Mazda3 hot hatch here by 2021?
Mazda is turning its attention to a hot hatch version of the just-released Mazda3 with hopes it could roll into dealerships as soon as 2021.
Fresh from launching the fourth-generation small car in Australia, the visiting program manager Kota Beppu says he wants a “hyper” version of the popular hatchback. And that’s despite Mazda telling motoring writers last year, before the new Mazda3 launched, that there’d be no hot hatch version…
“I’m a car guy, so I myself want to drive a high-performance Mazda3,” he said. “Although I’m not able to promise you that I will deliver, I’ll do my best!”
Beppu said there was keen interest from “most developed countries”, including the US, Japan and Australia. While Beppu suggested various drivetrain configurations had been discussed, it is the turbocharged 2.5-litre engine from the Mazda CX-5, CX-9, Mazda6 and Japan-spec CX-8 that is shaping up to be the most likely candidate.
“Generally speaking we would use the motor to get more performance,” he said in shunning electric motors to boost performance for a car that would take on the likes of the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Hyundai i30 N.
With 170kW the 2.5 turbo falls short of the power outputs of some hot hatches, but it makes up for it with a towering 420Nm of torque, something Beppu says creates its own challenges.
“Mazda3 is a light vehicle, so if there is too much power onto a lightweight vehicle … and we keep it as front-wheel drive there is the torque steer phenomenon happening.
“We can avoid the problem by having an all-wheel drive system. Or maybe we can come up with other alternatives to solve that problem.”
The Mazda3’s rear torsion beam suspension has already been engineered to accept an all-wheel drive system.
However, Beppu doesn’t see any high performance Mazda3 as a track-focused tearaway, instead suggesting it would be more comfortable and road-biased. “It needs to be responsible and friendly to human beings … more friendly to human beings than a Golf GTI,” he said, adding that “it should be fast”.
He refers to such a car as a “hyper” Mazda3 rather than a hot hatch. “What I’m thinking about is a really difficult car to build … [a car with] really Mazda performance … true to Mazda.”
But there are challenges ahead, Beppu nominating more stringent emissions standards and environmental expectations that are reshaping the car industry. He also says the numbers must add up to take the project to the next level, something some insiders suggest is a question of when rather than if.
“We need to get enough earnings out of this standard Mazda3 version and then we can put the money into development of a hyper version.”
Mazda Australia executives said they would have their hands high in the air for a 3 hot hatch.
“At this stage it hasn’t been offered to us and we’re not aware of any official program,” said marketing director Alastair Doak. “If it was available to us, we would love to have a higher-performance version of Mazda3.
“We know there is a market for it and we would love to add it to the range.”
While Beppu says he is not aware of any hyper Mazda3 test mule, insiders have suggested American engineers could have created a proof-of-concept machine under the radar of the brand’s Hiroshima head office.