Road impressions: Mazda 121

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

A different Mini

On the face of it, Mazda Cars (UK) is cutting V its own throat somewhat in introducing another model in its quota-restricted range, but the incentive behind the new 121 “super-mini” lies in the attractive 28 per cent share such cars have in the British market place.

The 121 will inevitably affect sales of its elder brothers — the 626 and 323 — as it is expected to account for 40 per cent of the former’s quota, and 60 per cent of the latter’s.

Of even greater significance, however, is the role Mazda sees for it in attracting a younger breed of buyer. Currently, typical Mazda purchasers range between mid-forties and early-sixties, something the men at Tunbridge Wells are very keen to alter. The hope for the 121 is that it will act as a lure to first-time buyers.

Its principal advantage is that it is physically different to rivals which have developed similar appearance as the dictates of packaging and aerodynamics lead to homogeneity. The 121 is narrower and taller than others in its class, and manages to combine this with distinctive if not outstanding looks.

With its average-for-class length, it will accommodate four adults in better than class-average comfort, and a cunning rear-seat design permits a variety of luggage arrangements. The rear-seat backs are split and will either fold forward, in conventional manner, or backwards up to 56° to create a sizeable mattress when utilised in conjunction with the reclining front seats. The rear seats also slide back 180mm to increase legroom, although this is obviously at a premium to luggage space. When the low rear sill is taken into account, the 121 stands as a sensible proposition for drivers to whom practicality is paramount.

The design is based on Ford’s Festiva, executed by Mazda, so the concept is already proven. Transverse, single-overhead-camshaft four-cylinder engines of 1.1 or 1.3-litre capacity are available, mated to five-speed manual transmissions.

Both engines have long strokes so they can run high compression-ratios and benefit from enhanced low-range torque, but nevertheless the driver in a hurry must make full use of the occasionally notchy gearbox. When thus pressed, neither engine is particularly sophisticated, and the strain is clearly audible.

Ford deliberately set the wheels as far out as practicality permitted, but though the track is thus relatively wide, the 5.5 x 12 wheels and narrow 165/70 SR12 tyres create a handicap to really quick cornering. The 121 lacks grip, but at least lacks it in a balanced manner, and its generally safe behaviour is backed up by satisfactory compromise on roll and pitch damping. Steering and braking effort is light, and the ride is acceptable.

The 121 boasts an impressive standard specification which includes stereo/cassette player, heated rear window, head restraints and twin outer-door mirrors, the 1.3 retailing at a competitive £6149 in LX guise.

Sun seekers will be interested in the 1.3LX Sun Top model, featuring an electronicallyoperated sunroof which measures 704mm by 693mm and thus allows front and rear passengers to experience open-air motoring, at a £700 premium. DJT

Related articles

Related products