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Parkers overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 3.5

There's no denying the MPS is quick. It uses the same turbocharged 2.3-litre engine as the previous version with an identical power output of 260bhp and an unchanged 0-62mph time of 6.1 seconds. There's always plenty of pulling power available, especially low down, so overtaking is made easy, while the power delivery is very smooth and predictable. A rather springy clutch can make driving the MPS in town tiresome, but on the open road it always feels eager to accelerate.

Considering the power available, it doesn't feel as quick as you'd expect from a standstill, instead its real forte is accelerating in-gear which it manages effortlessly. This makes the high performance Mazda an ideal motorway and dual-carriageway car. But there's one major fly in the ointment - and that's how light the front end feels under hard acceleration.

It lacks the poise of other similar hot hatches and often pulls to one side - as a result it doesn't inspire the confidence you'd want.

While the front end of the MPS can feel a little wayward, that's not to say the front wheels lose grip, in fact the traction control rarely has to intervene, apart from occasionally when exiting tight corners or under extreme acceleration. There's good grip from the front tyres and it handles bends with minimal fuss, helped by impressive body control.

So it's a shame that the steering is crucially lacking in feel and isn't particularly well-weighted. As a result it's not very reassuring through corners and lacks the responsiveness of many alternatives. On the plus side, the MPS feels very stable when cruising at higher speeds.