MAZDA 3 MPS
DARE TO BE DIFFERENT
Text and Photos: Reinis Babrovskis
We are certainly spoilt for choices when it comes to choosing a sports hatchback; plenty of manufacturers worldwide had a go at building one since the 90ies, Japanese manufacturers in particular. Although, one of the vehicles from the Land of the rising sun that often got overlooked is the Mazda 3 MPS, or as the rest of the world knows it - the Mazdaspeed 3. This powerful hatchback really is a rare sight on British roads. So why did this car really fall under the radar - at the end of the day it went faster and was cheaper than all of its rivals at the time?
Well, Mazda always had a go at building performance vehicles; however, they never really delivered. That is of course apart from the cult cars that are the super lightweight convertible MX-5 a.k.a. the Miata, and the holy grail - the almighty RX-7, featuring a unique Wankel engine design (let's all laugh now and get over it).
However, in early 2000s Mazda designed a new engine (non Wankel) so successful, that even Ford desired it for their latest vehicles (including the latest spec Ecoboost Mustang).
The Japanese manufacturer presented a new car featuring this glamorous engine in 2006: the Mazda 3 MPS. It was a sports four door 2.3 litre turbocharged front wheel driven sports hatchback. It was cheaper than it's rivals, faster than its rivals and Mazda was onto a winner, but did it really work?
On paper, everything was perfect. The Ford, VW, Honda and others really couldn't outperform the powerful engine, whereas the sales figures for Mazda didn't reflect that. So what was wrong with this car? I do have a few theories though...
For one - hatchbacks have to have two doors, right? Well, technically no, a lot of modern manufactures realised the performance hatchbacks were never designed for boy racers, rather a petrol head dad, so whilst four doors now feature in nearly all hatchbacks, Mazda was actually one of the first ones to use this design. Probably too soon...
Secondly, whereas the idea of a four door, family friendly car might have been superb, the poor figures of mpg and high emissions resulting in enormous road tax, did not. So Mazda really struggled for the appropriate market. Whilst boy racers would have loved it but couldn't afford, the ones that could afford didn't want it.
But looking from another angle - that leaves us, the petrolheads, with a great outcome 11 years later: a very practical, high powered second hand sports hatchback that finally starts to become affordable. And that is exactly what Noel realised when choosing a replacement for his Seat Leon. Why not take this offer? Dare to be different.
Noel's plans were always simple - get more power and keep it clean. Which he really did. The car is now boosting incredible healthy 350 horsepower and is always spotless when I see it.
The Mazda 3 MPS is actually a very pretty car. Very Japanese looking, if I may say so without offending anybody. Whilst the MPS is really not that different from the standard model 3, there are certain things that will give away that it is a performance vehicle- like the bonnet scoop and rather large bootlid spoiler. Mazda did revise it a few times giving it a few upgrades, but apart from the xenon headlights, the rest were performance oriented upgrades.
The Mazda MPS features beautiful sharp lines that echo both front and rear, throughout the front bumper, lights and taillights. Noel really didn't feel the need to alter the design, apart from the bonnet scoop that was changed to a slick carbon fibre one.
Wheels and Suspension
Whereas Mazda 6MPS was four wheel drive, the 3series remained a front wheel driven car. Obviously this resulted in a torque steer due to the high power output, but then again - it was never designed as a track beast, but don't let that put you off; with some minor upgrades it really grips well on the backroads. Noel upgraded the standard suspension to BC coilovers and changed the standard wheels to 18 inch Rota Grid Drifts finished in custom hyper silver.
The interior of the 3MPS is rather plain, yet classy. It featured multi functional steering wheel, leather seats and aluminum pedals. The most of the critique went towards its built in satellite navigation system - it was too small and the steering wheel controls really didn't make it easy to use.
One part where Mazda really outperformed its rivals in the interior was its superior Bose audio system.
So now to the best part of the vehicle - the engine. It is a masterpiece. This is where the Mazda 3MPS really excells. Whilst the rivals - Focus ST, Golf GTI and Honda Civic Type-R were all round the 200hp mark, the 2.3 four cylinder unit of the MPS featured 256hp standard. And the best bit of it all - it was turbocharged, meaning the power could be raised easily. Noel's Mazda 3MPS received BNR S3 turbo, uprated TMIC, HTP 3" intake, grimspeed 3 port boost control solenoid, CPE turbo back exhaust and the end result was astonishing - 350hp. It is a majestic sleeper that wants to rip off your hands each time the pedal touches the floor and can leave a lot of cars shocked at the set of lights.
The engine is mounted to a manual beautiful 6 speed gearbox that is very well ratio-ed and copes with the extra power easily.
Whilst the Mazda 3 MPS will probably never match the cult sports car status that of the ancestor RX-7, it certainly is a great sports hatchback with plenty of power to play with, making it a great bang for your buck. And I like it.