Rare Rides: The 1995 Mazda Lantis V6 Type R, Don't Call It 323
Today’s Rare Ride comes to us courtesy of commenter Bumpy ii, who linked this imported JDM Mazda on the Thunderbird Rare Ride posted a few weeks ago.
Let’s check out a compact five-door liftback with a very small V6.
In the late Eighties, Mazda wanted to add a bit of upmarket excitement and sportiness to its everyday Familia (that’s a Protegé to you). So, with the debut of the sixth-generation (BG) Familia, the previously stodgy five-door hatchback was transformed into a five-door fastback instead and received an additional pronoun at the end of its name: Astina. Offered between 1989 and 1994, the Astina was distinctly different from the standard Familia. It used a unique platform, CB, which was not shared with any other Mazda. CB was derived from the upscale CA platform, which was used for the Xedos 6 (a car that looked exactly like a smaller Millennia, because it was). Astina reached even higher when it debuted in the Japanese market as the luxuriously reworked Eunos 100. In addition to the platform, the Astina stood out from Familia with its sportier shape, unique front and rear clips, and pop-up headlamps. The Astina was distributed throughout Europe as the 323F.
The seventh-generation Familia (BH) debuted in Japan for 1995, but an exciting new Astina debuted slightly earlier, for the 1994 model year. Mazda felt this new version of the Astina deserved a new name, and the sleek five-door fastback was now called Lantis and wore no Familia badging. Designed by former Porsche employees, it was marketed as a four-door coupe before such nomenclature was en vogue.
The Astina and Lantis used four engines in total. Base power arrived via a 1.5-liter inline-four of 87 horsepower, flanked by a 1.6 of 88 horses and a 1.8 of 115. The 1.8 was the top engine available on the Astina, but the Lantis upped the ante with the availability of a tiny 2.0-liter V6 which produced 147 horses. Transmissions on offer were a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic shared with the Tracer. The V6 was a part of Mazda’s push toward luxury at the time, the brand operating upscale Enfini and Eunos dealerships in Japan, stocking all of them with similar product in different trims. The Lantis was sold at all three dealership chains.
The sportiest Lantis was Mazda’s version, the Type R. Sold only within Japan, it used a tuned version of the standard KF-DE V6, the KF-ZE. The tuning meant a jump in power to 160 horses, which were reigned in via the standard limited-slip differential. Lantis Type R also featured sporty exterior styling via spoilers, skirts, and body-colored trim pieces.
The Lantis remained in production through 1998, at which point it was canceled without replacement. Japan’s economic crisis did a number on the luxury aspirations of the small automaker, and Mazda stepped back from its branch-out branding quickly. Eunos was closed in 1996, and Enfini followed suit in 1997. Abroad, customers noticed some slightly more fancy Mazdas arrived for a few years (like the Millennia) and were then eliminated or cost-cut.
Today’s Lantis Type R recently made its way from Japan to Washington D.C., and is for sale with just 42,000 miles. I want to talk to this guy about how to take pictures of cars. Lantis is yours for $5,950.
Spookiness on Dec 03, 2020
I was in school in northern Europe in the very early 90's and there were quite a few of the prior generation 323F around. I thought they were cool because 5-doors + popup headlights will always get a thumbs up from me. I also loved Volvo 480 (b/c pop up lights!) and even the stodgy Volvo 345 (b/c 5-doors). Lots of cars not available in the US, so I just considered them cool by default.
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