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There is a newer version of this car Read the latest Mazda 3 MPS (09-13) review here

Mazda 3 MPS engines, drive and performance

2007 - 2008 (change model)
Performance rating: 4.5 out of 54.5

Written by David Ross Published: 6 June 2019 Updated: 6 June 2019

The 3 MPS is quick off the line, accelerating to 62mph in a mere 6.1 seconds, which is faster than the Ford Focus ST, Vauxhall Astra VXR and the VW Golf GTI. That’s thanks to a 2.3-litre turbocharged engine with 260bhp – more than any other hot hatch rival including the Subaru Impreza WRX. The engine is the same one that was used in the larger Mazda6 MPS – but unlike the 6 this car is only front-wheel drive rather than four-wheel drive.

It copes well with all that power going through the front tyres and even under hard acceleration it’s never too wayward. The six-speed gearbox is a let down though – while the changes are positive, it lacks feel and isn’t particularly slick.

Despite the immense power on offer for such a small car, the MPS is surprisingly easy to drive. Around town, it drives in a similar way to other Mazda 3 hatchbacks – the steering is light, it’s a dab-hand at three-point turns and the controls aren’t heavy. On backroads, it’s a great performer and has the ability to corner at staggering speeds. There’s plenty of grip and little bodyroll.

However the steering lacks the feel of other hot hatches like the Honda Civic Type-R and it feels a little too detached to be truly enjoyable and involving. That said, it is very easy to cover distances incredibly swiftly and with minimal fuss. But if you’re after an old-school, frantic hot hatch, look elsewhere. The stability control programme is best left on.

It does a good job of sensibly channelling the power through the front wheels – without it, you’re often left in a cloud of tyre smoke.