Mazda 3 MPS

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Mazda3 MPS

Road Test

Mazda 3 MPS driven

Driven November 2011

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This is the facelifted Mazda 3 MPS. And it has heated seats. Which seems a little unnecessary, because it's quite possible you'll create your own warming matter involuntarily.

It's not the naked speed that'll cause it. It's more the traits familiar to anyone who has ever driven the 260bhp, FWD MPS: a distinct reluctance to respond to changes in direction or velocity with much composure.

OK, this is old news: the MPS has always been a bit of a handful. Even though it manages 0-62mph in 6.1 seconds, there's far too much power running through the front wheels. 256bhp from a 2.3-litre turbocharged four cylinder, to be precise.

In its latest guise - the facelifted second-gen model, which arrives in the UK early next year - Mazda's done its utmost to ensure that those rather large numbers are turned into something other than noise and tyre smoke. There's a stiffer bodyshell, improved aero and re-tuned dampers, which are specially tailored for European roads.

None of which have made much difference. Once it gets to 3000rpm (not a lot happens before) you'll have to relinquish some control. Just like the last one.

Firstly, it torque-steers tremendously. Possibly because there's 280lb ft of it. Then there's the understeer - even with the traction control on you're afforded just enough slide to get yourself alarmingly close to the nearest ditch. Finally, there's tramlining. Lots and lots of tramlining. The combination of which means it claws itself down the road on its own psychotic terms.

That said, if you don't drive it like an ape, it's actually a pretty composed thing. Because it's The Sporty One, the suspension's a bit lower and it's been stiffened, but it still rides smoothly, the seats are relatively comfortable and there's room for four actual humans. Sober black plastics - all of which feel excellently nailed down - and a snazzy Bose sound system feel incongruously grown up, too.

It looks pretty respectable as well - the only visual differences from the standard 3 are a bonnet scoop, 18-inch wheels, some chrome trim rings around the fog lights, a slightly larger rear spoiler and concepty slatted grill.

But it isn't respectable. It's mildly terrifying. And that actually makes it quite appealing. OK, so it's not artfully tailored to smashing lap records at the Nürburgring and it'll be a bit hopeless on track. But it'll manage boring stuff superbly, you won't look like a buffoon driving it and it has the power to make you want to soil yourself. We can't really recommend you buy one in this hot-hatch era of Corsa VXR Nürburgrings and Clio 200s, but we won't blame you if you do.

Matthew Jones

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