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Wanted: New-gen Mazda3 MPS

Pocket rocket: The 2.5-litre Mazda3 is far from slow, but a hotter, next-gen MPS version is on the wish-list.

Next Mazda3 MPS remains shrouded in mystery, but AWD on the cards

Mazda logo18 Oct 2013

By MIKE COSTELLO

MAZDA is keen to add a potent MPS hot variant – potentially with all-wheel-drive – to its new Mazda3 range in time, but with so many new-generation mainstream model lines in the works, a niche halo project of this type may have to wait a while.

The new-generation version of Australia’s favourite private car, and second top-selling overall after the more fleet-favoured Toyota Corolla, is poised for an Australian launch early next year with a pair of naturally aspirated SkyActiv petrol engines shared with the CX-5.

The larger of these, a 138kW/250Nm 2.5-litre unit, serves as a neat replacement for the outgoing SP25 ‘warm’ variant. But there’s no replacement for the 190kW/380Nm front-drive MPS turbo range-topper in site, despite the wishes of global deputy program manager Takeo Moriuchi.

“In order to create that type of model, we must think about cost and its effectiveness, so for now we’ve first made a judgement that we don’t offer it,” he told GoAuto this week. “But we’ll keep monitoring feedback from the market and may look at the possibility.”

Moriuchi-san spoke with us at a prototype drive of the new Mazda3 held in Victoria this week, where he was effusive about the company’s dedication to making driving ‘fun’ – translating into a fierce desire to create hot halo models such as the MPS.

“Our essence is still to celebrate driving, but we believe we shouldn’t just offer this across one dedicated variant, we must offer pleasure of driving across all Mazda models,” he said.

“Mazda’s engineers and also Mazda’s management, they all love driving and having fun behind the wheel, so our wish is that we’d like to really do it (an MPS-type model) if we could.”

One major stumbling block to a speedy development may be the fact that the company with the ‘Zoom Zoom’ moniker must also plough significant resources into the continued renewal of its entire global fleet, and the development of at least one new member, underpinned by its cost-saving, modular SkyActiv architecture.

Newly profitable last financial year for the first time in five years, the Japanese brand has recently rolled-out the new CX-5, Mazda3 and Mazda6 – all based on essentially the same platform – but still has the next-generation Mazda2, Mazda MX-5 (the costs were offset here somewhat by licensing the platform to Alfa Romeo), all-new CX-3 mini SUV to come before the end of 2015.

Still, expect a new-generation MPS to emerge at some point within this timeframe.

Furthermore, Mazda has already transplanted to CX-5’s AWD system under the regular Mazda3 for snowy markets, so it would be a fair bet to expect any MPS-type car to have all-paw grip as well, to better put the power down.

The outgoing front-drive MPS was a handful, with a big slab of turbo power going through the front wheels eliciting some tram-tracking or torque steer when floored.

When quizzed on potential engine options, Moriuchi-san did not divulge in great details, save to remark: “I think its all entirely depending... it could be naturally aspirated, it could be turbo, we don’t know yet”.

The popularity of hot variants of regular cars in Australia – although, that being said, the MPS was never a big seller – and the halo effect they offer to an entire model line make them important Down Under.

Mazda Australia public relations manager Steve Maciver said the company’s local arm would have its hand firmly in the air the moment an MPS emerges.

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