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The recent reveal of the long-awaited Toyota GR Corolla means most of the popular small cars now have a hot-hatch alternative. Volkswagen Golf? Check. Hyundai i30? Check. Honda Civic? Coming soon.
The obvious missing model is the Mazda3. The Japanese brand has a loyal following in the small-car market but it has seemingly given up on the idea of a hot hatch. The introduction of the Mazda3 Turbo in 2020 gave fans a glimmer of hope but so far that remains one of the few ‘off-limits’ models for Mazda Australia.
But it wasn’t always the case, between 2006 and 2013 the Mazda3 MPS was a genuine hot hatch rival to the likes of the Volkswagen Golf GTI, Subaru WRX and more - at least in terms of performance, if not sales. The final MPS, introduced in 2009, was packing a 190kW/380Nm punch from its 2.3-litre direct-injection four-cylinder turbo engine, which was more than competitive against the Golf GTI of the same era (which made only 155kW/280Nm).
But it seems it was a case of the right car at the wrong time, because back in 2009 Mazda had not yet established itself as the main rival to Toyota. It was definitely popular and on the rise, but it was still very much trying to compete with Toyota, Holden and Ford on the same mainstream level and hadn’t yet begun its push into its successful ‘semi-premium’ brand position.
This was a period in its history when Mazda was fully embracing its ‘zoom-zoom’ marketing catchphrase, with the 3 MPS selling alongside the 6 MPS, RX-8 and MX-5 - making it a four-pronged sports car line-up.
These days Mazda has not only established itself as the number two brand in the country, it’s also positioned itself in the space between mainstream and luxury brands. So in many ways, now would make an ideal time for Mazda to once again return to the hot hatch market, but not with a direct successor to the MPS.
It was more of a Golf GTI rival - raw, edgy and value-led - when what Mazda needs now is a more polished and premium hot hatch. Something more inline with the Golf R or a better-value alternative to the likes of the Audi S3, BMW M135i and Mercedes-AMG A35.
The Mazda3 Turbo makes a highly respectable 186kW/434Nm and is paired to an all-wheel-drive system (which is good news for anyone who remembers the torque-steer in the MPS) and a six-speed automatic transmission. While not enough to worry the established players, it has the makings of a competitive hot-hatch package.
Or at the very least, introducing the Turbo as a long-awaited successor to the MPS would give the Mazda3 a new range-topping model that would fit Mazda’s more premium image these days.
Because sadly, at least for those who remember it fondly, the Mazda3 MPS represents a period when Mazda really embraced its ‘zoom-zoom’ slogan but a time that seemingly is unlikely to come again any time soon.