Car reviews - Mazda - 929 - 4WS 4-dr sedan
Sassy styling, lovely cabin, city-friendly 4-wheel steering manoeuvres, silky V6, nice handling and ride, great quality
Room for improvement
Steering a tad too light
18 Jun 2003
SINCE the start of Japanese car imports into Australia more than 40 years ago, major Japanese manufacturers have sought to take a share of the semi-luxury market dominated by leading European makes like Volvo, SAAB, BMW and Peugeot as well as the local Ford and Holden prestige offerings.
Vehicles like the Mazda 929, Toyota's Crown and Cressida, Nissan's Cedric and Maxima and the Honda Legend have been part of the lower prestige market for many years. Mitsubishi has been the only Japanese company not to enter the class with a separate model.
The Mazda 929 was introduced into Australia in 1983. The first models - up to 1986 - had a four-cylinder engine and were styled along American lines with a square, boxy appearance.
In 1987 a V6 engine was introduced and the car took a big step forward in terms of performance and level of luxury, although the styling was still somewhat retro-American with overtones of Cadillac.
In 1991 a brand new 929 was released with sleek, rounded lines and a number of outstanding technical features. In Mazda's words, "our designers never set out to break any rules. They simply made new ones".
The new model was certainly a contrast to its predecessors - and a vast improvement.
Powered by a 3.0-litre, twin cam V6 engine of advanced design driving the rear wheels through an electronic four-speed automatic transmission, the car has all new suspension designed to allow a low bonnet line and outstanding ride comfort.
The suspension system is a major feature with four wheel steering integrated into the design.
Front suspension is by double wishbones and torsion bars with an additional diagonal trailing link to provide fore and aft location. It is designed to give long wheel travel while still allowing a low bonnet line.
Rear suspension is by a similar design except it also integrates the rear wheel steering system.
The rear steering is electronically controlled and allows the rear wheels to turn in the opposite direction to the front wheels at low speeds to improve parking ability. But it steers the rear wheels in the same direction as the front wheels at mid to high speed, enhancing cornering and lane changing ability.
Although technically brilliant, the four wheel steering system takes a little getting used to, adds to the complexity of the car and may mean expensive repair bills down the track.
The brakes are powerful four wheel discs, ventilated front and rear.
The styling of the 929 is smooth and flowing and, although it is a large car, front and rear body overhang are small.
Exterior window lines are emphasised by attractive chrome mouldings, as are the grille and Mazda's new diamond-shaped logo on the grille and boot lid.
Inside, the 929 has accommodation for five adults.
The dash is curved so that all instruments face the driver, with tachometer, speedo, fuel and temp gauges in the main cluster. In the centre are the ventilation controls and below is the radio/cassette/CD player.
Cloth seats are standard but the interior has an understated air of elegance and style.
Standard equipment includes air-conditioning, cruise control, central locking, electric mirrors, power steering, power windows and alloy wheels.
Road performance is excellent. The engine is quiet and smooth in operation and the suspension well damped and comfortable while providing flat cornering and good handling.
The power-assisted steering is very light with the four wheel steering system providing excellent response, particularly on twisty roads.
The car is quiet inside and the seats provide firm support during hard cornering.
Overall, the Mazda 929 offers an outstanding package of style, comfort, performance, ride and handling, with many advanced technical features and a high standard of finish.
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