Japan has exported several sporty models over the years, but there’s one that you might have forgotten about amid the flurry of Subaru Imprezas, Mitsubishi Lancers and Toyota Supras. Enter Mazda and the 6 MPS saloon: the first car in the firm’s line-up to bear its performance badge.
Mazda 6 MPS, £6995
Technically a sports saloon, the car was based on the first-generation 6 but had a go-faster edge. As part of its athletic makeover, the 6 MPS gained low-key styling upgrades including 18in wheels, new tail-lights, twin exhausts, a deeper front air dam and a bonnet hump to hide a duct channelling air to the car’s intercooler.
Don’t be fooled by its subtle styling, though: the model received a host of mechanical changes and much of it was completely re-engineered to suit its new performance credentials.
Under the bonnet sits fundamentally the same 2.3-litre turbocharged in-line four seen in the standard car, but here upgraded with a new turbocharger and direct fuel injection. Working in conjunction with a six-speed manual gearbox and a freshly installed four-wheel drive system, it is good for 264bhp, 280lb ft and a 0-62mph time of 6.6sec.
Brand-new chassis sections were added behind the dashboard and rear seats, while the model’s suspension mountings were also strengthened. In fact, the car’s torsional stiffness was increased by as much as 50%. Its suspension was also upgraded with higher spring rates, revised bushes and dampers and thicker anti-roll bars.
We thought its ride, steering, body control and £25,000 price were all key draws for the 6 MPS back in 2004. You can find one now for around £7000, like our example here from 2006 with 55,000 miles under its wheels.