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Headline:FastHatchbacks.com review of the Mazda 3 MPS AeroDate:23/10/2007
Source:FastHatchbacks.com   (Click Here for more details).OurRoadTests
   
Review:FastHatchbacks.com review of the Mazda 3 MPS Aero

 
 

FastHatchbacks.com
Review

 

Mazda
3 MPS Aero





 
   
 

Wham-Bam Zoom (Zoom)!

It’s almost a year since we first drove the Mazda 3 MPS in Munich at the European launch and to be honest we couldn’t wait to get back behind the wheel and reacquaint ourselves with Mazda’s secret weapon on the hot-hatch battlefields.

We loved its subdued styling yet blistering performance when we first drove it, and so hoped the 2.3 Turbo was still as inspirational back in Britain for a week of coping with the daily commute that’s all too familiar for most of us.

Based on the already very successful Mazda 3, from the outset this hot hatch looks like it could tick all the boxes.

  • Sporty styling
  • 18-inch alloy wheels
  • 2.3 Litre Turbo engine
  • 0-62 in 6.1 seconds

    So what if it doesn’t have the badge cache of the Golf GTI or the street awareness of the Focus ST and Civic Type R. This is a car that is a little bit more understated when parked on the driveway or pootling around in traffic – but drive it with some vigour and it’ll leave you in no doubt that it has as much to offer as all of its peers put together.

    This is the Mazda 3 MPS Sports Aero. No it’s full of bubbly, melt-on-your-tongue chocolate, instead the Aero refers to the optional sports aerodynamic kit that this model features over the standard MPS model. The aero costs an extra £900 over the standard model but for that you get:

  • A more prominent rear roof spoiler on the tailgate
  • Sporty wing mirrors as found on the RX8 (PZ model)
  • A 10mm drop in ride height.

    Although the changes are minor they give the car a little more flavour of what lies beneath.

    The 3 MPS is available in 4 exterior paint colours.

  • True Solid Red (as we tested last year)
  • Black Mica
  • Cosmic Blue Mica
  • Sunlight Silver Metallic (as on our test car)

    Each costing £350 for metallic/mica (except the solid Red)

    When we drove the 3 MPS last year we were very impressed at not only the huge power but the ride and handling characteristics and so were keen to see if these initial impressions still remained when using the car for more everyday motoring.

    After all hopping in a car for a day or two and driving the tyres off it can be fun and exhilarating but it’s hardly representative of day-to-day motoring. No, in order to see just how good or bad the MPS is we needed to live with it through good and bad.

    What was called for was a little bit more mundane, a little but run of the mill and everyday - So given that I have the longest and most varied commute to the office (about 40 miles each way with a mix of A & B roads was well as a decent stretch of Motorway) I was tasked with seeing if all the Mazda was more than just a one trick pony.

    Sure we know that with a 2.3 Petrol Turbo engine it’s going to be quick in a straight line. And the 0-60 time of 6.1 seconds is testament to that. But what’s it like in traffic? Well the answer is very mature and civilised. It’ll sit in traffic and very it’s passengers from A to B with little problem.

    Of course it’s at its best when you get the revs above 3000 and the turbo fires into life. But even stuck in the morning slog to the office it’s pretty well mannered with a good ride quality – firm but not crashy like others in this ‘hot-hatch’ sector.

  • Exterior Styling



     


    Sports Aero Pack adds a bit more bite to the package.
    From first glance the MPS Aero is a big improvement with more muscular looks and I’m not sure why. After all the changes over the standard model are minimal to say the least – but it is never the less an improvement.

    The larger tailgate mounted spoiler gives the already pretty rear, a more distinct look and improves the side on profile dramatically as it sits above the roof line.

    The lowered sports suspension keeps the car more grounded and allows the 10-spoke 18 inch alloy wheels to really fill the arches.

    The sports/DTM styled mirrors (lifted straight from the RX-8 PZ and almost identical to those found on the BMW E36 M3) are less successful from the exterior of the car as they tend to look a little aftermarket but from the drivers perspective they give an impression that you’re in a more sporty styled car than perhaps you are. You tend not to even notice the reduced rear vision.

    Aside from these AERO pack changes the rest of the MPS is standard and infact isn’t that different from the Mazda3 Sport. There’s a more aggressive deep front spoiler with redesigned fog lights and at the rear there’s a larger chrome tipped tailpipe and sporty rear diffuser.

    When we tested the MPS model at it’s launch last year in Munich we thought that whilst perhaps not as agressive as it’s adversaries but successful regardless of this.

    The Aero model builds on the MPS’s strong points and in our view delivers a more complete styled package

     

    Interior Styling

     
     

    Good spec but no cruise or bluetooth.
    Getting behind the wheel of the MPS, the first thing that strikes you is it’s a relatively grown up place to be – of course as you’d expect there are sporty touches dotted around the cabin; from the binnacle instrument cluster with it’s red and blue back lit display to the sports style half leather seats with red stitching and embroidered MPS logos – but at the same time it’s the sort of interior that doesn’t shout Chav!

    Although the MPS is a fixed spec in the UK it’s not lacking many features. There are electric wing mirrors and electric windows to the front and rear.

    There’s also climate control, on board computer and a premium Bose RDS stereo system with a dash mounted 6-disc CD changer.

    The only notable gadgets not included or possible as options are Sat Nav, Bluetooth integration and cruise control and with the latter we believe this will be included on cars ordered from now.

    So it seems that for a price tag just short of £20,000 it’s got all the features you’d expect.

     
     

    Ride, Handling & Steering

      We’ve previously driven the MPS on the roads around Munich and along the north coast of Scotland but we were keen to bring it back to ‘our neck of the woods’ to see how it fared living with it day after day. Would the chassis show its weak points once we’d lived with it for a few days. Rain or shine there’s no better way to test the ride and handling than to see how it copes with the more mundane journeys.

     


    Small, light and agile.
    The first thing you notice with the ride in the MPS is just how stable the car feels through corners and over speed bumps. The suspension is well sprung but also well damped so that there’s no real crash or shudder through the steering as your journey gets interrupted by the speed humps and potholes that litter the roads of our UK towns and cities.

    The chunky sports styled steering wheel feels just right for this size of car and is well weighted both at higher motorway speeds and amply light enough for even the tightest of ‘around town manoeuvring’

    What’s surprising is given just how much power is put through the front wheels there’s little or no evidence of torque steer. Sure if you stamp on the accelerator in 1st or 2nd on an uneven road surface the front wheels will do their level best to find enough grip which will inevitably results in a bit of steering deviation, but this compared to other ‘hot-hatches’ like the Meganne R26 and Leon Cupra FR it’s nothing of note.

    It’s also impressive to see just how much front end grip there is in this MPS package with minimal or no understeer even on the tightest of corners at almost all corner entry speeds Infact so good is the grip at the front that this little Mazda displays the traditionally VW characteristic of ‘cocking ‘ it’s inside rear wheel.

    Braking on this top of the range model is dealt with more than adequately by the combination of simply huge 300mm front and 280mm diameter rear discs (the fronts being ventilated)

    No matter what style of driving best describes you, you’re sure to find the ride and handling of the MPS more than capable of both delivering a great drive as well as inspiring confidence to push a little harder should you wish.

     

    Engine, Gearbox and Performance

      The 2.3-litre DIZI turbo power plant under the bonnet is the real jewel in the crown of the Mazda3 MPS despite it’s yearning for fuel.

     


    2.3-litre turbo gives 258 bhp and 280 lb ft.
    Open up the throttle and the first thing that strikes you is the literal roar that fills the cabin. It’s a mixture of turbo intake and exhaust note that combine to give an almost unique noise that we’ve yet to witness in even the like-engined Mazda6 MPS or CX-7 models.

    Immediately this small ‘ordinary-looking’ (by today’s sporty standards) 5-door hatch takes on a different role and shakes off it’s humdrum image at least in the eyes of it’s driver. The turbo comes on-line around 2500 rpm and will propel you towards the horizon at a frightening pace.

    0-62 is listed at 6.1 seconds (which would indicate a sub 6-seconds to 60) figures which our tests confirmed despite being carried out in less than ideal conditions. Making it the quickest car in its class by some margin.

    The gear selection is a joy to use with its short sport style lever and positive feel both up and down the box. Although there’s plenty of torque throughout the powerband we found that 4th gear around 3000rpm was the most rewarding.







    Our own tests (with 2 big occupants):

    Acceleration0-30 0-40 0-50 0-60 0-70 0-80 0-90 0-100
    Mazda 3 MPS (1 (06 - ))(5.9)
    Mazda 3 MPS (1 (06 - ))
    FastHatchbacks Figures
    2.55 secs3.75 secs4.74 secs6.27 secs7.58 secs9.69 secs11.62 secs14.84 secs
    * all tests are carried out on private roads. FastHatchbacks.com does not condone exceeding the speed limit on public roads.



     
     

    Practicality

      The MPS is a great car with bags of space in the cabin to seat 4 adults and a boot space more than capable to take their accompanying luggage with the now standard 60/40 split folding rear seat should you need to carry something a little longer.

     

    Bit thirsty!
    The car's official economy figures are:
    Mpgurban (mpg)extra urban (mpg)Combined (mpg)
    Mazda 3 MPS (1 (06 - ))(20.9)(37.7)(29.1)


    The biggest issue with this hot Mazda is its thirst for petrol. In fact thirst is putting it mildly – if it was a homosapien it would be labelled as more of an addiction. Whilst the brochure suggests possible MPG figures of around 30mpg, the best average tank we managed was 24 mpg – but in truth if you start making use of the power on tap – and you will… this figure will tumble and probably won’t stop until it reaches 19mpg mark.

    In a time when the 98 RON super-unleaded that Mazda recommend you feed this beast with, is over £1.00 a litre, that’s a thirst more akin to premium performance brands like BMW’s M Cars.

    It’s not great news on the C02 front either with a figure of 231g/km. That means that even if you’re running the car as a company expensed vehicle and not overly concerned about the MPG figure, you’ll be paying either £1390 on 22% or £2527 on 40% benefit tax per year. And although not dissimilar to it’s sector competitors you’ve gotta wonder whether a few seconds quicker to 60 is enough to tempt buyers away from their ever improving performance diesel turbos.

    On a brighter note the service interval of 12,000 miles and a 3 year unlimited mileage warranty should keep maintenance costs to a minimum.

     

    Conclusion

      At first glance the Mazda3 MPS would seem to be up against almost unbeatable competition from its hot hatch stable mates, many with more badge cache or better street presence. But that’s where the Mazda plays its trump card. Here is a very quick 5-door hatch that not only can out perform all of its rivals in all situations but can do so without drawing unwanted attention.

    Plainly styled the MPS can dawdle past almost unnoticed and yet pitted head to head with almost anything else will never leave it’s driver wanting for more…

    This in our opinion makes the MPS a real drivers car – If you’re the sort of person who thinks the best colour created is bright orange or really can’t do without a set of white stripes down the centre of your bonnet then there’s no doubt this car won’t tick as many boxes as some of the more obvious hot hatch rivals. But if you buy and drive your car for yourself rather than for the nods of approval (or even disapproval) of others, then this more stealthy option will deliver everything you could want for.

    No other car we’ve driven this year can be better described as a real wolf in sheeps clothing… Mild mannered and behaved enough to pass even an inspection from the in-laws and yet ready in an instance to deliver unbeatable performance and handling that I challenge any warm blooded petrolhead to find anywhere else for less the £20,000.00

    If you’re in the market for a hot hatch and haven’t driven the MPS you don’t know what you’re missing….

    As a footnote, Mazda Australia this week unveiled an even more bonkers version of the MPS at the recent Austrailian motor show. The MPS Extreme is a new hotter and more aggressive Mazda 3 and takes the MPS to a level far beyond the Aero pack. 19-inch black alloys and lower suspension marks it out from the standard model – but the important changes are under the bonnet with power increased by 19 bhp up to 282bhp and torque up 32lb ft to 312lb ft. All this sounds like great news until you find out Mazda have no plans to bring this car to the UK – which in our opinion is a travesty.

     
    Andy.
     
     
    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:         



    View our original review of the Mazda 3 MPS




    View our subsequent retest in Scotland.




    View our review of the Mazda 3 2.0 Sport




    Full Set of Photos taken during this test



    Mazda's UK website

     2870

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