Parkers overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 4.5

Mazda uses a turbocharged four-cylinder 2.3-litre direct injection petrol engine in the MPS, producing 256bhp and 280lb-ft of torque. Maximum torque is reached at 3000rpm, and the rev counter needle needs to be above 2000rpm for any rapid acceleration, but it is still responsive and the six-speed gearbox with its compact gate is a joy to use with the rifle-bolt precision of the MX-5's.

Brakes are uprated from those fitted to the standard Mazda6, ensuring effective stopping from high speed, and the exhaust note has been tuned to make it more appealing to driving enthusiasts when sprinting away from a standing start.

The Mazda6 is already a class benchmark for handling, so the MPS had an ideal starting point for a more extreme version, but Mazda has also reinforced the body to further improve the car's on-road behaviour. With direct and involving steering (it uses the same rack as the MX-5) and limited body roll there is always a 'feel-good factor' about being behind the wheel.

The all-wheel drive MPS sends most of the torque to the front wheels most of the time. However, under hard acceleration, up to 50% of torque is delivered to the rear wheels, and when the car senses slippery conditions it maintains a 50:50 torque distribution front to rear. It means the MPS always feels surefooted, even in difficult conditions. A stability programme is fitted as standard to help avoid skidding in emergency manoeuvres.