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Monday, May 29, 2023

10 Mazdas you’ll have forgotten: Half II

Mazda nonetheless gives a variety of passenger automobiles in 2023 – it hasn’t gone SUV- and ute-only like Mitsubishi – nevertheless it’s telling that its new Giant Structure is spawning 4 SUVs, of which three have been confirmed for Australia.

Learn Half I right here.

Rewind to the Nineties, and Mazda didn’t have surplus SUVs however, moderately, overlapping coupe and sedan fashions. This was the last decade that noticed Mazda’s final severe premium push with the rollout of a standalone model referred to as Eunos… which was subsequently rolled again in.

Mazda had overextended itself and needed to course-correct, one thing it had a laser give attention to after Ford took a controlling stake in 1996. Pleasure didn’t die at Mazda, and the brand new century would see a brand new rotary-powered flagship and the continuation of the long-lasting MX-5, whereas even its extra mass-market automobiles have been infused with what the model had coined “Zoom-Zoom”.

Nonetheless, the Nineties was one of many extra fascinating many years in Mazda’s historical past because it rolled out four-wheel steering, superchargers, and tiny V6 engines.

121 Funtop

There have been a stunning variety of hatchback fashions provided in Australia through the years with folding canvas roof panels, starting from the price range Daewoo Nubira as much as the premium BMW 3 Sequence Compact. However a sedan with a canvas roof?

Mazda had provided a canvas-roof model of its 121 hatchback all through its run, referred to as the Funtop. With the boxy hatchback making manner for a pert sedan for 1990, the open-air model disappeared. It will return, nonetheless, for 1993.

Simply 300 fashions have been provided in 1993, they usually got here absolutely loaded. That included not solely the (energy) sunroof, but additionally entrance energy home windows and mirrors, central locking and alloy wheels.

It used the identical naturally aspirated 1.3-litre four-cylinder engine as the remainder of the 121 line-up, producing 55kW of energy and 106Nm of torque and provided with both a five-speed guide or four-speed computerized transmission.

The guide was priced at $19,310 and the auto at $20,635, representing a hefty premium of round $2300 on the common automobile. Mentioned mannequin missed out on the Funtop’s further options, however the particular version mannequin’s pricing put it proper up in opposition to a bigger, extra comfy 323 sedan.

That mentioned, the 323 didn’t have a large gap within the roof…

Astina Hardtop

Hardtop is a time period that historically meant a coupe or sedan and not using a B-pillar, permitting for an airier cabin and a extra trendy profile. American manufacturers embraced this physique model within the Fifties, however by the Seventies these have been beginning to disappear.

Within the Nineteen Eighties, the Japanese took the hardtop baton, although by this level most of those automobiles featured a B-pillar. The definition had due to this fact shifted to a two-door coupe or four-door sedan with a sleeker roofline and frameless home windows, usually bought alongside a associated sedan with a extra typical roofline.

Few of those hardtops got here right here, although Mazda notably bought each sedan and hardtop variations of its 1987 HC-series 929. Vehicles just like the Mazda Persona, Nissan Presea and Toyota Carina ED, nonetheless, have been saved as largely Japanese market-only fashions. Hell, even the Toyota Camry got here with a hardtop physique in Japan.

It was maybe a shock when Mazda selected to introduce the slinky Lantis to Australia in 1994 because the 323 Astina Hardtop. The corporate already had a 323 sedan within the Protege, whereas the favored first-generation 323 Astina hatch was additionally changed by a rebadged Lantis hatch with a swoopy, wedge-shaped physique.

Mercedes-Benz is typically credited as providing the primary four-door coupe however the 323 Astina Hardtop was arguably simply as worthy of such an appellation and debuted 11 years earlier than the CLS (and technically, a model of the Rover P5 was marketed as a four-door coupe all the way in which again in 1962).

Mazda had no scarcity of fairly, curvaceous sedans within the Nineties.

There was the glossy Eunos 500, whereas the 929/Sentia was a protracted and swish limousine akin to a Japanese Jaguar. The Autozam Clef was a slipperier if considerably extra aquatic tackle the Mazda 626, whereas the Efini MS-8 was a curious hybrid of Japanese and American design cues.

The 323 Astina shared a platform with the aforementioned Eunos 500, which at this level was being marketed as belonging to a separate model with separate showrooms.

At 4490mm lengthy and 1695mm huge, the 323 Astina Hardtop was 55mm shorter than the five hundred and comparable in dimension to the previous-generation 626; it was additionally 155mm longer than the extra inexpensive 323 Protege.

Mazda’s designers totally differentiated the hardtop from the hatchback, with each fashions even that includes their very own front-end styling; the hardtop had softer styling, with extra of a wraparound look to its headlights. There was a B-pillar, however the Hardtop did function frameless home windows.

Like the five hundred, it additionally provided a naturally aspirated double overhead cam 2.0-litre V6 engine; this produced 104kW at 6000rpm and 183Nm at 5000rpm.

A number of the Japanese manufacturers had been experimenting with small-displacement V6s; Mazda had a fair smaller 1.8-litre V6 within the Eunos 30X (aka Mazda MX-3), whereas Mitsubishi put a 1.6-litre V6 within the Japanese-market Lancer.

Not like the five hundred, the Astina was additionally provided with a naturally aspirated 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine with 92kW at 6000rpm and 160Nm at 4000rpm; this was carried over from the previous-generation Astina.

Each engines have been provided with five-speed guide and four-speed computerized transmissions, although there have been variations in suspension between the 2, mainly the anti-roll bars and damper charges.

The Astina’s V6 preferred to be revved and was a easy unit, although it lacked a lot in the way in which of low-end torque. Nonetheless, critics largely agreed this was a totally satisfying automobile to drive, with sharp dealing with and steering, although it wasn’t the final phrase in packaging effectivity – just like the hatchback, a rakish roofline ate into headroom.

Mazda solely projected 10 per cent of total 323 gross sales could be of the Hardtop, with 40 per cent projected to be of the extra conservative Protege sedan. Mazda additionally saved the previous-generation 323 sedan round as a worth chief mannequin till 1996, although we missed out on two completely different three-door hatchback our bodies provided abroad.

It’s unclear whether or not that 10 per cent determine proved correct, although we suspect it did.

The 323 Astina was distinctive in providing a V6 on this section in Australia, and the Hardtop was much more distinctive in that includes such a glossy four-door coupe physique. The following era of 323 was nonetheless a great automobile, however Mazda had rationalised its line-up after overextending itself earlier within the Nineties.

There would nonetheless be an Astina, nevertheless it was merely a hatchback model of the brand new Protege, and no V6 was out there. The Eunos 500 additionally disappeared round this time, leaving patrons in search of a small-to-medium, curvaceous Mazda with a candy little V6 with no choices.

Eunos 800 SP

The Eunos 800 was presupposed to be the center youngster of the Amati line-up, a standalone luxurious model from Mazda to rival Toyota’s Lexus and Nissan’s Infiniti.

However after saying the brand new model in 1991 and spending a whole lot of tens of millions of {dollars} on its launch, the financial disaster in Japan led Mazda to terminate Amati in 1992 round two years earlier than its deliberate launch. The flagship, 12-cylinder Amati 1000 was stillborn.

Mazda had rolled out a spread of marques in Japan, comprising Eunos, Efini and Autozam, to rival Toyota’s separate supplier networks. Eunos made the journey to Australia in 1992 – you possibly can learn extra about the historical past of Eunos right here, and the scuttled Amati model right here.

The mid-range Amati ended up being launched as an alternative because the Mazda Millenia in North America, the Mazda Xedos 9 in Europe, and the Eunos 800 in Australia.

By 1996, Mazda had dropped any pretence of Eunos being a separate model and the Eunos 800 grew to become the Mazda Eunos 800. The ultimate era of 929 had proved a flop and was promptly discontinued, leaving the 800 with out an in-house rival.

Although the Eunos 800 was front-wheel drive and never rear-wheel drive, it was arguably the extra dynamic of the 2 fashions and evidently Mazda noticed a possibility to create a sporty particular version to drum up curiosity.

With simply 30 examples produced, the 800 SP proved to be the rarest instance of the Eunos 800 in Australia, not precisely a quantity vendor with simply 1164 examples bought between 1994 and 2000.

Launched in 1998, the SP was developed in Sydney by the corporate’s Motorsports division. It featured Eibach springs, and sat 25mm decrease than the usual 800M. Putting 17-inch Italian Antera wheels sat in Pirelli P600 235/45ZR17 tyres.

There was additionally a spread of beauty tweaks: a novel grille, a numbered badge, and stainless-steel sill plates.

Unchanged was the usual 800M’s 2.3-litre supercharged Miller cycle double-overhead cam V6, which produced 149kW of energy at 5500rpm and 282Nm of torque at 4000rpm. It was mated solely with a four-speed computerized transmission.

Mazda claimed this engine – which slotted above a naturally aspirated 122kW/215Nm 2.5-litre V6 till this base engine was discontinued in 1998 – provided the facility of a 3.3-litre six-cylinder engine with the gasoline consumption of a 2.0-litre four-cylinder. 800 fashions with this engine additionally acquired four-wheel steering.

Being based mostly on the 800M, there was a variety of normal tools together with a sunroof, leather-based upholstery, power-adjustable entrance seats, local weather management, and a six-stacker CD participant.

The SP retailed for $79,900 earlier than on-road prices, $7290 greater than the usual 800M, and equal to over $150,000 in right now’s cash. That’s significantly dearer than even the top-spec Mazda CX-90, the usual bearer of Mazda’s newest premium push.

929 (HE)

This one stung.

The HE-series Mazda 929, launched right here in 1996, wasn’t a wholly unattractive automobile. It was typical mid-Nineties Japanese bland, with an upright roofline and squared-off entrance and rear ends. There was a fair faintly American look to it, such {that a} Buick or Mercury badge wouldn’t have seemed misplaced.

In opposition to a up to date Lexus ES or Honda Legend, it was scarcely extra conservative. So why does this unassuming Japanese luxurious sedan engender such an emotional response?

Effectively, simply take a look at what got here earlier than it. The 1991 929, referred to as the Sentia in Japan, was about as near a Japanese Jaguar as you can get. It was low and glossy, with attractive curves and stylish rear-wheel drive proportions.

Sadly, the market responded tepidly to the svelte sedan. After comparatively sturdy preliminary gross sales in Japan, demand tapered off. Hagerty reviews greater than 43,000 929/Sentia sedans have been bought in Japan and North America in 1991 and 1992, however by 1994 that quantity had sunk to only 9560.

Mazda within the US selected to discontinue the 929 in 1995, focusing as an alternative on the front-wheel drive MIllenia that was comparable in dimension and worth. That left the Japanese market as a precedence for Mazda, the place 929 house owners have been extra prone to be chauffeur-driven and the place, due to this fact, the glossy roofline of the outgoing mannequin was a legal responsibility.

A lot as Honda did with its third-generation Legend, which equally went from glossy to boxy, Mazda gave the 929 a extra conservative redesign. It sat on the identical floorpan because the outgoing mannequin, however Mazda raised the roofline by 40mm and prolonged it by 120mm.

General, the automobile was 25mm shorter at 4895mm; 25mm taller at 1420mm; and 3mm wider at 1795mm, which meant it nonetheless fell afoul of width-based tax rules in Japan.

Baggage capability was up by round 100L to 486L, although it had an interminably excessive loading lip.

The conservative redesign wasn’t simply restricted to the outside. Inside, the glossy, up to date dashboard was changed with a extra starchy, upright unit, and Mazda utilized woodgrain trim liberally.

In all, the HE-series 929 didn’t look any newer than the mannequin it changed, and actually it seemed nearer to that mannequin’s predecessor – nearly as if this was some stage of evolution that had occurred out of sequence.

Mazda had been doing this for the reason that LA4-series 929 that arrived right here in 1978. It will launch a very upright, conservative-looking era, then substitute it with one thing extra avant garde and dynamic-looking, after which again once more. Rinse, repeat.

Leaked images of the aborted V12-powered Amati 1000, revealed in 1992, revealed styling for the flagship mannequin of Mazda’s luxurious spinoff model was a minimum of superficially much like the eventual HE-series 929. Mentioned Amati flagship was additionally reportedly set to make use of a model of the 929’s platform, so the conservative HE-series was due to this fact the closest we acquired to receiving Mazda’s Lexus LS400 rival.

In fact, there was no V12 underneath the bonnet. As an alternative, the 929 used a carryover double-overhead cam 3.0-litre V6 producing 138kW of energy at 6000rpm and 270Nm of torque at 3500rpm.

Outputs and peaks have been equivalent to the earlier 929, although Mazda mentioned it had improved low-to-mid-range torque. Nonetheless, these outputs have been merely ample for one thing with a kerb weight of 1620kg, and the official 0-100km/h declare was a stately 10.2 seconds.

Whereas the styling might need prompt the 929 had been softened dynamically, this wasn’t the case. Up to date evaluations discovered the cabin to be quieter and the trip nonetheless notably plush, however the steering was mentioned to be extra direct and the automobile modestly extra responsive total.

4-wheel steering remained commonplace. At low speeds, the rear wheels may flip by as much as 5 levels in the wrong way to the entrance wheels, which helped hold the turning circle at a moderately tight 10m. At excessive speeds, the rear wheels turned in the identical course as these up entrance for better stability. The 929 additionally featured speed-sensitive energy steering.

The 929 was out there in a single variant, priced at $79,300 earlier than on-road prices, or $1850 cheaper than its predecessor. New to the tools listing was a passenger airbag and controls for the rear passengers to regulate the entrance seats.

Different commonplace tools additionally included leather-based upholstery, power-adjustable entrance seats, 15-inch alloy wheels in Dunlop SP Sport tyres, and a boot-mounted six-CD changer. Mazda did delete some options, possible within the identify of cost-cutting, with rear air vents amongst these gadgets eliminated.

Its pricing put it straight between the bottom Eunos 800 ($73,855) and the supercharged 800M ($85,615), and pitted it in opposition to the likes of the BMW 523i, Saab 9000 Griffin and Volvo 960.

The 929 had a lower cost than the $88,350 Honda Legend which, regardless of its front-wheel drive structure, was arguably the Mazda’s most direct rival being a big luxurious sedan from a mass-market Japanese model. However the Legend bought significantly higher than the 929.

The 929’s decline in Australia had been precipitous. Mazda bought 1103 examples in 1991, dropping to 710 in 1992 after which persevering with to say no every year, not helped by common worth will increase as a result of a poor alternate fee.

In 1996, simply 69 left native showrooms. It’s unclear what number of of these have been of the HE’s predecessor, however in 1997 gross sales of the 929 dropped to only 46; Honda, in distinction, bought 198 Legends that yr.

Mazda Australia pulled the plug on the 929 late in 1997, focusing as an alternative on the Eunos 800 which was promoting barely higher. The 929 lived on till 1999 in Japan because the Sentia, after which had one other lease in life in Korea, the place it was bought because the Kia Enterprise from 1998 to 2002.

The Enterprise slotted in above the Potentia, a restyled model of the 1986 Mazda 929/Luce. This mannequin continued till 2002 however with Kia being taken over by Hyundai in 1998, each Mazda-based fashions’ days have been numbered. Their alternative could be the Hyundai Grandeur-based Opirus.


The Eunos 800 nameplate could have been retired in 1999, however the automobile wasn’t lifeless but.

In 2000 – six years after the Eunos 800’s introduction – Mazda launched an up to date model referred to as the Millenia.

This was the nameplate the Eunos 800 had been bought underneath in markets just like the US, with Mazda closing the guide on the Eunos identify; the marque had been retired in Japan in 1996, and ceased to be a standalone model right here the identical yr.

The Millenia continued to supply solely the supercharged 2.3-litre Miller cycle V6, in addition to commonplace four-wheel steering. There have been no adjustments to the powertrain, although Mazda mentioned it made enhancements to the suspension, steering and brakes to help dynamics.

There was modified steering geometry, revised damper charges and strengthened suspension mountings, bigger diameter brake rotors with high-performance pads, and further physique strengthening.

Along with this raft of mechanical tweaks, the Millenia acquired a facelift. The rear and inside have been solely subtly modified, however the entrance finish styling was noticeably completely different. The Eunos waterfall grille was changed with one which had extra of a Mazda company look to it, whereas there have been additionally new headlights and a restyled entrance bumper and bonnet. The adjustments helped clean up what was by then a reasonably previous design.

The Millenia additionally acquired a brand new 16-inch alloy wheel design in Dunlop SP Sport tyres, and measured 50mm longer total than the Eunos 800.

Pricing was largely unchanged – the one Millenia grade was priced at $71,250 earlier than on-roads, and got here commonplace with entrance and front-side airbags, a sunroof, energy entrance seats, leather-based upholstery, and a nine-speaker Bose sound system with an in-dash six CD participant.

That pricing noticed it undercut the Lexus ES and Honda Legend by over $13,000, however the Millenia was nonetheless priced up in opposition to the likes of the Lexus IS300 and BMW 325i – admittedly smaller automobiles, however each extra trendy and prestigious.

The adjustments Mazda had made didn’t make a blip. Mazda bought 34 in 2000, although it arrived later within the yr. However this tally elevated to only 57 items in 2001, with Mazda shifting an additional 11 in 2002. It pulled the plug on the Millenia that yr.

The Millenia due to this fact solely simply cracked triple digits, and was even outsold by the slow-selling Legend every year.

There was no direct alternative for the Millenia, although its function on the high of the Mazda line-up was crammed by the RX-8 in 2003.

In maintaining this listing to only 10 Mazdas, some automobiles needed to keep on the slicing room flooring. These included:

  • Eunos 30X
  • Eunos 500
  • Premacy
  • 626 Coupe
  • Mazda 3 XD Astina
  • FC RX-7 Sports activities

You may learn extra in regards to the historical past of Eunos in Australia right here.

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