition the cars torque characteristics are optimised in first and second gear, so that controllable acceleration is possible anytime. Torque control also monitors steering angle to further improve drivability and finally a newly-developed limited-slip differential distributes the power to the appropriate front wheel when cornering at higher speeds.

In gear acceleration is very good and a lot of the time the need to change down is negated thanks to the amount of torque at your disposal.

What is nice with the 3 is the noise of the turbo which is actually audible from behind you. When you accelerate hard you can hear the whiz of the air through the turbo, and it is a great noise and totally addictive. Compared to the similarly engined Mazda 6 MPS, which has no such noise, it certainly adds to the cars enjoyment.

Luckily, the brakes are up to the job of reigning in the power and if you do find yourself approaching a corner too fast a harsh stab on the brakes peels off the speed very effectively. The car is also very well behaved under extreme braking, where the brakes, ABS and stability system all work together to keep the car under control.


Practicality

Given the MPS is based on the 5-door Mazda 3 as opposed to the 3-door, it instantly gains on the practicality stakes. The extra set of doors makes access to the back seats easier and legroom is pretty good.


5 doors and a decent boot.
You may use a bit of fuel if you enjoy yourself.
Boot space measures in at 290-litres.

Official fuel economy is 20.9mpg urban, 37.7mpg extra urban, creating a combined figure of 29.1 mpg.

During our test, with shall we say very spirited driving, we managed just 170 miles out of a tank. Given the tank is 55-litres (12 Gallons) this meant a rather lowly 15 mpg. However youíre not going to be able to drive like that anywhere other than the far reaches of Scotland and I would expect the car to average low-twenties economy under normal use.


Conclusion

I liked the MPS. Sure itís not a stunner to look at and itís not an animal to drive. What it is though is a subtle, very fast car that is competent on the road and is safe and secure to drive.

I love the turbo whiz, its like a seeing that glint in a shy girlís eye. Itís your little secret and youíll want to keep it that way.

Price wise the car is competitively priced at £18.995 or £19,495 if you plump for the option sports styling pack which comprises of a larger rear spoiler, two spoke sports door mirrors (as on the RX-8 PZ) and lowered suspension.

Rivals

The Ford Focus ST costs between £17,995 - £19,995 dependant on spec levels. It offers a more hardcore look, but power is down at 223bhp / 236 lb /ft and performance is slightly less with 62mph reached in 6.8secs.

The VW Golf R32 costs between £24,240 for the manual 3-door, and £26,070 for the DSG 5-door. It offers 248bhp / 236 lb ft and all wheel drive. 62mph is reached in 6.5secs.

The Astra VXR costs £20420 and is only available as a 3-door. It offers 238 bhp / 236 lb ft. 62mph happens in 6.2secs.

The Seat Cupra costs £19,595 itís a 3-door and it has 238bhp and 221 lb ft of torque. The 62mph sprint takes 6.4secs.

The forthcoming Honda Civic Type-R pricing hasnít yet been announced. It will get 198bhp and 62mph will take 6.6secs.

So, price wise the MPS competes well and to top it all it has good spec levels, more power and top level performance. It loses out to all its rivals in the looks department and its also lower key than all the rest. However, the more I drove the MPS the more I liked it. Itís a grown up car, with immature amounts of fun hidden under its covers..


Neil
Quick Section Links:†††††††††
1. Background
2. Exterior Styling
3. Interior Styling
4. Ride, Handling and Steering
5. Engine, Gearbox and Performance
6. Practicality
7. Conclusion

Related Links:†††††††††



Our first review of the Mazda 3 MPS




Our review of the Mazda 3 2.0 Sport




Our review of the Mazda 6 MPS


Photo Links:†††††††††

Full Set of Photos taken during the test

Full Set of Photos taken during our first test

Mazda Press Photos of the Mazda 3 MPS

Other Links:†††††††††
Mazda's UK website

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