9 Things You Need To Know Before Buying A Mazda 3 MPS

Mazda’s hot hatch of the late 2000s is cheap to buy, stupidly quick, reliable and easy to tune. Here’s what you need to know before buying one
9 Things You Need To Know Before Buying A Mazda 3 MPS

Thanks to it having no real history to draw on, a complete lack of any kind of successor and a lukewarm reception from the press, the Mazda 3 MPS (or Mazdaspeed 3) is a largely forgotten hot hatch. But, does it deserve a little more attention?

We caught up with Aydan Thomas, who kindly let us drive his 2011 example, and asked him about his ownership experience. After that, we spoke to Neil Mckay of Mazda tuning specialists BBR GTI, to find out exactly what you need to look out for when buying one of these things, and what to modify.

Here’s what we learned:

1. It doesn’t torque steer as much as you’d expect

9 Things You Need To Know Before Buying A Mazda 3 MPS

Based on contemporary reviews of Mazda’s last hot hatch, I was led to believe it’d be an unruly, torque-steering beast that would feel determined to wrench my arms out of their sockets. The reality however is a little different. Yes, you do get some pull from the steering, but it’s easy to tame, and in line with a lot of more recent powerful hot hatches.

Aydan agrees. “I find it manageable, I was quite surprised,” he notes. And even if you don’t have much experience with powerful front-wheel drive cars: “You’re going to get used to it quite quickly,” he concludes.

2. It can be thirsty

9 Things You Need To Know Before Buying A Mazda 3 MPS

As with a lot of inline-four turbocharged cars, there’s quite a big difference in fuel economy when you’re on a gentle motorway, and when you’re giving it a damn good spanking. Aydan notes that he can do 80 miles with the fuel range barely dropping, but, “If I put my foot down, I do 8mpg. It’s a thirsty car!” It’ll do 29mpg on the combined cycle according to the official figure, and emit 224g/km of CO2.

3. The interior feels cheap

9 Things You Need To Know Before Buying A Mazda 3 MPS

There’s no escaping it: the Mazda 3 MPS isn’t all that nice inside. A lot of the plastics feel low rent, the design is just a bit meh, and other than a smattering of fake carbonfibre bits, there isn’t much in there to tell you that this is a more special car than your average 3 hatch.

For Aydan, it’s his least favourite part of the car. “It’s a great car to drive but it’s not like being in a German car,” he says, adding, “It has all the gadgets you’d want, but if you’ve been in other hatchbacks like GTIs, you do think you’re in something inferior.”

4. Excessive tuning can bend the con-rods

9 Things You Need To Know Before Buying A Mazda 3 MPS

If you’ve decided you definitely want a 3 MPS, what’s the number one thing to look out for? Neil warns to be “Careful of tuned cars, particularly if not from a reputable business”. If someone’s been careless, it could end up being costly, as “it’s very easy to bend the con rods due to the long stroke,” we’re told.

5. Unlocking more power is very easy

9 Things You Need To Know Before Buying A Mazda 3 MPS

However, don’t let the previous point put you off tuning, as it’s amazingly easy to safely unlock more power. A simple Stage 1 remap will get you to 300bhp, and more power can be extracted by taking that to Stage 2, which involves modifying the intake - as it’s particularly restrictive from the airbox to the turbocharger - and changing the downpipes.

After that, you’ll be limited by the stock fuel pump, so that will need to go. The MPS “has a cam-driven high pressure fuel pump and it can only flow a certain amount of fuel at lower revs,” Neil explains.

Upgrade that, and you can either opt for a hybrid turbocharger which involves installing a larger compressor wheel and turbine wheel within the stock housing. That’ll give your MPS 350bhp, or if you’d prefer, a Garrett ball bearing turbo will be good for 380bhp. This is as far as you should push it on stock internals.

While you’re at it, you may want to beef up the suspension with aftermarket springs and dampers, although the standard parts in Aydan’s car still seemed to be up to the task when we drove it.

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Even if you don’t modify the MPS, you should find it plenty fast. The 256bhp offered up by the 2.3-litre turbo four-banger seemed absurd at the time of its launch, and it’s still a healthy output 11 years on - that’s more than you get from a modern VW Golf GTI Performance Pack for instance. Stepping straight from a 271bhp Hyundai i30 N and into Aydan’s car, the straight-line performance still felt suitably dramatic. Plus, it makes the 3 MPS seem like even more of a bargain - you’re getting the current hot hatch bang for a fraction of the buck.

It’s laggier than newer hot hatches, granted, but once it’s on boost, you’d better watch out. “It’s quicker than you think. You do keep up with the S3s, the Golf Rs if you drive it right,” Aydan says. He also mentioned hammering it down an airfield, having to back off with it still pulling at 162mph due to a lack of room. Impressive.

7. Watch out for timing chain rattle

9 Things You Need To Know Before Buying A Mazda 3 MPS

The timing chain on the 2.3 will need changing after around 60,000 miles. You’ll be able to tell when it’s on the way out, as you’ll hear a rattling noise on the driver’s side (on right-hand drive cars) of the engine.

Changing it is “quite a labour-intensive and expensive job parts wise,” Neil says, so you’ll need to budget about £1200 to fix that.

Non-timing change services are - mercifully - significantly cheaper. The interval is 9000 miles.

8. Turbo failures are easy to avoid

Aftermarket turbos are available from BBR GTI and others, should the worst happen
Aftermarket turbos are available from BBR GTI and others, should the worst…

Another common issue with the 3 MPS is turbocharger failure, although Neil reckons around 90 per cent of the blown turbos he sees are due to oil contamination. “Provided it has a clean oil supply, it’s quite reliable,” he says. Look after it, and it should last.

9. You probably want a post-facelift model

9 Things You Need To Know Before Buying A Mazda 3 MPS

Prices for the early models start under £4000, but you probably want to budget over £6000 to bag a post-facelift car. Mechanically there’s little difference, but the newer cars (arguably) look better, are less prone to rust and are cheaper to tax: they’re £315 a year, as opposed to £540.

Whichever 3 MPS you buy, you’ll be getting a serious amount of car for the money.



I think these are easily on of the coolest hatches if the 00s. Even if it did look like a wonton with wheels…

07/08/2018 - 10:33 |
104 | 0

True, another hidden gem is the colt czt turbo, that with a stage 1 remap does 200bhp, right in current hot hatch territory

07/08/2018 - 17:04 |
4 | 0
  1. Generally don’t buy one.
07/08/2018 - 10:42 |
4 | 32

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Whats wrong with it?

07/08/2018 - 17:40 |
0 | 0
Matias Manninen
  1. They rust. Particularly around the arches. Although not sure about the mps, but the base Mazda 3s rust like crazy. Or atleast the ones i’ve seen here in finland. Winter and road salt do most likely have a part in the rusting.
07/08/2018 - 10:43 |
30 | 0

The rust is a problem in every mazda model

07/08/2018 - 11:01 |
14 | 0

The 2007 and newer cars dont rust as much as pre-2007 from my experience

07/08/2018 - 12:31 |
22 | 0

Good point, we meant to include that! Have edited to include. As far as we’re aware it’s the pre-facelift cars that are more liable to rust.

07/08/2018 - 18:45 |
4 | 0

I have to agree with first gen 3s. Mine started to rust so heavily that I had to screw the sideskirts.

07/12/2018 - 11:29 |
2 | 0
Blade noir

I’d love to own a more performance edition of the current car I own - ‘11 Mazda 3 Neo

07/08/2018 - 10:57 |
0 | 0
David 27

suprisingly they hold their prices well, over here they start at 8k for okay examples, and 10k+ for good cared ones

07/08/2018 - 11:00 |
0 | 0
Sonia Rizzo 🚘

I really like these cars… They really look good and have personality 👌

P.S. Please detail that engine bay… Please…

07/08/2018 - 11:03 |
10 | 0

better than this

id get the Mazda 6 MPS
known to be a lot more reliable
AWD and 300hp
and one of the best looking sedans of the 2000s

all while being around the same price

07/08/2018 - 12:33 |
26 | 2

woah didn’t know that they’re awd, but awd is more boring usually than 2-wheel drive tho. it needs a lot of power and a proper awd system

07/08/2018 - 12:50 |
2 | 0

Best looking sedans? I always found it ugly, especially the tail lights.

07/08/2018 - 13:12 |
2 | 0

Reliability is the same since its the same engine, and they made the same 263HP that the speed 3s made. The only real difference is its AWD. Btw the rear diffs are known to be quite weak as well

07/08/2018 - 14:34 |
8 | 0

They are slower and the AWD is a hoax.
It is 80/20 distributed and after test driving both models I would never take the driver seat in a 6 MPS again. It feels slow and almost boring to drive.

07/08/2018 - 18:59 |
2 | 0

Reliable? It’s the same engine my dude? And the same power from stock as the 3?

07/08/2018 - 23:09 |
2 | 0
Mazda Fanatic

Quick note, with anything more than a simple intake, catback and maybe a stage 1 tune you’ll need the upgraded fuel pump internals. Some cars can barely even handle the intake with need for an upgrade. Although this seems to be more of a problem for the 2nd gen. The general consensus is that with anything more than an intake and exhaust you should get the fuel pump internals.

Mine currently has a magnaflow catback, K&N short ram intake, torque solution short shift plate, CPE 3.25” top mount intercooler, turbosmart blow-off valve,and a Cobb accessport v3 with a stage 1 93 octane tune.

over the winter I’ll be getting the downpipe, fuel pump internals, turbo inlet pipe and a few other little bits so that I can run on the stage 3 93 octane tune. this should put me around 280-300whp with roughly 330tq. after that it will get a custom tune for and extra 20whp

07/08/2018 - 12:34 |
12 | 0

Beautiful spec

07/09/2018 - 01:36 |
0 | 0
Muaz Yusof

might be out of topic but does the automotive misfits series on youtube still runs?

07/08/2018 - 14:06 |
0 | 0
Derek Steele

Or, you could get a first generation Infiniti G35 Sedan, which has more power and is a better tuner car, for $3,000-$5,000

07/08/2018 - 14:43 |
0 | 4

Youll get more out of the speed3 with basic bolt ons and its more practical

07/08/2018 - 22:25 |
2 | 0

but it has a cramped engine bay

07/09/2018 - 04:01 |
0 | 0

G35 being a better tuner car is the most ridiculous thing I’ve read today! I don’t own either cars, but tuning potential of the mps far outweighs the lack of tuning potential of that 3.5 v6 NA lump! You’d struggle to extract 20 bhp with 1k whereas a simple tune and downpipe gets 50bhp from an mps. Sort your head out and stop making ridiculously biased non factual comments please

01/15/2020 - 01:43 |
4 | 0



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