The Mazda 3 MPS has been updated to keep it looking fresh compared with hot hatch rivals such as the new Ford Focus ST and Renault Megane Renaultsport 265 Cup. This is our first test of the updated model.
Changes include new 18-inch alloy wheels, and black detailing on the door mirrors, roof spoiler and rear bumper. The MPS retains its aggressive bonnet scoop and large rear wing.
The 256bhp 2.3-litre petrol engine which fires the MPS from 0-62mph in just 6.1 seconds is also retained.
What's the 2013 Mazda 3 MPS like to drive?
There have been no mechanical tweaks, so the updated Mazda 3 MPS feels the same as the car it replaces.
Updated Mazda 3 MPS has cosmetic changes only, with new alloy wheels and black exterior trim
The turbocharged engine needs a surprising amount of persuasion to get going, and peak pulling power doesn't kick in until 3000rpm. Keep the revs high and the MPS is devastatingly quick.
You'll need to keep a firm grip on the steering wheel during hard acceleration, or you're likely to get armfuls of unruly torque steer. It's a shame, because otherwise the handling is pretty good; there's lots of grip and strong body control.
The strange thing is the MPS sounds more entertaining at low speed than it does as the pace quickens. Drive the MPS slowly and the exhaust pops and burbles when you change gear, but up the ante and the engine is muted and restrained.
What's the 2013 Mazda 3 MPS like inside?
The MPS's in-your-face looks don't transfer to the cabin. There are the same large expanses of grey plastic that you get in the standard 3 hatchback, and only a few subtle hints that you're in the performance model. There are red dials and red trim on the doors and seats, but little else.
Still, the good thing about the MPS being similar to other Mazda 3 models is that you get the same roomy cabin and five-door practicality.
Should I buy one?
The Mazda 3 MPS is keenly priced, starting at 23,995. That's less than rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Renault Megane Renaultsport, which both offer similar power. However, so does the Ford Focus ST, and that costs from just 21,995.
There's no denying that the MPS is entertaining, but its not as polished or as well-rounded as any of these key rivals.
What Car? says