Driven: BBR Mazda 3 MPS

Driven: BBR Mazda 3 MPS

Renowned tuning specialists BBR have been busy with the Mazda 3 MPS – turning this forgotten hot hatch into a performance bargain

Text: Richard Meaden / Photos: Adam Duckworth

January 2012

What is it?

With its frumpy looks and anodyne image the Mazda 3 MPS has always been an easily overlooked hot hatch. But now Brackley-based BBR has transformed the bland five-door into a genuinely quick and capable Focus RS-chaser.

Technical highlights?

Parting with £549 buys you BBR’s Stage One custom remap, which boosts power from the 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbocharged motor from 256bhp to 290bhp, with a very healthy 330lb ft of torque. Stage Two adds high-flow inlet and exhaust systems and an uprated fuel pump, jumping the figures to 318bhp and 370lb ft. Serious gains for £2500 – including fitting. If you’re really serious then BBR’s Stage Three upgrade will take the MPS to 350bhp – and beyond – but that needs considerably more work (and cash).

What’s it like to drive?

On the evidence of a morning bombing around the lanes and A-roads of rural Buckinghamshire, BBR’s creation is fierce, fun and surprisingly sweet. There’s some turbo lag, but nothing silly, and a swell of mid-range torque that really throws you down the road.

BBR has also developed some suspension upgrades to compliment the increased performance. The basic kit is a set of BBR performance springs (£165 plus fitting), which are firmer and slightly lower. They can be used with the standard dampers – as on this car – or with a set of BBR-spec Koni adjustable dampers for an additional £795 plus fitting.

The MPS’s trump card is its standard-fit mechanical limited-slip differential, which ensures all that torque is matched by strong traction and consistent handling. There is some torque steer, but no more than a Focus RS despite lacking of the Ford’s trick RevoKnuckle front suspension. Only light steering lets the side down.

How does it compare?

On a bang-per-buck basis, a BBR-tuned 3 MPS has to be one of the all-time performance bargains. With used prices lurking around £8k for pre-facelift cars and £12k for later cars such as this, you could create a 320bhp mega-hatch for well under half the price of a new rival.

evo RATING

[+] Transformation of performance and handling. Great bang-per-buck
[-] Need to look beyond looks. Sub-par steering.

evo SPECIFICATIONS

Engine: 2261cc four-cylinder petrol, turbocharged
Max power: 318bhp @ 6580rpm
Max torque:
370lb ft @ 3900rpm
0 – 60mph: 5.9 secs (estimate)
Top speed:160mph (estimate)
Price: See text