Mazda 3 turbo one big step closer to Australia with Spirit Racing hot hatch, MX-5 concepts


Mazda is making a return to the performance-car market with two models – including a Mazda 3 hot hatch that may be powered by a turbocharged engine.

High-performance versions of the Mazda 3 hatch and MX-5 roadster have been unveiled as concepts – under a new Spirit Racing brand – ahead of production versions confirmed for Japanese showrooms at a later date.

And the Mazda 3 may be powered by a 2.5-litre turbocharged engine – finally opening the door to a right-hand-drive successor to the loved Mazda 3 MPS turbo hot hatch that left showrooms in 2013.

A turbo version of the latest Mazda 3 has been available in North America for more than three years but it has been exclusively produced in left-hand drive in a different factory to Australian Mazda 3s.

However it is unclear if either of the Spirit Racing performance vehicles will be available outside of Japan.

“Mazda Japan would like to consider overseas expansion in the future, but there are no plans they can share at this time,” a Mazda Australia spokesperson told Drive.

Few details on the tuned Mazda MX-5 and Mazda 3 – which are concepts for now, but are “currently under development for commercialisation” in showrooms in Japan – are available.

Spirit Racing – which also runs the car maker’s efforts in Japan’s Super Taikyu race series – is Mazda’s first high-performance road-car sub-brand since the MPS (also known as Mazdaspeed) name disappeared in 2013.

Most tantalising for Mazda 3 MPS fans is the Spirit Racing 3 concept, which modifies a Mazda 3 hatch with a deep front splitter, new rear diffuser black side skirts, and a race-car-like ‘swan-neck’ rear spoiler made from carbon fibre.

New 18-inch black six-spoke wheels wrapped in Bridgestone Potenza tyres hide upgraded brakes, with red Brembo calipers and slotted discs.

Mazda Japan says it has “refined the suspension and aerodynamics we have cultivated through our Super Taikyu racing activities, as well as the interior and exterior appearance to match these developments.”

Inside, suede is used to wrap the steering wheel, gear selector and dashboard, and there are Recaro sports bucket seats with racing harnesses that make the rear seats inaccessible.

Information provided by Mazda Japan – via Mazda Australia – has said the company is “considering installing a 2.5-litre turbocharged gasoline engine” in the Spirit Racing 3.

However it is said to be a “new engine” not related to the 2.5-litre unit available in the Mazda 3 in any market, which in turbo and non-turbo guises is known as the ‘PY’ series.

Meanwhile, the MX-5-based concept – the Spirit Racing RS – adds a front splitter, side skirts, a sportier rear diffuser with a single exhaust tip, and similar six-spoke wheels (now 17-inch), Brembo brake calipers, and Bridgestone Potenza RE71RS track-day tyres to the Mazda 3 concept.

Much of the interior is again trimmed in suede (or Alcantara), and there are different Recaro bucket seats with harnesses.

Both vehicles are finished in a grey paint scheme with black stripes and decals, red accents, and Spirit Racing badges on the bumpers and wheels.

The MX-5 Spirit Racing RS is said to be powered by the familiar 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, which in Japan is not available in the soft-top – and exclusive to the RF.

Mazda Japan says it “aims” to match the 147kW power output of Mazda’s Super Taikyu ST-Q race car in the road version, up from 135kW in the regular 2.0-litre MX-5.

More details on the new Mazda Spirit Racing road cars are due closer to their production debuts.

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Alex Misoyannis

Alex Misoyannis has been writing about cars since 2017, when he started his own website, Redline. He contributed for Drive in 2018, before joining CarAdvice in 2019, becoming a regular contributing journalist within the news team in 2020.

Cars have played a central role throughout Alex’s life, from flicking through car magazines at a young age, to growing up around performance vehicles in a car-loving family.

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