Still, one purist’s overcooked orphan is another’s overlooked bargain. Prices begin at about £2000 for high-mileage, private-sale 2006 cars before accelerating as quickly as the car itself (5.9sec to 60mph, for the record) to around £4500 for tidy 2007 cars with full history, before speeding north beyond £8000 (nice 2010 cars) to as much as £12,000 for the last 2012 and 2013 examples.
If you didn’t know that Ford once owned a third of Mazda shares, you might be surprised to hear the 3 MPS shares its platform with the Ford Focus. However, where Ford’s hot hatch, the ST, had a blown 2.5-litre five-cylinder Volvo engine to grind its beans, the 3 MPS used a homegrown Mazda 2.3-litre four, again with forced induction. It’s a nice twist and shows just how single-minded Mazda can be – a trait that has, at various times, rewarded it richly and cost it dearly.
The engine, called DISI, or Direct Injection Spark Ignition, is notable for squirting the fuel straight into the combustion chamber and, when it’s in there, increasing the air pressure to boost power and torque. Economy was supposed to be a beneficiary, too, but you’ll struggle to best 30mpg. Road tax for 2006-2008 cars is £500, but £295 for 2009-2013 cars.
The car’s performance wasn’t the only thing going for it. It boasted a genuinely roomy five-door cabin, impressive overall refinement and good reliability. Mazda showered the 3 MPS with kit, including a Bose sound system, part-leather sports seats and climate control.
The second-generation 3 MPS arrived in 2009 and came with even more kit, including an eye-catching bonnet scoop, a smarter dashboard, Bluetooth connectivity, heated seats, keyless entry and start, a sat-nav and a blindspot warning system. It also brought that reduction in road tax.
If you want to cut the mustard, look for a first-gen car with the Sports Aero Kit (SAK). It’s an unfortunate acronym but a decent improvement, since the £500 option brought Eibach springs for a lower ride height, a larger rear spoiler and sculpted two-spoke door mirrors. Now you’re talking.
An expert’s view...
FRAZER GERAGHTY, MAZCARE
“We’ve been a Mazda specialist for more than 15 years and have sold a few MPSs. They’re terrific cars — extremely fast but very comfortable, too. Being a Mazda, they’re extremely reliable. The turbo doesn’t give any trouble and we’ve never known any timing chain issues. We’ve got two cars, both in black, for sale at the moment: a 2006 Mk1 with the aero kit and 70,000 miles for £6495, and a 2010 Mk2 with 48,000 miles for £10,995.”