First Drive: Mazda 3 MPS

Claire Edwards

This is Mazda's latest incarnation of one of the fastest hot hatches available on the market, the Mazda3 MPS. Sitting under the bonnet remains Mazda's 2.3-litre four cylinder unit from the previous model, offering 256bhp with just a few minor modifications to ensure it meets all the relevant Euro 5 emissions requirements.

On paper it might sound some way off the 300bhp of the Focus RS, but the MPS is still seriously rapid. And it feels all the more potent as this new version is lighter than its predecessor at just 1385kg. The sprint to 62mph takes 6.1 seconds from standstill - that's just 0.2 seconds slower than the RS - and Mazda has stiffened the chassis to give the MPS greater stability at higher speeds making it a very quick motorway cruiser.

From the outside the Mazda3 MPS looks the part, and has been given the quintessential hot hatch treatment including side skirts, rear spoiler, twin tailpipes and large bonnet scoop. The interior lends is more sophisticated with a simple yet modern dash layout and comfortable sports seats rather than racing-style bucket seats. While they aren't the most supportive options when cornering quickly, they are very comfortable on longer journeys, further boosting the MPS's case as a rapid tourer.