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Mazda exec hints at on-again, off-again high-performance Mazda3

It would get turbo power and all-wheel drive.

In late 2018, Mazda ruled out turning the new 2020 Mazda3 into a MazdaSpeed-badged hot hatch. The firm explained it considered itself too small to chase performance. Fast forward to 2019 and it is singing a different tune. One of its executives admitted he's pushing hard for a hot-rodded Mazda3.

"I'm a car guy, so I myself want to drive a high-performance Mazda3... I'll do my best," said Kota Beppu, the Mazda3's program manager, in an interview with British magazine Autocar.

Beppu hinted he wants to boost the 3's performance by upgrading the engine, not by adding a bulky, battery-based hybrid system. That means the most likely candidate to power a hot-rodded Mazda3 is the firm's turbocharged, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. It makes 247 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque in the CX-5 and in the Mazda6. Mazda would rely on all-wheel drive to keep torque steer in check, but transmission options remain unconfirmed.

The so-called hyper-hatch on Beppu's wish list wouldn't be developed primarily for track duties. It would be more of a canyon carver than a lap record setter. "It needs to be responsible and friendly... more friendly than a Golf GTI," the engineer said. He added it also needs to be fast. There's no word yet on whether it will resurrect the MazdaSpeed name last used on the second-generation 3.

Interestingly, Beppu's vision of a super-Mazda3 is not just an idea. Autocar learned Mazda's research and development center in Los Angeles, California, has discreetly built a prototype to explore how far engineers can push the platform. The prototype hasn't been approved for production yet, however. If it does become a reality, odds are we won't see it until later in the model's production run.

Photo by Brian Williams.

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