Our spy photographers have captured the next-generation Mazda 3 MPS being put through its paces at the Nurburgring. The new Mazda 3 will be going on sale in the UK in April next year, with the range-topping MPS version scheduled to arrive about three months later. Under its all-new bodywork the new 3 is a heavy reworking of the current car, and the new MPS will stick with the same mechanical layout of a turbocharged four-cylinder engine driving the front wheels.
Mazda insiders indicate the new car will have a revised 2.5-litre version of the current MPS’s direct-injection engine. Power figures haven’t been finalised yet, but there’s the strong possibility that the new car will actually have slightly more than the 256bhp of the first-generation MPS. That’s a serious amount for a front-wheel drive hatchback, especially as – unlike the forthcoming Ford Focus RS – the MPS won’t get a limited-slip differential. It's likely a second, diesel-powered MPS will follow. At a recent Mazda technical event a senior company engineer told Autocar that a high-output version of Mazda’s new 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine is under consideration for a performance variant of the 3. Renault and Seat have already done well from diesel versions of their hot hatches – and Subaru is working on a DERV-fuelled Impreza WRX – so it would be an obvious development. The images make clear that Mazda has learned at least one lesson from the current MPS, which was criticised in some quarters for its bland looks. Even under the cladding, it’s clear that the new car is far more visually aggressive, with a deep front bumper and a very Impreza-like wing at the top of the tailgate. Prices for the new MPS will be announced nearer the time, but it’s believed it will stick closely to the current model’s £19,000 price tag.