Mazda3 MPS rumoured for 2016

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A Japanese report has claimed Mazda will produce a hot turbocharged 2.5-litre MPS version of Australia's most popular small car – complete with all-wheel drive for the first time – within just two years.

The surprise news comes from Holiday Auto magazine, which quotes inside sources as saying a turbo version of Mazda's largest four-cylinder SKYACTIV engine will be ready for release in the new Mazda3 MPS hot hatch in 2016.

While that timing would coincide with a midlife makeover for the third-generation Mazda3, launched in Australia early this year, a version of the turbocharged 2.5-litre MPS engine could also see duty in Mazda's next CX-9.

The latter is expected to debut at the Los Angeles motor show in November and – along with the new MX-5, which will also be revealed this year – will mark the renewal of Mazda's entire model range based on SKYACTIV body, chassis and engine technology.

As such, the new CX-9 will be lighter, which should negate the need for V6 power, even in the US. Mazda stopped developing V6 engines in the late 1990s and employs a Ford V6 in the current CX-9, but has indicated the new model will offer either straight-six or turbo-four power and will again eschew a diesel engine.

A 2.5-litre turbo-four could provide the answer not only for the Mazda3 MPS and CX-9 but, potentially, a new-generation Mazda6 MPS.

Mazda does not currently offer any MPS models as it's yet to produce MPS versions of either the Mazda3 or 6. It has consistently said it will not do so until it has completed the replacement of its core volume models, including the Mazda6, 3 and 2, which will be launched here later this year.

Mazda previously hinted at a diesel-powered MPS model, but that space now appears to be filled by this week's announcement of the Mazda3 XD Astina, powered by the Mazda6's 129kW/420Nm 2.2-litre turbo-diesel and available with six-speed manual and automatic transmissions.

On sale from September, the Mazda3 diesel sports hatch is expected to be far more popular than the previous manual-only Mazda3 Diesel, which accounted for less than one per cent of sales.

While the next Mazda3 MPS hot hatch should remain manual-only, according to Holiday Auto it will be fitted with all-wheel drive for the first time. That would make it less of a handful to drive than its front-drive predecessor, which was powered by a 190kW/380Nm 2.3-litre turbo-petrol four shared with the CX-7.

The magazine's source says Mazda has overcome problems associated with adapting turbocharging to the SKYACTIV-G petrol engine's high 14:1 compression. Bench-testing is said to have measured outputs of up to 235kW, but the report claims the production car will produce 300hp or around 220kW.

That's 30kW more than the previous Mazda3 MPS and more than most of its potential front-drive hot-hatch rivals priced around $40,000, including the Volkswagen Golf GTI, Ford Focus ST and Renault Megane RS.

In fact, it would better the outputs of more expensive all-wheel drive sports cars like Subaru's WRX STI, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, Volkswage's Golf R and Audi's S3 – but not the Mercedes-Benz A 45 and CLA 45 AMGs.

"They have denied rumours about the turbo officially, but have continued their research," said the Holiday Auto source. "It was said that the turbo and SKYACTIV with a high compression ratio do't work well together, but it has been already solved."

Mazda Australia spokesman Steve Maciver did't deny the speculation, and said any MPS model would be a welcome addition in Australia.

"What we've said is we're concentrating on our core models – we've got a new 3 and 6, and the 2 and CX-9 are next in line for the SKYACTIV treatment.

"But if any MPS was offered to us of course we'd jump at the opportunity."

Power, handling and braking upgrades for Mazda 3MPS, 6MPS, CX7 and more.

MRT Power Kits for 3MPS Gen1 and also for the 3MPS Gen 2.

Picture courtesy Holiday Auto magazine

Words by Marton Pettendy