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Mazda 2 extremely good fun

The Mazda2 concept reworks the popular little car.

As previewed here last month, the three-door version of the critically acclaimed and popularly successful hatch should arrive here in the second half of the year. Details have yet to be confirmed but it would likely slide in under the $16,500 Neo and feature commensurate specification.

Meanwhile, the appearance at the Melbourne motor show of the latest Mazda Motorsport Australia “Extreme” car has shown the brand has not lost its much-vaunted “zoom, zoom, zoom”. At least its Australian operatives haven't.

The dollar-driven decision by the Hiroshima marque not to build a second generation of the much-praised Mazda6 MPS has caused much dismay here. It has also created the absurd situation whereby the so-called Mazda Performance Series consists of one model, the MPS 3. But before you can say “Mazda Performance Singular”, Mazda Australia has whipped up the Mazda2 Extreme, the fourth in a line of 'roided up iterants from the RX-8 (2004), first generation Mazda2 Extreme (2005) and the Mazda3 MPS (2007).

While the engine is under development, the goal is to increase performance by at least 20 per cent. It will be driven through the front wheels via the standard car's five speed manual transmission.

The suspension, though, has been set upon by tuner Murray Coote with a view to elaborating the 2's highly regarded tarmac manners to deal with dirt road competition.

The uber 2 comes with sports-tuned springs and shock absorbers teamed with purpose-built 15-inch Bridgestone Potenza rally tyres and lightweight alloys. Within, there's a roll cage, Sabelt race seats each equipped with five-point safety harness, Momo steering wheel and hydraulic handbrake.

While a Mazda Australia spokeswoman says there are no plans for an SP or Extreme version of the Mazda6, it's to be hoped that the same crew who conjured the turbo-charged MX-5 SP and a breathtakingly blown RX-8 are let loose on the excellent though modestly-powered mid-sizer. While only a fortunate few were granted the opportunity to drive the Allan Horsley-contrived RX-8 turbo, 200 will be able to buy the limited edition with the standard rotary engine that's also on show in Melbourne.

At $55,840, the RX-8 Rotary Engine 40th Anniversary features a leather and Alcantara interior, leather-wrapped steering wheel, gear shifter and handbrake handle, and special 40th Anniversary badging.

It gets Bilstein shock absorbers, urethane, foam-filled front suspension cross member, high-gloss 18-inch alloys, floating rear spoiler, sunroof and blue reflector fog-lamps. The Hakaze Concept is also on show. The “compact cross-over coupe with roadster feel” is the latest of Mazda's Nagare concepts, influenced by the natural elements. Or something like that.