Everyone knows Mazda’s Experiment – Project 5, the MX-5 Miata, as the company’s go to option for someone looking for a lightweight, rear-wheel drive convertible. The MX-5 has filled that slot for over twenty-five years, with the little roadster seeming to maintain popularity with both driving enthusiasts and the average consumer. There were two other MX cars that didn’t quite gain as much widespread popularity and recognition as the Miata though.
The oldest of the MX bunch is the now mostly unknown MX-6. The MX-6 was a front-wheel drive coupe running on the same platform as the Ford Probe. With the mention of the Ford Probe, you should already see why the MX-6 didn’t last longer than it did. Both the Ford Probe and Mazda MX-6 were trying to hit that FWD sport coupe market that competitors were significantly better at hitting (see Honda Prelude and Mitsubishi Eclipse). With competition like that, Mazda wasn’t gonna have a good time with the MX-6 in the long run.
The first generation of the MX-6 (1987-1992) came standard with a 2.2L I4 engine putting out a whopping 110hp and 130 ft-lb of torque. You could also get the Gt model with the turbo, for a bump up to 145hp, 190(ish) ft-lb of torque, and a suspension upgrades. This was a pretty good performance bump for the time and it did actually manage to stay relevant in that competitive market.
The second generation ran from 1993 to 1997 and had a bit of promise to it. Mazda introduced four-wheel steering (4WS) for the MX6 (not in the U.S., because f@#k us) and a high compression 2.5L V6 putting out 198ish hp (not in the U.S. again, because f@#k us). This was a pretty significant jump in horsepower and handling tech for the MX-6, but it didn’t significantly help, as competitors either already four-wheel steering (Prelude Si) or had increased their power without dropping in a heavier engine (Eclipse GS-T). The MX-6 didn’t really do anything the best.
From its birth in 1991 to its death in 1998, the MX-3 was Mazda’s answer to the Honda Civic and Nissan’s NX2000 (which is a car most people forget even existed). It was a simple front-wheel drive, three door hatchback powered by either a 1.6L I4 or an itsy-bitsy 1.8L V6 engine. During the first year of sales, the 1.6L engine initially only came with SOHC and put out around 89hp. The following year, Mazda realized having two overhead cams is actually pretty damn helpful for performance and replaced the SOHC with a DOHC 1.6L putting out 106hp. The half-pint V6 was cranking out around 130hp and 115 ft-lbs of torque, putting it in a very competitive spot with the Civic Si.
While the MX-3 lacked the fancy four-wheel steering of it’s older brother, it did have some suspension upgrades that kept it competitive in the hatch/hot hatch market and on the track. Mazda incorporated its own Twin-Trapezoidal Link system for the MX-3’s rear suspension, which might sound super fancy, but it is basically multi-link independent suspension. It was more or less used to get performance of four-wheel steering without being mechanically complicated as four-wheel steering. It allowed the MX-3 to deliver performance as if it had a four-wheel steering setup, but with the added bonus that trying to fix it won’t make you want to blow your brains out.
The middle and best child in the MX family. Lightweight, best-wheel drive, and cheap to pick up on the used market. It’s the perfect starter car for track and drift newbies alike. You have four generations and over 25 years to choose from; with each following the same formula that made the MX-5 the sole MX survivor.
I’m not going to say too much about the MX-5, since there are countless articles and videos that go into incredible detail of each generation. Just go out and drive one when you can. Immediately is probably the best option.
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