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Mazda 121

DB12 (Mk2) 121

Mazda logo1 Nov 1990

As if to reflect the seemingly limitless aspirations (and budgets) of the late-1980s Japanese bubble economy, Mazda chose a unique “bubble” design for its 1991 Mk2 121, while engineering a front-wheel drive light car that was taller, wider, stronger, better to drive and more refined than any rival on offer locally.

And it proved a smash hit here and nowhere else.

Younger, mostly female buyers embraced the colourful 121’s pert sedan styling (allegedly modelled on the human derriere), nicely ambient cabin, affable road manners, impressive frugality and glowing reviews.

Power came courtesy of an eager 54kW 1.3L fuel-injected 16-valve engine available with either a five-speed manual gearbox or four-speed auto, the latter a rare luxury in the segment at the time.

Only one well-equipped model was initially offered, with power steering as standard from July ’91.

In early ’93, 300 Fun Top models were released, featuring a full-length twin electric sunroof, power windows and mirrors, central locking and a high price tag.

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Mazda models