Ford Focus ST vs Mazda MPS-Which Is The Better Hot Hatch?

Cars

Published on August 7th, 2015 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez

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Ford Focus ST vs Mazda MPS-Which Is The Better Hot Hatch?

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The current all new fresh-faced Ford Focus ST arrived in showrooms slightly over a year ago with quite a lot of marketing noise. Priced at RM208,888.00 this Focus ST was directed at hot hatch junkies looking for a fix beyond double clutch gearboxes and high electronic intervention from the engineering division. The Focus ST was a thoroughbred hot hatch with raw power delivery and handling. Its absolute direct competitor was a rather older product that had already seen good sales numbers despite its exclusivity. This was the Mazda3 MPS. Also very raw in its driver feedback with a manual gearbox and pure driver dynamics, the Mazda3 MPS had already been in the market for 3 years already.

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With the Focus ST, you get a decent spread of equipment, including keyless entry and push-button start, bi-xenon headlamps, dual-zone air-conditioning, rear parking sensors and a five-inch colour display with Ford’s voice-activated Sync system for calls and text messages. For all of that, though, the dashboard is busy with myriad buttons and its garish body-colour-matched highlights (in our case bright yellow) may limit its appeal with some people.

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The Focus’s Recaro seats, however, are among the best in the business, offering generous support and comfort at the same time, and match nicely to the sporty driving position with its low seat height and raised gear lever.

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The Mazda3 MPS ‘rocked’ the hot hatch segment when it arrived and only the very popular Golf GTI Mk6 gave it a tough fight. The Golf however was sold only with a DSG and lots of electronic aids to keep drivers super excited. Still the Mazda3 MPS had a tough time filling the gaps with its manual gearbox and better performance figures despite being priced lower at RM179,000 against the Golf GTI Mk6 which carried a price tag of RM198,000.

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The Mazda3 MPS comes equipped with bucket seats with great support, very decent in car entertainment, multi function steering wheel, dual-zone air-conditioning, rear parking sensors and a 6-speed smooth shifting manual gearbox. There is an aggressive bonnet air-scoop, cross spoke 17-inch wheels that works with a discreet styling kit all round the car.

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The Focus ST comes with a 2-liter turbocharged engine that pushes out 360Nm of torque with 250bhp of power while the 2.3-liter turbocharged engine with 256bhp in the Mazda3 MPS delivers 380Nm of torque smoothly. The 0-100km/h dash leader is the MPS at 6.1 seconds while the ST is just a smidgen behind at 6.5 seconds. Midrange punch while cruising at 110km/h the ST takes a slightly faster pickup.

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Steering feedback is very important for this segment of buyers and the ST takes the crown here as the weight and directness is more precise and with better feel. The MPS seems a little light and could do with more feel.

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Both the ST and MPS come with 6 speed manual shifters but the MPS returns a smoother and quicker shift action for easy in town rapid driving. The ST has a firmer feel with the shifter feeling more precise as you hit gate after gate from 1st to 6th.

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For nimble weaving functionality, the ST wins here as it sits on the road with little or no nervousness at all. Sitting in the ST, its size shrinks around you making you almost one with the ST. You are able to ‘toss’ the ST around with ease and keep on your desired trajectory. Keep the engine on ‘boil’ in 2nd or 3rd gear and you will see how the 360Nm of torque is delivered on call.

The MPS is no slouch for sure as 380Nm of torque is swiftly delivered on the tarmac to a point the relaxed driver might get intimidated with it. Its power delivery is slightly marred by the lack of ‘on the edge’ handling where the ST delivers better handling.

The brakes on the ST have also got more bite in it whilst the MPS needs bigger ‘teeth’ to take a better bite when needed to stop on a dime.

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When you look at the price premium of the ST over the MPS, the first idea that pops into the brain of most real drivers will be to buy the MPS and do an immediate upgrade of the brakes, suspension and tires to get the most of the 380Nm. Then there will be driver who will look at Ford engineering and what has been provided in the ST as a value add that no aftermarket tuner can provide with a strong manufacturer’s warranty.

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For now, this current generation Mazda MPS is sold out and we are waiting for the SKYACTIV powered MPS to arrive. Ford has a revised ST on the way and it will be interesting to see what happens in the coming months.

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