As engineering challenges go, 263-bhp hot hatch presents a scenario unthinkable to early front-drive pioneers, what with 280 lb.-ft. of peak torque applied to the road through two postcard-size patches that are also asked to steer the car.
A tall order, yes, and one this predecessor delivered, albeit with some rough edges. Now we have a reskinned MS3 with Nagare-inspired organic styling, a massaged interior, retuned suspension, wider rubber (225/40R-18s, versus 215/45-18s before) and a carryover 2.3-liter direct-injected turbo 4-cylinder paired with a 6-speed manual.
So is it new and improved? Well, there's still some ECU/boost dithering in the first two gears...slightly annoying, but without it you'd have far more unintentional wheelspin. The shifter now has better-defined gates; no more inadvertent 3rd-gear selection when you're going for 1st at a stoplight. And the engine, its intercooler now fed through a Subie-esque hood scoop, delivers its power in a more linear way and is less asthmatic near redline too. Still, its 0–60 time of 6.1 seconds (versus 5.7 sec. for the previous generation) no doubt reflects a weight increase of roughly 100 lb.
With increased roll control, the handles more precisely, yet with less of its former self's kidney-thumping feel over larger bumps. Skidpad is a solid 0.90g, up from 0.86. Under power, steering still gives unsolicited suggestions to your cornering line, but this time the torque steer is less extroverted.
The interior feels familiar, though every contour is tweaked. The big news is the Tech Package's nav system, whose screen makes up for its puny size by its optimized line-of-sight location near the base of the windshield.