The cars we loved.
The MX-3 was Mazda’s smallest sports coupe and was sold worldwide under various weird names like Eunos 30X and Autozam AZ-3. Fitting, considering how unique and from the future the MX-3 must have seemed when it was first introduced late in 1991. The grass hopper like looks of the MX-3 may or may not have been its most endearing attribute, but there is no confusing the fact that the MX-3’s small V6 engine was a technical marvel, even by today’s standards.
At only 1.8 liters, the V6 in the MX-3 GS produced 130hp, more in European models. The MX-3 held (and still holds) the distinction of having the smallest displacement engine used in a production car. The specially developed V6 engine used a sophisticated variable length intake manifold system to produce a power band that
was almost evenly distributed at most engine speeds. Said to have been co developed with Porsche, the 1.8 L gave the small, light weight MX-3 an edge when compared with larger sport coupes of the time.
Despite having performance near the top of the early Nineties sport coupe heap, sales of the MX-3 lagged behind the larger MX-6. Part of the reason might have been the cramped two seat configuration that made the MX-3 more expensive to insure, but most of the blame goes to the MX-3 itself. It was just so cute, making it popular with female buyers (a market that the MX-6 was intended to target). The vast majority of the MX-3s sold in America were RS models that came with the smaller less powerful 1.5 L 4 cylinder. Even though a slick shifting 5 speed manual was available, the 4 speed automatic was the most popular option. The small cuteness, combined with the large numbers of female drivers was enough to make the die-hard tuner boys look elsewhere, as the MX-3 became a sort of a small boutique chick car.
That was too bad because the MX-3 had a lot of potential. On the West Coast, where the MX-3 was most popular and demographic hang-ups not as common, modifications were popular. A common alteration included engine swaps with the MX-6. The MX-3 was not common when it was new and today are very rare (especially one not molested). Mazda has not announced any real successor, but had shown a concept car in 2007 called the MX-4 Kabura that resembles the MX-3 in that it was a small coupe but with RX-8 styling cues.
One has to wonder if the typical driving age American can fit into a car the size of the MX-3 or Kabura anymore. Even just 10 or 15 years ago, some drivers complained of the tight quarters of the MX-3. But then in Europe and Japan where the people are smaller and the spaces are tight the MX-3 made perfect since.