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1991(2) Mazda MX-3 Precidia

By

Ted Laturnus

Mazda MX-3 Precidia

Earlier this year, I tested the Nissan NX2000, and I figured it was the entry-level hatchback to beat.

Well, there's a new kid on the block, and it's every bit as good as the NX2000, and in some ways, better.

It's the Mazda MX-3, or as Mazda is calling it in Canada, the Precidia. I think I'll stick with MX-3...it's easier to say.

There are two engine choices: a 1.6 litre multi-valve four cylinder, and an absolutely amazing 1.8 litre V6. Power output for the V6 is 130 horsepower at 6500 rpm, and it's the smallest V6 engine on the market.

Two transmissions are offered: a five-speed manual and a four-speed automatic, with Mazda's patented Hold device. My test GS had the automatic, and, aside from questioning the viability of the Hold feature, I liked it.

Although small, the V6 is powerful and torquey enough to handle an autobox, which can't be said of the four-banger. Mazda really has pulled off a minor coup with this engine...who would have thought a V6 under 2 litres was even possible, let alone this versatile.

On the other hand, it's not really that surprising considering Mazda's engineering background (first manufacturer to produce the Wankel rotary in meaningful numbers).

A well-tuned, multi-valve four cylinder CAN match this V6 in terms of revving power, but it has a much deeper reserve of passing power, and a very lively mid-range. It also sounds great.

As you would expect, the MX-3 (officially a 1992 model) also has a high tossability factor. It's very nimble, with a superb sense of balance and exceptional handling and braking.

The V6 GS version comes with four-wheel disc brakes, the four cylinder, with front disc/rear drum, and you can order ABS.

The MX-3 is one of the most enjoyable cars to drive I've had in quite awhile. If I had to compare it with the NX2000, I wouldn't want to pick a winner either way.

Mazda MX-3 Precidia

But in terms of styling, the MX-3 has the edge. I think this is the best looking compact sports coupe on the road, even though it's actually a hatchback. If you look closely, you can see how the doors are styled to match the headlights. Neat.

Access to the rear storage compartment is a little awkward...it's a long way to go to reach bottom, but there's plenty of room: 8.4 cubic feet.

One fairly serious drawback is lack of head room. Back seat passengers will find it particularly claustrophobic, and tall drivers are going to find the MX-3 a snug fit. Side and rear visibility is affected because of this, and backing the car up is kind of a hassle.

Mazda has a history of restrictive headroom in their models, and the MX-3 is no exception.

Fortunately, they also have a history of making attractive, well-engineered sports cars with a very high fun quotient.

Again, the MX-3 is no exception.

AT A GLANCE:

Type: Two-door compact sports coupe

Drivetrain layout: Front-drive; 1.8 litre V6 engine; four-speed automatic transmission

Price: $13,495 base; $17,995 for the GS (in 1991)

Fuel consumption: 11 L/100 km city; 9 L/100 km hwy.

Warranty: 5 years/ 100,000 kilometres

Safety Features: Optional anti-locking brakes; three-point rear seat belts

LIKES:
- Performance
- Styling
- Handling

DISLIKES:

- Lack of headroom
- Unexceptional fuel economy
- Awkward rear storage
- Name

FOLLOW-UP SUMMER '96:

Price for the Precidia has gone up by three or four thousand, but it is still a wonderful little car, especially the V6 version. Mazda is rumoured to considering getting rid of the MX-3, which would be a shame.


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Last modified: October 25 2007

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