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Current-gen Mazda3 MPS off the table

Booster: Mazda has suggested a diesel engine may be the drivetrain of choice for a future version of its traditionally turbo-petrol MPS (outgoing current mode pictured).

Resources allocated to better emissions/economy, not performance Mazda models

16 Jun 2017

MAZDA has revealed an MPS-fettled small car was once in the works for its current-generation Mazda3, but the high-performing hot hatch was canned due to a lack of resources and stricter emissions regulations.

Speaking to GoAuto at the 40 year celebration of Mazda small cars, Mazda product division deputy general manager Kenichiro Saruwatari said at one stage the third-generation Mazda3 was mooted to receive a Volkswagen Golf GTI and Ford Focus ST-fighting flagship.

“Honestly speaking, on this current car, we tried to put some sort of special engine but we stopped development because we don’t have any resources to develop it,” he said.

“As you know, currently we have to focus on making very good fuel consumption and emissions globally to meet the regulations of CO2.”

When asked if the 170kW/420Nm turbocharged 2.5-litre engine from the large CX-9 SUV would fit into the smaller Mazda3, Mr Saruwatari confirmed it could be shoehorned in, but that the engine was not designed for a performance application.

“We can put this engine into another car, but it is not developed for sportscar,” he said. “So the characteristics that we put in the turbocharger in that model (CX-9) was just to make the power, was just to meet the CO2.”

The previous-generation Mazda3 MPS – which was discontinued in 2013 – utilised a 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which produced 190kW of power and 380Nm of torque.

With power being sent exclusively to the front axle via a six-speed manual gearbox, Mazda’s last hot hatch could accelerate from zero to 100km/h in 6.1 seconds, making it more than a match for the Volkswagen Golf GTI, Ford Focus XR5 Turbo, Renault Megane RS, Mini JCW, Honda Civic Type R and Astra-based HSV VXR from the same era.

Interestingly, the Mazda3 MPS performance figures still hold up against modern front-drive hot hatches including the Ford Focus ST and Peugeot 308 GTI, and is only 0.4s slower to 100km/h than the incoming new-generation 235kW/400Nm turbocharged Honda Civic Type R – the fastest front-drive production car yet.

Mr Saruwatari, who oversaw engine development of the Mazda3 and Mazda6 when both models offered MPS variants, said the MPS line-up was only one way in which Mazda appealed to driving enthusiasts.

“Our brand is always in pursuit of the ‘zoom-zoom’, to provide the feeling and celebrate driving itself,” he said.

“The way to make it, one way is like the roadster, so we made it very light and with a small engine, and the other is to put a more powerful engine and proper drivetrain and something like that.

“We are considering which is the best (way) to provide those kinds of things (driving enjoyment) and we have a history with the Mazda3 and especially the Mazda 323 where we joined the WRC.”

When asked if and when the MPS nameplate could return, Mr Saruwatari could neither confirm nor deny and simply replied “we hope, we wish”.

Mazda Australia public relations specialist Tony Mee added that “there’s lots of people in the business who would like to see MPS because we are fans of MPS but there are no plans to bring MPS back into the fold”.

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