Mazda3 MPS Rear View

As befits a sporty 'super-hatch', the Mazda3 MPS' lowered suspension, comprising MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link set-up at the rear, has higher spring rates and anti-roll bars, while performance dampers mean a flatter ride with less roll, through fast corners. The distribution of torque has also been tweaked and, with the help of a limited slip differential, the aim is to minimise torque steer.

However, it could be said that the ride is a little too firm. It is all well and good if you are enjoying some enthusiastic driving through country lanes but it can be quite tiresome under normal circumstances, especially on long journeys or where the harsh winter has left an abundance of potholes and surface cracks in the road. The low-profile tyres, wrapped around the 18-inch alloy wheels, look good but they do contribute to the firm ride, so much so that my two rear passengers complained of feeling slightly queasy.

What they didn't complain about was the amount of legroom in the Mazda3 MPS, which is adequate, with a small amount of organisation. In fact the two adults and a baby seat had just enough room, even if it was a little cosy.

But it is the front of the cabin where it all happens - and there is a lot going on. The wrap-around centre console and fascia favours the driver, as expected, and the Mazda3 MPS is so well equipped that there is no need for any options. For a start, there are electric windows front and rear, dual-zone climate control and a keyless stop/start button. While in between the main instrument dials is a turbo-boost gauge, in the form of a digital display with red graphics. This matches the illumination of the cowled dials and the new MID or Multi-Information Display.

This section is set back into the top of the dashboard at eye level and bids you welcome with the words 'zoom-zoom' and 'bye-bye' when the engine is switched off. Alongside the MID is the smallest satellite-navigation screen I have ever seen - even smaller than most portable guidance devices. This compact system has been developed especially for the Mazda3 MPS and uses a high-resolution, 11cm, full-colour screen and has secondary controls on the steering wheel, which are very easy to use.

On the left-hand side of the steering wheel are the auxiliary audio controls for the BOSE surround-sound system, which comes with no less than 10 speakers and a 6-CD autochanger. Bluetooth is also a standard feature allowing MP3 playback as well as telephone functionality.

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