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MPS expansion

MPS mum: MPS brand may underpin a range of high-performance models, but Mazda isn't saying.

More MPS models are on their way

Mazda logo20 Jul 2006


MAZDA is remaining tight-lipped about which of its models is next in line for the MPS (Mazda Performance Series) treatment.

"Potentially any of our series could be (the next MPS)," Mazda Australia managing director Doug Dickson reveals.

"But at this moment we have nothing to say that will indicate which it will be – if any – but I guess it’s a matter of the acceptance of the current models, and also… ‘watch this space’.""There is currently nothing on the drawing board," he adds.

Nevertheless speculation is rife that a turbo-charged version of the NC MX-5, in either ragtop convertible or Roadster Coupe coupe-convertible, is in the pipeline.

Today’s MX-5 already employs a 118kW/188Nm 2.0-litre variation of the 190kW/380Nm 2.3-litre MZR four-cylinder engine found in the Mazda3 and Mazda6 MPS – although in this case it is mounted longitudinally instead of the transversely.

Furthermore, Mazda Australia has already set the precedent for an MX-5 MPS.

It offered two turbo-charged versions during the last (NB) generation – an Australian developed SP in 2002, producing 150kW and 280Nm, followed by a factory-built SE from March 2004 until August 2005, offering 121kW and 206Nm.

Both employed the MX-5’s familiar 1.8-litre twin-cam four-cylinder engine.

The RX-8(below) is also believed to be under consideration for the MPS treatment.

 center imageAs the flagship model in the Mazda range, the 177kW/216Nm 1.3-litre two-cylinder rotary-engined sports car delivers 13kW less power, and a staggering 164Nm less torque, than the lowlier Mazda3 MPS.

Even the mighty twin-turbo RX-7 III of the 1990s managed ‘only’ 176kW and 294Nm.

In the past Mazda may have been restrained by the Japanese manufacturers’ ‘gentleman’s agreement’ to limit power outputs to 206kW.

This, however, is now a thing of the past, as Nissan, Toyota and Subaru gear up to produce high-performance tearaways capable of catching the likes of Audi’s 309kW RS4.

Rumours are also circulating that the MPS wand will touch the Mazda2’s replacement.

Mazda in Japan is in the finishing stages of developing its new international light car combatant, to be twinned with the next-generation Ford Fiesta.

Considering Ford of Europe’s preoccupation with high-performance runabouts – witness the Fiesta ST and Focus RS – it is a strong possibility that Mazda will have had a hand in the development of any future baby MPS variants.

Mazda, keen to distance the new ‘2’ from the current boxy shape that is reminiscent of the 1996 121/Metro, has already announced that its swoopy Sassou concept car of 2005 is a very clear indicator of what the 2007 Mazda2 may look like.

With a projected price of under $30,000, a Mazda2 MPS would join the $39,990 Mazda3 MPS hatchback and $48,600 Mazda6 MPS sedan in providing affordable sports-car performance in a mainstream family car.

Mazda says it will group its sports car and current MPS ranges together to form a four-pronged high-performance sub-brand within its passenger car range.

"We are marketing the four of them together, as a sort of ‘zoom-zoom’ performance series," explains Mazda Australia managing director Doug Dickson.

"As well, we are looking at establishing some experts within our dealerships to handle enquiries for all of our sports-car range, and in that way, we will approach the enthusiast market," he reveals.

"We are well known for MX-5 and RX-8 but less well-known for high-performance vehicles in our core products."Forecasting around 80 ‘3’ MPS sales per month, Mazda admits that selling two distinctly sporty Mazda3 variants – the $29,600, 115kW/203Nm SP23 will continue to exist below the ‘3’ MPS – will not be easy.

"We suspect they will be different buyers," Mr Dickson says.

"I guess that’s the challenge we have, is to market these particular cars to a different sort of buyer.

"I’m not sure the average person who comes in to buy a Mazda3 is necessarily going to step up to the performance that the MPS delivers.

"We found the same thing with the 6 MPS."

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