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Reader test: Mazda3 MPS

2010-01-29 08:40

Graham Botha

The RED Dragon

The previous generation MPS looked like its lesser sibling with bigger wheels and a monster pipe.  Although it had bang, it was highly underrated and wasn’t successful because of its understated Q-car flavouring.  

Thus Mazda left the styling to a 10-year-old with a PlayStation and a box of crayons. The latest MPS's stance is menacing and purposeful, always ready to pounce. (Perhaps it preys on unsuspecting family sedans in the parking garage?)    

Its bi-xenon headlights, bulbous bonnet with that scoop, sills and spoiler definitely makes one aware that THIS MPS is not going to be mistaken for a “pimped 1.6”. Everything is rounded off with stunning 18-inch alloys on fat rubber.


The cockpit is well equipped and a nice place to spend your time. Comfort comes to mind with fully adjustable leather seats with cloth inserts and high quality materials.  
Sound reproduction from the BOSE system is excellent and crisp. Given that, the MPS is well insulated from outside noise - the only evidence I found of the chap driving his one million Watt Toyota Tazz boom box was the rearview mirror vibrating. The rest of the cacophony forced upon undeserving motorists was muted by the brilliant ICE.

Leather trimmed multifunction steering is fully adjustable for rake and reach and provides easy access to the cruise control, sound system and on-board computer.  

The climate control system is top notch and alloy pedals add the final finishing touches along with some red stitching on the leather bits.  

Driving the Cookie Monster
When driving along in traffic, or just on a normal drive, this car is rather docile in nature. It takes in town driving, peak hour traffic and highway driving all in its stride. The clutch is not too heavy but perhaps a bit quick on the uptake and this amazing engine is very smooth. Docility goes out the window when you decide to “pull the Dragon's tail”.

This car comes alive and wrestles for control but the limited slip diff, TCS and torque limiting system do a great job of making it all manageable. Through the twisties, the handling is great but on choppy back roads it can be a handful under hard acceleration.  

The car feels predictable and does not have a twitchy “all or nothing” nature – you know exactly what to expect and when. Going beyond 2 500r/min in peak traffic is rare, so this car is an ordinary hatch when you need it to be one and a fire breathing Dragon if you choose otherwise.   

If you enjoy a live ride with personality, the cockpit of the MPS is definitely the place to be. So, just like one of the Joker's victims, I have so far I had a grin permanently engraved on my face.

In conclusion

Almost all vehicle manufacturers have a hot hatch offering aimed at dethroning the GTI, but in my world I have found the MPS to be the king of the hill. The build quality is great. It handles like a cart, has a compliant ride and is surprisingly easy to live with.

For the moment it is still quite exclusive on our roads and a bit more in your face than the Golf GTI.  Finally I also believe it to be exceptional value for money.
To me, the Mazda 3MPS is all things to all men and does everything it is supposed to do brilliantly.
I love my MPS…

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