By Marc Lachapelle
After unveiling the second-generation Mazda3 at the LA auto show last November, Mazda chose Geneva to introduce the new version of its performance variant. The stage name says Mazda3 MPS but make no mistake; this is the new Mazdaspeed3 that should soon reach Canadian shores and stores with little or no change, as for the previous model.
Externally, the Mazda3 MPS sports the same wide-grin front grille and more accentuated creases of the new Mazda3. The most striking differences are more sculpted lower front fascia and side sills, a high-mounted rear spoiler slightly larger than the first Mazdaspeed3’s and a large, functional air intake on the hood that is all-new.
Under the hood is a refreshed version of the 2.3-litre, turbocharged, direct injection MZR engine that develops a similar 260 PS (256 hp) but should burn half a litre less premium fuel per 100 km. The new Mazda3 MPS has a reportedly stiffer body shell, improved suspension and wider new tires mounted on new 18-inch alloy wheels with the same 10-spoke design as first seen on the RX-8 R3.
Mazda also says that its engineers have stiffened the left and right half-shafts to minimize torque steer, always a concern on a front-wheel drive performance with this much horsepower and torque. They have also modified the electro-hydraulic power steering to tailor the effort in relation with vehicle speed and steering angle for better feel. The MPS also gets electronic brake assist to replace the mechanical system on the previous model, along with standard ABS and stability control.