PistonHeads - December '11
DRIVEN: BBR MAZDA 3 MPS 320
Is 320hp too hot for a Mazda hatch to handle?
We loved BBR’s update of its original MX-5 turbo conversion when we sampled it recently, and now the Brackley-based tuning company has released a series of modifications for the Mazda 3 MPS (and the 6 MPS).
The turbocharged five-door has always existed on the fringes of the hot hatch market, but its trump card is the brawny 2.3-litre, direct-injection four pot. In standard form it produces 256bhp, but with an extra 300cc over the majority of the competition, and DFI, the potential is clearly there for more power.
The power of three
BBR offers the conversion in three stages. The first level simply consists of a remap, offering more peak power and torque, improved mid-range pull and, it’s claimed, better cruising fuel consumption (as the engine runs leaner). For your £549 you get 290bhp and 330lb ft, which should be enough to grab the attention of any Focus RS driver. The second-stage conversion features a high-flow fuel pump, replacement air filter, stronger turbo inlet hoses capable of withstanding more pressure, and a new exhaust down pipe, pre-cat and cat – as well as the remap. Thus configured, the MPS generates 320bhp at 6,580rpm and 370lb ft at 3,800rpm, according to BBR’s figures. Nearly all of that torque is available from as low as 3,100rpm.
Far more serious modifications take place if you move to stage three. The standard top-mount intercooler is replaced with a front-mounted item, and you can choose to either have BBR rebuild the standard turbo with upgraded components, or if you’re looking to go beyond 350bhp, they’ll fit a Garret hybrid GT28, which sacrifices some lower-down response for 400bhp.
It’s a stage two car we’re driving, the engine zesty and the raw power available making it indecently quick for a hot hatch. There’s now a simply colossal spread of torque: for example, you can leave a 30mph zone in fourth gear at around 2,500rpm, summon full throttle, and the MPS will surge forward without a pause, the boost gauge hitting maximum almost instantly and one long seamless, torrent of acceleration then following.
There’s a louder drone from the exhaust (although not an uncomfortable one, and it subsides under partial load) and an unusual sound from the turbo, a bit like someone turning a gas hob on.
Nevertheless, the bumpy, scarred lanes around Silverstone expose just how hard the car has to work to contain 370lb ft, despite the standard LSD. Admittedly, the cold, greasy surface of today doesn’t help matters, but the torque steer requires a firm grip on the wheel.
Talking of the chassis, this car features BBR’s own shorter springs (with softer rates than standard) but retains the standard MPS dampers. The additional elasticity to the springing is largely a good thing, and has calmed the ride quality somewhat. The subtle changes to the geometry mean that the car turns in more keenly than before too, but even so it would be good to try a car with BBR’s adjustable Koni option: a bit more damping control over the body, particularly with the B-road pace of the car, would be worthwhile.
So the 3 MPS is still not without its flaws, but it’s hard to argue with the performance per pound on offer here.
BBR Mazda 3 MPS
Engine: 2.3-litre 4-cyl, turbo, direct-injection
Power (hp): 320 at 6,580rpm
Torque (lb ft): 370 at 3,900-4,300rpm
Top speed: na
MPG: er… na
CO2: three guesses…
Price: £1,645 (Stage 2) + £395 (fitting). BBR Springs £165 + £300 (fitting inc full geometry set up)