Low on cash? Looking for something cheap that will return a few smiles? Why not look around for something a little different? Let TFLCar show you rides that might give hope to the hopeless feeling of vehicular inadequacy. Every once in a while, “Cheap as Chips Diamonds in the Rough” will titillate the nostalgic while spotlighting used cars under $2,500.
Read the previous Cheap as Chips Diamonds in the Rough (here).
The 1992-96 (in the US) Mazda MX-3 was one of the most underrated, under-appreciated fun cars of the 1990s. Few vehicles of this size, or in this class, had the potential performance and engine choices of the MX-3. Yes, I am a self-confessed hot-hatch freak and I dig Mazda too – but the numbers behind the Mazda MX-3 are compelling on their own.
First of all, the Mazda MX-3 was a small car; it weighed about 2,600 lbs (about 2,400 lbs with the four-cylinder) and had a tiny footprint about the same size as a Honda Civic hatch of the same year, but with a sleeker silhouette. Width:The Mazda MX-3 is 66.7-in. wide, 51.6-in high and 165.7-in. long. the wheel-base is 96.3-in. which is less than an inch shorter than the current base-model MINI Cooper.
Output was mediocre for the time with 88 horsepower and 98 ft-lb with the 1.6-liter, DOHC four-cylinder engine. Things improved greatly with 130 hp on tap and 115 lb-ft of torque. Both engines were remarkably smooth with the V6 earning accolades for its sophistication, it was (one of) the smallest production V6 engines of the time. (Note: The Mitsubishi 1.6 V6 is smaller, but it’s not available in any local market vehicles.)
A five speed manual was standard in all trims with both engines with an optional four-speed automatic transmission available.
The Mazda MX-3 was pretty frugal too. The EPA MPG estimates for the V6 was 20 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. Things improved to 24 mpg city and 32 mpg highway with the four-cylinder. The Mazda MX-3 ran on regular fuel and was considered pretty reliable by many reviewers.
As interiors go, the Mazda MX-3 was nowhere as entertaining as its exterior. Still, it was clean, comfortable and the colored cloth seats were comfortable front and rear. Yep, it had a real, usable back seat that could even hold my rhino-sized behind. Cargo space was limited, but – as the MX-3 is a hatchback – folding the rear seats down gave you good space.
I got to drive a 1993 Mazda MX-3 GS with the V6 and five-speed transmission. What a kick-ass little car! For one thing, the engine weight over the base powerplant was negligible, so it maintained great balance. Cornering was tight with very little lean and good grip (despite the skinny tires). Steering response is top-notch and this baby communicates with the driver better than many competitors. The five-speed manual was one of the best of the time and throttle response was very quick. The Mazda MX-3 could have used another 10 – 20 hp to aid it it beating up on the Acura Integra, but that never came to pass.
I also drove a 1994 four-cylinder and came away pretty impressed. The steering feel and grip of the base model was nearly as athletic as the loaded V6 GS. It’s gutless with four riders, but worked fine with a solo driver. Brakes on both versions were exceptional.
Problems? Well, I did hit my head during ingress and egress as the rake of the windshield is mighty steep. Turner-boys have discovered the Mazda MX-3 and are grabbing every V6 they can find as they are easily beefed up. The looks are a little too disco for some, but I think it’s got funk – and funk is a good thing.
Prices for the 1992 – 96 Mazda MX-3 have fluctuated between $1,400 to $3,300 for a clean one. Be cautious when buying as many have been abused (tuner-boys again) and it’s hard to find one that hasn’t had its suspension mickey-moused. The V6 was no longer offered after 1994 in the US, so finding a V6 is a pain in the neck.
Not a lot of these Mazda MX-3s are out there, they just never caught on in this market. Bummer. Still, I can assure you that its a used car worth checking out if you’re looking for a small and sporty hatchback.
If you have one of these cars, or if you’ve owned one, drop us a line and tell us about it!
Check out Mazda’s most recent masterpiece in this video with the sexy 2014 Mazda6!