So, as alluded to in a previous blog I've spent the last couple of days tooling about in a Mazda 3 MPS, including some of the swoopy backlanes on the way to Goodwood.
Yep, it's that bloody Golf again
We'll be doing something proper with this shortly but I thought I'd share some musings on a car I desperately want to really, really like. Styling wise I'm afraid I don't though. Definitely marks deducted for trying too hard and I really liked the fact the last one looked so bland but was actually something of a lunatic underneath.
Comparisons with 'our' Golf GTI Edition 35 are inevitable too. That, in a nutshell, is why we lobbied VW to run it. You can boil a whole host of fast car buying decisions to 'yeah but how does it compare to a Golf GTI' and having one to hand makes those quick and easy to call.
Dusting off my motoring hack's book of cliches I find the page falling open on the 'lot of bang for your buck', 'lots of metal for your money' page. 23,395 for 260hp, an LSD and a decent amount of standard kit is a bargain. There's a real lack of polish in every department compared to the Golf but I find that kind of honesty appealing. Is it as good? Frankly, no.
Goes better than it looks, thankfully
It's oversprung and underdamped and the steering has that unpleasant feel of being twitchy around the dead ahead, 'falling' into the turn and then lightening up alarmingly meaning it's not entirely obvious how much front end you've got. The Golf isn't the king of feel but it's at least consistent and linear.
I do like the gritty, mechanical feel you get and, like the previous one, there's more than a hint of classic Impreza in the controls and demeanour. And as an ex-Subaru owner that has me feeling right at home and a sense I remember from driving the last one. Like an old Impreza it's a case of pitching it in and trusting it'll back you up. In this case there's the diff rather than four-wheel drive to haul you out, gentle nibbles of torque steer over bumpy surfaces there to remind you where the power's going but huge traction and, even under power, an LSD-inspired hunger to pull itself into the turn rather than wash out under power like many powerful FWD cars. And unlike the Golf the fact it's a proper, mechanical diff means its proactive rather than brake-assisted reactive effect. It's a sound basis for further tuning - easily achievable I'm told. And you certainly get the feeling that it could happily cope with plenty more. That BBR onecertainly looks like a good bet too.
3 MPS stares thoughtfully over the downs
Chatting with Neil at BBR it seems they're doing a good business in upgrades too and with 290hp for 549 and the stage two 320hp conversion for 1,645 (also compatible with first-gen cars and
too) there's the potential there for some serious get up and go for sensible outlay. Expensive VED and, anecdotally, more aggressive torque steer counts against the first-gen cars though.
So, lacks polish. But there's an honesty about it that really appeals and, with a tickle to the suspension and a cheeky little power boost, I reckon a previous-shape one would make a nice, discreet little runaround. Which is my cue to head off into the classifieds I think...