We investigate the question when a cyclic code is maximum distance separable (MDS). For codes of (co-)dimension 3, this question is related to permutation properties of the polynomial (xb - 1)/(x - 1) for a certain b. Using results on these polynomials we prove that over fields of odd characteristic the only MDS cyclic codes of dimension 3 are the Reed-Solomon codes. For codes of dimension O(pq) we prove the same result using techniques from algebraic geometry and finite geometry. Further, we exhibit a complete q-arc over the field Fq for even q. In the last section we discuss a connection between modular representations of the general linear group over Fq and the question of whether a given cyclic code is MDS