The hot hatch that floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee
When the discussion turns to hot hatches, the first brands to be reeled off tend to be the likes of Renault, VW and Ford. Mazda though, is one that rarely gets a mention. This despite the fact that both generations of the 3 MPS shared their C1 architecture and components - including sub-frames front and rear, suspension, steering, braking and some of the electrics - with the Focus ST.
Upon its introduction in 2006, the 260hp from the turbocharged 2.3-litre four cylinder engine pushed more power to the front wheels than any of its competition could muster, but due to its fairly mundane looks it barely ever got a second glance. It truly was a sleeper. The model was duly updated in 2009, keeping the turbocharged four-cylinder engine - now no longer the most powerful in its class - though chassis tweaks boosted torsional rigidity by 41 per cent, weight dropped down to 1,385kg from 1,410kg after a little nip and tuck, and it gained a larger bonnet air intake and rear spoiler to help it stand out among its more ostentatious rivals. Inside, Mazda did its best not to leave anything out for owners, with only one option available - metallic paint.
The MPS can easily be tuned to 330hp with a light remap, upgraded exhaust, and new hoses and fuel pump, but if the goal is to surpass 400hp owners may need to look at uprating the turbo and intercooler. This second generation MPS has done 38,000 miles, but a major inspection isn't due until the car surpasses 54,000 miles. As per the buying guide the front bolster will need replacing which is said to be a simple fix.
Of course if the smiling whale doesn't take your fancy there are a few other discreet hot hatches that might tick the same boxes. Volkswagen's MK6 Golf GTI is the go-to in its class, whilst the Volvo C30 T5 may provide some Swedish flair among the less sophisticated inhabitants of the sector.
SPECIFICATION - MAZDA 3 MPS
Engine: 2,261cc 4-cyl turbo Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive Power (hp): 260@5,500rpm Torque (lb ft): 280@3,000rpm MPG: 29.4 (NEDC combined) CO2: 224g/km First registered: 2010 Recorded mileage: 38,000 miles Price new: N/A Yours for: £9,995