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The Mercury Cars Guide : February 13th 2010
6--- Classifieds 62 300 400 • carsguide.com.au Saturday, February 13, 2010 Aggression confined to its looks Mazda softens its hyperactive hatch, the MPS. Neil Dowling reports PITBULL: The Mazda MPS still looks ferocious but really is more laid-back. T HE difference between a pitbull and a Mazda MPS is one is a tyre-chewing ani- mal that gnaws at bitumen, corners and barks aggressively when stirred. The other is a dog. Well, that was the case with the first Mazda MPS -- the turbocharged Mazda3 hatch that in 2006 put its psychotic attitude through the front wheels for a lot of interesting corner- ing results. That was the first thing to change in the latest edition. The latest MPS shows more bulk and shouts its performance credentials through a letterbox-slot bonnet that, like the Subaru WRX, showcases its turbo- charger and intercooler-equipped en- gine bay. Though visually more aggressive than the previous MPS, its looks don't transfer precisely on to the specifi- cation sheet. It has the same 190kW/ 380Nm mumbo. But the subtle way in which all this is delivered to the road is different. The torque curve has been flattened so there's no lump where suddenly the engine characteristics dump 380Nm into the driven front wheels. Usually, to the driver's immense concern, this occurred halfway through a bend in the road and was sufficient to jerk the steering wheel wildly to one side. Sometimes with damaging results. Without the hot-cold delivery, the new MPS tracks its way through the torque and power curves with dom- esticated predictability. That makes it a much easier car to drive and one, in turn, that can be maximised for fun without terrorising all aboard. The second way Mazda softened the blow was to balance the two drive- shafts, effectively reducing torque steer. Handling is very good, with a steering ratio that is quick and a flat stance. Understeer can be provoked but its limits are quite high and, for most drivers, fear and a sense of self- preservation may precede the hand- ling changes. Improvements have been made to the six-speed manual gearbox so that every shift is positive yet light. Snicking through the cogs is a pleasure and even skipping gears is no problem. The MPS is closer in its confident and more laid-back character to the Ford Focus XR5. Added to its almost pleasant ride comfort, it creates a city- friendly hatch that is fun and frugal. For even with that turbocharged 2.3-litre engine up front, the manual- only MPS can be driven with some verve without needing a trailing fuel tanker. Good low-end torque should mean no stalling off the mark and the progression of torque makes the claimed 6.1 second sprint time not only plausible but free of frenetics. It drank at 9.7 litres/100km on test, which is remarkable given it lived mainly in the suburbs. The tall sixth gear will get that consumption right down for country owners. The MPS enjoys a rural outing though the space-saver spare wheel is a warning not to travel too far from the city and the low-profile tyres can be very noisy on coarse-chip bitumen roads. The noise issue appears to be worse for back-seat occupants. All the basics of the Mazda3 are there, from the split and fold-down rear seats to the cabin room for four adults. Good news for buyers keen on features for the Luxury version of the MPS -- as tested here -- has the full suite of goodies. The Bose 10-speaker audio is a highlight, as is the part- leather and cloth sports seats. The Luxury isn't cheap at $43,290, and for those who don't want to cross the $40,000 threshold, there's the slightly less equipped MPS version for $39,690. Plus onroad costs. This one is much better than its predecessor. I'd happily put a collar around one and keep it in my garage. † Free rego, free CTP and free stamp duty offer only available on Octavia 2.0 TDI and Octavia 1.8 TSI Liftbacks and Wagons purchased and delivered from a koda Dealer between 12th December 2009 and 28th February 2010. * Bluetooth phone kit not available on 6sp manual RS; Ski & Luggage Box will replace it. **Offer available on koda vehicles purchased and delivered from a koda Dealer between 12th December 2009 and 28th February 2010 while stocks last. Accessory packages and options vary for each vehicle. Visit skoda.com.au for full range of accessories. SKOD0370_2/HM Euro Central koda, 118 Argyle Street, Hobart. Ph: (03) 6234 0200 DL: 73130 OVER $2,000 OF FREE ACCESSORIES ON EVERY KODA VEHICLE Visit skoda.com.au to see the full range of accessory packages available. PLUS •FREE Rego • FREE Stamp Duty • FREE CTP on every Octavia 2.0 TDI and Octavia 1.8 TSI Liftback & Wagon.† Race in to your local Dealer and get over $2,000 worth of free accessories on every koda model, including a selection of bike, surfboard and ski carriers, Bluetooth phone kits* , a Media Device Interface to control your music player via the touch-screen display, and a whole lot more** . Every koda also comes with Volkswagen Group technology under the bonnet, six airbags and ESP (including ABS, EBD and ASR) for safety, a 3-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, and a host of simply clever features throughout. Yo u r local koda Partner:
February 6th 2010
February 20th 2010