It's been four decades since the Mk1 Golf GTI was parachuted into the car market, and the nation's appetite for hot hatches shows no sign of abating whatsoever. Just last year, Volkswagen revealed that it had underestimated the demand for the Golf R across Europe - come summer, it had shifted the 100,000th example. That kind of volume - along with fatter margins - is impossible to ignore; especially when most mainstream manufacturers already produce a C segment competitor.
Hyundai has become the latest rival to take the bait. The i30 N is a brazen attempt to pitch a tent on Volkswagen's lawn. And it is hardly the first to do so. Rewind a dozen or so years and it was Mazda clutching the canvas and tent poles as it rolled out the MPS. Based on the five-door Mazda3 of the day, it shared more than a little with the contemporaneous Ford Focus - but not the burly five-pot found in the ST.
Instead it deployed a turbocharged 2.3-litre four-cylinder engine in the nose and did not spare the horses. In fact there were 260 of them at 5,500rpm and 280lb ft of torque 1,500rpm earlier, all transmitted through a six-speed manual gearbox and limited-slip differential. All told it was the most potent front-driver you could buy in 2006.
Consequently, it would do 0-62mph in 6.1 seconds and nudge 155mph - which is quick even by today's vaunted standards. You did need the right conditions, though, because away from flat, smooth, sun-baked tarmac, the MPS did somewhat struggle to put all its power down and even if you had all three in your back pocket, torque steer was an inevitable feature of spirited forward progress.
Still, a few tugs through the steering wheel reminded you just how much power was being channelled through the front axle. Some people liked the brutality of it all. It was certainly an exciting proposition anyway - and yet somehow the MPS slipped under the radar, so much so that through two versions (an updated model came in 2011) there were never more than 1,200 on UK roads.
Interestingly, that number has remained remarkably consistent; HowManyLeft lists 1,100 in Q1 of 2012, 1,020 of which are still around six years later. We like to think it's testament to the all-round reliability of Mazda's hatchback and also, perhaps, the reliability of the men and women who've invested in one over the years, and endeavoured to keep it from pointing the wrong way in a ditch.
Either way, there are just three MPSs currently advertised on the PH classifieds, listed for between £4,989 and £8,750. The latter provides today's Spotted, and while it is not the one with the lowest mileage, it is the only facelifted model. It also comes with the reassurance of a full main dealer service history, and claims to have had "one owner from more or less new", whatever that means. Still, very few hot hatches of the same age offer performance and robustness in quite the same quantities. And fewer still can claim to be such a rare sight. A bargain, then.
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)
First registered: 2012
Recorded mileage: 86,000
Price new: £18,650 (2006)
Yours for: £8,750