Mazda RX-3

Small sports coupe revives the rotary dream

illustration by BRENDON WISE words by SCOTT NEWMAN

WHEN MAZDA revealed the RX-Vision Concept at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show, it sent the world’s motoring media into a spin – quite appropriate for a vehicle powered by a rotary engine.

Despite the myriad challenges in building a Wankel to comply with 21st century emissions and fuel consumption regulations, Mazda remains committed to keeping the rotary dream alive, and thankfully the RX-Vision indicates that it’s far more likely to appear in a svelte sports car than, say, a Holden HJ Premier. New Age Roadpacer, anyone? Thought not.

Obviously, the minute anyone mentions the word rotary the headlines scream about a new RX-7, but Mazda has a strong back catalogue of buzzing, lightweight sports coupes, most notably the RX-2 and RX-3 that have been a mainstay on Australian racetracks, rally stages and drag strips for over 40 years.

Our modern RX-3 combines that iconic engine with sharp looks and a taut, focused chassis to create a fast, affordable two-seater to wrestle market supremacy away from the Toyota 86. M

Mazda has a strong back catalogue of buzzing, lightweight sports coupes

Here’s how we’d do it


The RX-Vision previewed the next evolution of Mazda’s Kodo design language and we’ve incorporated some of these styling cues into the RX-3. Squint and there’s more than a hint of Alfa Romeo 8C to the overall shape, a car that happens to be one of the best-looking machines of modern times.


Under the RX-3’s sloping bonnet sits a turbocharged 1000cc twinrotor engine. If that seems a little anaemic, remember the rotary’s unique combustion cycle allows it to produce far greater numbers from far less capacity than a traditional piston engine.


How much power? Try 185kW/280Nm, numbers very similar to the Series VI RX-7.

Matched to a tightly-stacked sixspeed gearbox (manual or auto), it will allow the 1180kg RX-3 to hit 100km/h in 5.9sec and reach 245km/h flat out.


Compared to the softly sprung MX-5, the RX-3 would be a much sharper proposition in its handling dynamics. While fun rather than outright speed remains the priority, we’d stop short of artificially handicapping the RX-3’s abilities by fitting eco-spec tyres as Toyota does with the 86.


The RX-3 would start where the MX-5 stops, and that car’s recent price drop allows this mouthwatering proposition to kick off at $39,990 for the base and $45,990 for the full-fruit GT. More expensive than its Toyota rival, certainly, but also a much more potent package.