When you think about automotive muscle, you probably don’t think about Mazda. The Japanese company, founded in 1920 in Hiroshima, has long been known for delivering agility — or, as the automaker calls it, “zoom-zoom” — in vehicles to consumers around the world. Mazda MX-5 Miata, the brand’s most famous product, serves as a perfect example of what lightweight construction and just enough power can do for a sports car.
True, you don’t hunt out a Mazda when you want brute force. There are countless Ford Mustangs, Chevrolet Camaros, and Dodge Chargers from the last 50 years to help you out on that front. Instead, you go to Mazda to get the most zoom for every horse the engine can produce. This way, you can still get your speed fix even if you aren’t blowing the doors off a Shelby at the stoplight.
To prove it, we rounded up 15 of the fastest Mazda cars the automaker has ever produced. Several models were not released in the United States and were instead found overseas, but if they existed and had performance records, then we included them. We avoided concept cars, however. In determining the brand’s fastest cars, we looked at top speed and quarter mile times, as well as their all-important acceleration powers.
Read on to see the 15 fastest Mazdas on the road.
While Mazda3 is the brand’s least expensive vehicle on sale in America, it actually packs some oomph. Specifically, the hatchback 3 has been clocked sprinting to 60 miles per hour in 7.4 seconds. This S model outperformed the sedan handily in Motor Trend’s testing. Powered by a 2.5-liter inline-4 cylinder engine, the Mazda3 can make up to 185 horsepower and reach a top speed of 155 miles per hour. That’s a lot of zoom for under $20,000.
14. Mazda CX-9
No one is surprised anymore when it comes to SUVs with power to burn. In the case of the Mazda CX-9, we see how the brand’s engineering expertise can coax speed out of a hulking figure. With its lightweight construction and 2.5-liter turbo engine, this vehicle produces 250 horsepower and can launch to 60 miles per hour in 7.2 seconds. Motor Trend noted its top speed at 133 miles per hour.
13. Mazda 6 (2002 edition)
Back in the 1990s, most Americans knew Mazda as “that 626 brand.” By the new millennium, 626 became just “6” and got more power (220 horses) for takeoff. The Mazda6 that launched in 2002 needed 6.8 seconds to hit 60 miles per hour in contemporary Car and Driver tests. It also needed only 15.4 seconds to hit the quarter mile, peaking at 93 miles per hour during those short runs.
12. Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata
While Mazda’s signature sports car is by no means a road warrior, there are several editions of the Miata that pack a punch. Take the Mazdaspeed MX-5 from 2004. This handsome roadster got some extra kick in terms of horsepower (178, to be exact) and aerodynamic upgrades. The fellows from Car and Driver took one to the track in mid-aughts and returned with very favorable impressions: This Miata hit 60 miles per hour in 6.7 seconds, and vaulted to 127 miles per hour at its peak.
11. Mazda RX-8
Today’s car consumers may not be aware of Mazda’s performance history, but it was definitely worth noting in decades past. A prime example would be the RX-8, a spiritual (if not mechanical) descendant of the RX-7, which was itself the brand’s hottest thing, starting in the late 1970s. By the early 2000s, Mazda had dispensed with the RX-7 and made the RX-8, a less potent but still capable ride. Edmunds ran the base model to 60 miles per hour in 6.6 seconds, and to the quarter mile in 15.1 seconds.
10. Mazda RX-8 Spirit R
The top of the line for the Mazda RX-8 was the Spirit R variation. This limited edition model, which could burst from zero to 60 miles per hour in 6.5 seconds, became something of a sensation in the past decade. Originally slated for a production run of 1,000 units, the Spirit R’s popularity compelled Mazda to run out another 1,000 to satisfy the market demand. It could fly past 140 miles per hour using its 232 horsepower, and it had feature style cues that made it a bona fide collector’s item.
9. Mazda MX-6
Mazda’s MX-6 might be one of the least known cars in the brand’s history. Available in several different trims for a decade in the last century (1987 to 1997), the MX-6 was the quickest model of the bunch. It could rocket from a stop to 60 miles per hour in just 6.2 seconds. The MX-6 featured a special engine — a J-Spec 2.5-liter V6 engine capable of 200 horsepower — that allowed it to reach a maximum speed of 142 miles per hour.
8. Mazda 6 (2007 edition)
Midsize cars seem to get more economical and less brutish every year, but the previous generation’s Mazda6 delivered ample power and speed. Take the 6 S Grand Touring edition that packed a 3.7-liter V6 engine, cranking out 272 horsepower. This model, which launched in 2009, delivered the goods. Motor Trend’s tests reported sprinting to 60 miles per hour in 6.1 seconds. Quarter miles came in the mid-14-second range.
7. Mazda MX-5 Miata
Naturally, Mazda can only do so much bragging without a Miata ending up on its fastest list. The 2017 MX-5 Miata delivers on all counts. Car and Driver testers needed just 5.8 seconds to sprint to 60 miles per hour in this model. (Road and Track got there in 6.1 seconds.) With a top speed of 129 miles per hour, the latest Miata is a worthy successor to Mazda’s greatest models.
6. Eunos Cosmo
If you want to talk about rare performance cars from Mazda’s past, bring up the Eunos Cosmo in conversation. This speed demon existed almost exclusively overseas. In fact, only a few ever made it to America, as the Cosmo has been one of the many illegal, banned cars on the government’s list. Mazda had plans to challenge Lexus with the Cosmo performance line, but nixed the idea in the exploratory phase. Too bad: Eunos Cosmo could hit 60 miles per hour in six seconds flat and ran the quarter mile in about 14 seconds. Top speeds exceeded 150 miles per hour.
5. Mazdaspeed 6
The Mazdaspeed 6 was a performance version of the midsize sedan that launched in 2005. At the time, Mazda estimated it could hit 60 miles per hour in 6.2 seconds, and most tests made that claim look conservative. (Car and Driver got there in 5.4 seconds in 2007.) This model peaked at 274 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, giving it the goods to outrun every Mazda car in production as of 2017. Testers actually got close to 150 miles per hour in this one.
4. Mazdaspeed 3
In Mazda’s recent history, the speedy 3 hatchback is probably the brand’s fastest car. It peaked at 148 miles per hour in Car and Driver tests, and ran to 60 in 5.8 seconds with Motor Trend drivers behind the wheel. Rumors of a new Mazdaspeed 3 have been in the air for years, but for now Mazda is letting this legend continue. We can’t say when — or if — there will be another for consumers in the near future. Used models would be your best bet. The last edition ran in the 2013 model year.
3. Mazda RX-7
If you want to talk about Mazda performance cars, you have to include the rotary-engine RX-7 in the conversation. Between its 1978 launch and its final U.S. model in 1995, the RX-7 was the car that kept critics and enthusiasts alike in thrall. Capable of reaching 60 miles per hour in just 5.3 seconds, it had the quickness drivers crave. The RX-7 had a variety of trims and variations that hit the market, but the final version (launched in 1991) still holds true as one of Mazda’s fastest to this day. It could reach a top speed of 155 miles per hour.
2. Mazda RX-7 Type-R
One of the many RX-7 variations, the Type-R could slightly outperform the base model and jet from a stop to 60 miles per hour in 5.1 seconds. Like the standard version, it could also hit a top speed of 155 miles per hour. Horsepower was tuned up a bit to 280 with 232 pounds-feet of torque. Type-R had rivals in siblings Type-RS and Type-RZ, but performance data on those editions remains scarce. Type-R’s hold on second place would likely withstand challenges from those models anyhow.
1. Mazda RX-7 Spirit R
As with the RX-8 special edition that arrived later, Mazda RX-7 Spirit R was the final, peak model for this performance legend. Since it never made it to America, rare isn’t even an adequate term to describe it. RX-7 Spirit R was an impractical car — calling it a gas-guzzler would be kind — and it had more power than it claimed (emissions controls). Regardless, everyone who ever got behind the wheel reported pure bliss and acceleration times better than in any other Mazda. The RX-7 Spirit could hit 60 miles per hour in five seconds, and it topped 150 miles per hour.