Might we see a hot-hatch version of the new, fourth-generation Mazda3? Well, there's no word whether Mazda will revive its performance-oriented Mazdaspeed subbrand, but while launching the new model in Australia, program manager Kota Beppu told UK outlet Autocar that he's going to do his best to offer a hotter version of Mazda's hatchback.
He indicated that Mazda is unlikely to add a hybrid system to boost performance, but rather drop in the turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder currently powering the Mazda6 sedan and CX-9 crossover. That engine puts out 247 horsepower, a bit less than current hot hatches, but with 310 lb-ft of torque, it should launch the Mazda3 quickly. That much torque, however, might create front-wheel-drive torque steer. Beppu said to deal with that potential problem, the performance 3 would likely have the all-wheel-drive system Mazda has already developed for the 3.
While a performance Mazda3 has not been greenlighted, Autocar's sources say that is only a formality. Reportedly, Mazda's California R&D facility has already fabricated a proof-of-concept.
“I’m a car guy, so I myself want to drive a high-performance Mazda3… I’ll do my best,” Beppu said.
For a change, it may be European customers that lose out on a hot car. Beppu mentioned that there was strong interest from the United States, Japan, and Australia, but he did not reference Europe. Because of CO2 emissions and fuel economy standards, Mazda does not sell the 2.5-liter turbo-four engine in Europe, which may explain Beppu's omission.
Don't expect a track special, though. Beppu wants it to be “hyper” and “fast,” but still comfortable for daily driver use. “It needs to be responsible and friendly… more friendly than a Golf GTI,” he said, calling it a “hyper” Mazda3, instead of a “hot hatch.”
There is no word yet on when the hotter 3 will arrive or how much it will cost.