But mooted “responsible and friendly” hot hatch might not make it to Europe
Mazda is turning its attention to a hot hatch version of the new Mazda 3, with hopes it could roll into dealerships as soon as 2021 – although it might not come to Europe. During the launch of the fourth-generation small car in Australia, visiting programme manager Kota Beppu said he wants a “hyper” version of the hatchback.
“I’m a car guy, so I want to drive a high-performance Mazda 3… I’ll do my best,” he said. Despite claiming such a project had not yet been signed off, insiders suggest that it is a formality.
Beppu said there was keen interest from “most developed countries”, including the US, Japan and Australia.
Various drivetrain options have been discussed, but it would be likely to adopt the turbocharged 2.5-litre engine from larger Mazdas, shunning a hot hybrid.
“Generally speaking, we would use the motor to get more performance,” Beppu said. With 250bhp, the 2.5’s output falls short of the most powerful hot hatches, but 310lb ft of torque brings its own challenges.
“Mazda 3 is a light vehicle, so if there is too much power and we keep it as front-wheel drive, there is the torque steer phenomenon happening,” Beppu said, nominating the all-wheel-drive system that’s already developed for the new torsion-beam rear end as an obvious solution.
Beppu doesn’t see any high-performance Mazda 3 as a track-focused machine, instead suggesting the emphasis would be on comfort and everyday road use.
“It needs to be responsible and friendly – more friendly than a Golf GTI,” he said, before adding: “It should be fast.” Beppu refers to such a car as a “hyper” Mazda 3 rather than a hot hatch. It remains unclear if the brand will therefore use the MPS or Mazda-speed branding for such a model.
“What I’m thinking about is a difficult car to build… [a car with] Mazda performance, true to Mazda,” he said. But it is CO2 that is one of the biggest challenges for a hot 3, something that could challenge its European viability. The 2.5-litre engine is not currently sold in the region, and may not meet the efficiency requirements to do so.
There is clear interest from the crucial US market, however, which has its own R&D centre in Los Angeles and has reportedly created a proof-of-concept machine under the radar of the brand’s Hiroshima head office. Mazda last sold a hot 3 with the second-generation car in 2013, under the MPS tag in Europe and badged as a Mazdaspeed elsewhere.
Last performance Mazda 3 dates back to 2013 model. A turbo 2.5-litre non-hybrid would be a hot engine choice.