Mazda 3

The new Mazda 3 MPS comes with an incredible 256bhp, courtesy of its turbocharged 2.3-litre engine

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

Other than the fact it’s fast and affordable, there’s not much to recommend the 3 MPS. Without the 6 MPS’s 4WD system, it doesn’t have a unique selling point in this class, and it’s let down by plain styling inside and out, plus a far less rewarding driving experience than that of the Ford Focus ST.

It's not so much bang for your buck, as power for your pound. The new Mazda 3 MPS costs £18,995, yet boasts an incredible 256bhp courtesy of its turbocharged 2.3-litre engine.

That means you’re paying £74 for each bhp – compared with the £148 in a standard Ford Focus 1.6. In short, the five-door hatchback, which goes on sale in February, is something of a performance car bargain. It uses the same powerplant as the bigger 6 MPS, which costs £23,995, but something has been lost in translation – the four-wheel-drive underpinnings.

Instead, the 3 MPS channels all that power through the front wheels – a potential recipe for disaster. But Mazda has actually done a reasonable job – torque is limited in the lower gears to aid traction, and it isn’t too wayward under hard acceleration. And that’s what the Mazda does best. With 34bhp and 60Nm more than the Ford Focus ST, it sees off the 0-62mph dash in 6.1 seconds.

But speed alone does not make a good hot hatch. And the Mazda is let down by a sloppy gearshift, muted engine note and mediocre steering.

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