Though Mazda also makes an inline 4-cylinder engine, the rotary is still the hottest mini-pickup around. It's so quick, in fact, that for off-road competition, it's classed with the big trucks, not with the minis. And our testing bore this out. It had an astounding 0-60 acceleration of 8.9 seconds! We ran the test several times to make sure it was right, and it was. During the Motor Trend test last year, the 0-60 figure was 12.5 sec. Since the engine is basically the same, we wonder whether the difference was in the driver or in the vehicle itself.
Regardless, the engine was smoother and quicker than comparable pickups. However, it didn't seem quite as torquey as the others, which means the rpm have to be kept up pretty good while hauling or towing.
This was the only truck with a tach, which is a shame. With an automatic transmission, a tachometer really isn't all that necessary, but with a manual coupled to a small engine in a truck, it should be mandatory. When pulling loads, you want to keep the rpm at maximum torque for maximum efficiency. It helps you keep track of engine conditions under a number of circumstances -- that can only be helpful.
Seat height with the bench seat felt better than comparable vehicles. The undercushion was soft and comfortable, while the seatback was tilted to a 19-degree angle for better back support. Even then, there was a twinge of lower back discomfort.
Though the payload of 1350 pounds was the least of its contemporaries, it didn't vary all that much among them.
Inside noise levels were quite low. This is, in part, due to the rotary engine and also the seemingly solid construction. There were no noticeable rattles or creaks, and the door/window frame construction reduced wind howl considerably.
The Mazda we tested was not the flamed "Freeway Hummer" you see pictured, but a stock version. This highly stylized version sells for $6045 from Freeway Mazda in California.