IF your have user-choosers in your company then Mazda have them in its sights with it’s new £18,995, high performance Mazda3.
It’s following the trend of manufacturers taking the most run-of-the-mill lower medium workhorse and giving it a 360-degree workout, the equivalent of – if I can continue the analogy - Hovis adding diced jalapeno peppers to its sliced white.
The Mazda3 MPS is available now as a single model ‘super-hatch’.
The highlights are the turbocharged 2.3-litre petrol engine, generating 260ps and 380 Nm of torque through a Euro IV engine, emitting 231g/km CO2, kept under control through a six-shift manual transmission.
It joins the carmaker's high performance offering alongside the Mazda6 MPS and Mazda RX-8 PZ special edition. And as befits its pedigree it is the fastest Mazda3 in the range. I don’t want to go on too much about the maximum speed because we all stick to speed limits afterall (the figures in the fact file if you need to know), but the real headline figure is that for the 0-62mph time – 6.3 seconds.
This is more impressive than Mazda’s competitors in this segment Volkswagen Golf GTI, Honda Civic Type R and Vauxhall Astra VXR, if only by a fraction of a second in most cases.
Explaining the claim in its press release regarding the car that ‘the 3’ should be on your choice list for company cash, Mazda UK's marketing director Mark Cameron said: ‘The Mazda3 MPS takes our brand’s Zoom-Zoom philosophy beyond our sportscars and applies that same spirit and performance to a model which has appeal to a much broader audience. The Mazda3 has always been praised for its driving dynamics, handling and road holding and clearly has a chassis that can handle more power.
‘Refined and sophisticated, the new Mazda3 MPS is the complete antithesis of the boy racer hot-hatch and will give both private and company car drivers the ultimate ‘Zoom- Zoom’ experience in a compact package – taking the already potent performance of the current range-topping Mazda3 2.0i Sport model to an extraordinary new level.’
The Mazda3 MPS comes with MPS-branded sports seats with black leather side bolsters and centre sections in black sports cloth, with the MPS logo stitched into the seats and on the floor mats. You will be able to choose between four exterior paint colours, with mica (black and Cosmic Blue), metallic finish (Sunlight Silver) and one solid (True Red). Every model will sport 18-inch diameter, seven inch wide 15-spoke aluminium alloy wheels as standard.
And, as if to distance the brand from being tainted with the boy racer image, it’s important to stress the features of the car that will appeal to your fleet manager. The Mazda3 MPS comes with a Thatcham Category 1 alarm and immobiliser, front, side and curtain airbags, plus ABS, EBD, EBA, DSC, LSD and TCS as standard. To see what all this means in language normal people would understand see the spec list below.
Behind the wheel
Ultra comforable seats distinguish the MPS from many of its competitors, where sports means bucket back breakers which are too narrow and as, literally, for the first point of contact in these dreams machines prove a huge pain. But the Mazda’s seats are soft but supportive and long journeys can be undertaken without fear of having to walk with a stoop when you arrive.
So much of Mazda’s fanfare about the MPS concentrates on the engine. This 2.3-litre petrol unit offers an impressive 260bhp and is the heart and soul of the car. Start it up and the engine note seemed to me to be a little high, but get moving and, even at low speeds, there is a lot of pleasure in its melody. The sound and vibration, particularly through the six-speed box is not intrusive, but provides a great background soundtrack.
The driving experience is not all refinement, however. The steering might prove to drivers used to modern, steer-with-your-finger-tips power steering, a little weighty. But with such a powerful engine it makes sense that the driver’s full attention is given to handling the car. I put my foot down on a straight stretch of road to sample the acceleration and the power was enough to push me back into my seat and I needed a firm hand to keep the car under control.
Bear the safety aspect in mind and the MPS is enormous amounts of fun. If you are a user-chooser whose annual car allowance stretches to circa £19,000 five minutes on a quiet road will help you forget deadlines, endless meetings and impossible targets – and you will not have to break the law either - just sampling the acceleration to 60/70mph will be enough.
A fly in the ointment for the MPS is one that afflicts the rest of the Mazda3 range. The interiors are very low standard. There is no soft touch plastics here and the plain black fascia is very harsh to the eye and the touch. I remember driving a 3 for several months and it took no time at all for greasy finger marks and scuffs to make the interior look worn and tired beyond its age. I had the MPS for a week and it had started to look grubby. No MPS motifs and cloth stitching can wholly dampen this impression.
The numbers available in this country for 2007 is limited to under 1,000, compared to a sales forecast across the Mazda3 range of 14,000.
Use your loaf and book a test drive quick.
* Current 2006 model. ** Prices correct as of October 4, 2006.
All-disc braking system with ABS (Anti-lock Braking System)
Electronic Brake-Force Distribution (EBD) with Emergency Brake Assist (EBA)
Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) and Traction Control System (TCS)
Limited Slip front Differential (LSD)
Driver & Passenger front airbags
Front side airbags
Front and rear curtain airbags
Front seatbelt pre-tensioners with load-limiters
Seatbelt reminder (all seats)
Whiplash-minimising front seats
ISOFIX child seat anchorage
Thatcham Category 1 alarm & Immobiliser
18-inch alloy wheels with 215/45 R18 low profile tyres
Sports styling with unique grille, bonnet, bumpers, side skirts and rear spoiler
Body-coloured door handles
Electric/heated door mirrors
Body-coloured mirror housings
Xenon headlamps with automatic levelling
Front fog lights
Automatic lights and rain sensing auto wipers
Chrome exhaust tailpipe
Remote central locking and dead locks
Folding jack-knife key
Electric front and rear windows, with one-touch auto down
Global closing for all windows
Climate control automatic air conditioning
Power steering and cruise control
MPS-branded sports seats
60/40 split folding rear seat
Centre armrest with storage and cup holders
Leather steering wheel, gear knob and handbrake lever
Height and reach adjustable steering wheel
BOSE® Premium audio system with six CD autochanger and seven speakers
Steering wheel mounted audio controls
Stainless steel scuff plates
Price list (OTR)
2.3i SSP*: £19,495
* Optional Sports Styling Pack comprises a larger rear spoiler, two-spoke sports door mirrors and lowered suspension.
P11D value: £18,747 CO2 emissions (g/km): 231 Insurance group: 17 Combined mpg: 29.1 CAP RV (3yr/60k): £6,975 Monthly lease (3yr/60k): Company car tax 2007/08