Mazda introduced the MX-3 in the econo-sport segment in 1991 as a 1992 model-year, and it was a bit of a surprising move for the Japanese carmaker.
While it didn't arrive on the market at the best moment, since there was an economic recession, the MX-3 also had to compete with other serious contenders such as the Nissan NX and the Geo Storm. But Mazda didn't come unprepared.
From the outside, it looked like a proper sports car, not a sedan with some adjustments to make it look sporty. Its flush headlights and the lowered chin spoiler at the front improved the car's image, especially on the upper trim levels and more powerful versions. From its sides, the wide doors allowed for a good ingress and egress to the cabin, while at the back, the sloped-down, curved glass that covered the trunk area was heavily inspired by the RX-7. A small wing at the back completed the sporty image of the car.
Inside, the carmaker chose to install a minimalist-looking interior, but with enough features to make it appealing. For starters, the instrument cluster was not carried over from other Mazda vehicles. It was unique to the MX-3. A large center speedometer was flanked on the right by the tachometer and on the left by the fuel level and temperature gauges. On the center stack, the carmaker placed the ventilation controls and the AC button between the middle air vents. Despite the car's size, Mazda managed to squeeze another pair of seats in the back. Even though the legroom was limited, it could still accommodate two passengers.
But the biggest surprise was under the hood. Apart from the entry-level engine, which sported a 1.6-liter inline-four, Mazda installed a 1.8-liter V6 powerplant. It was the smallest V6 on the market.