Update 02/04/07 - The current edition of Motor magazine has compared the Mazda 3 MPS to the HSV VXR. The Mazda 3 MPS was considered the better buy...just.
I have to confess here that my current weapon of choice is a VZ Maloo. Ok, its a little behind the eight ball with an ageing chassis and only half a glass of refinement but what it lacks in finesse it more than makes up for in attitude. Six litres of Chev packs a lot of attitude particularly when its all directed towards the rear wheels.
The idea of a performance hatch that puts 190kW and 380Nm of twist through the front wheels is at first a little scary. You can't help thinking that plough understeer and chronic torque steer would mar the driving experience for the enthusiast.
In fact you find yourself asking why Mazda didn't use the all wheel drive system from the 6 MPS. Obvious factors such as cost and weight spring to mind. It's interesting to note pricing for the Mazda 3 MPS starts at $39,990.00 which is a whisker under what it costs to buy a Subaru WRX, the long standing king of the 4-pot turbo performance brigade. For the money the WRX gets all wheel drive compared to the front wheel drive only 3 MPS so Mazda must be very confident that the 3 MPS is well sorted.
The Mazda 3 MPS is better equipped and by most accounts provides a superior driving experience to the Subaru WRX. It's a little easier on the eyes as well. Motor magazine managed to achieve a 0-100kph time of 6.2 seconds but this is thought by some owners to be a little conservative.
There is enough owner feedback available on the Mazda 3 MPS to know that it is winning over a lot of performance car enthusiasts. Some HSV and Subaru owners are trading in their rides for a 3 MPS. Few if any seem to have any gripes and all agree that it is a very well sorted, powerful, tractable and damn fast little package.
It will be interesting to see how the Mazda 3 MPS being fielded by Allan Shephard performs at the Bathurst 12 hour enduro over the coming Easter weekend. If like me you have some lingering doubts about the ability of FWD in a performance car the little Mazda might force a shift in our thinking. I'll post the results on this site when they are known.
Is it a giant killer? Stay tuned.