Mazda plans to take on the VW Golf GTi with a 220bhp, 150mph MPS version of the Mazda 3 hatchback, extending the performance theme started by the 6 MPS (right). And Mazda is planning a return to top-level motor sport to push the Mazda Performance Series brand, which will also include hot versions of the RX-8 and forthcoming MX-5 and RX-7.
Due in 2006, the front-drive Mazda 3 MPS will share its looks with the MX Sportif concept of 2003 (pictured above), and use a detuned version of the 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine from the 6 MPS. Expect a similar 0-60mph time of around 6.5sec. The 3’s lighter weight and lower power means it can cope without the four-wheel-drive system of its bigger brother.
The engine shares its turbocharged, directly injected format with the 197bhp 2.0-litre Golf, but the 3 MPS will use its extra capacity to challenge the 222bhp Renault Mégane Renaultsport, currently the most powerful four-cylinder car in the class.
But Mazda’s engineering chief Joe Bakaj insists there will be no MPS version of the forthcoming Mazda 5 midi-MPV, and no hatchback or estate versions of the 6 MPS, because they cannot be made stiff enough. ‘We will only put an MPS badge on a car if it is credible,’ he insisted.