The MX Sportif presents the design direction for a new, global compact vehicle from Mazda. But as with all new Mazda products of late, the MX Sportif has been developed to blur the lines of traditional vehicle segmentation, offering customers far more in terms of exterior styling, overall vehicle roominess and enjoyable driving dynamics.

  • 2003 Mazda MX Sportif
  • Year:
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Transmission:
    5 speed manual
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
  • Torque @ RPM:
  • Displacement:
    1999 L
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  • body style:


In concrete terms, the Mazda MX Sportif presents four vehicle characteristics that will help a production version establish a strong position in the world’s markets:

  • Superbly balanced and linear vehicle dynamics yield class-leading driving pleasure
  • A prominent design based on distinct, muscular proportions and dynamic athleticism
  • The highest levels of craftsmanship and quality
  • Optimal interior space and functionality

"This vehicle is the next chapter in the story we have been writing," said Design Director Moray Callum. "The MX Sportif takes what customers have now come to expect from the new-generation of Mazda products and accentuates it. We see it as agile, dynamic and athletic. The overall proportions are unique as they allow us to deliver exceptional interior space while retaining the compactness and maneuverability customers are seeking. The design team that worked on this vehicle pushed to make it even more overtly passionate than our other Mazda products - particularly our very successful MAZDA6. The result is a car that we hope brings some design excitement to the segment."

The MX Sportif’s power is sourced from an MZR 2.0-liter, inline four-cylinder engine, a member of Mazda’s new-generation of engines. The engine features a reversed intake-exhaust layout (with the exhaust system fitted at the rear), a variable intake system (VIS), a tumble swirl control valve (TSCV) and a high-flow port head. Thus equipped, the engine produces a linear delivery of a substantial amount of torque at all engine speeds, assuring an exhilarating driving experience.

Maximum output is estimated at 150 hp at 6000 rpm and maximum torque is estimated at 140 lb-ft at 4500 rpm. In terms of environmental performance, the MZR engine in the MX Sportif aims to meet the PZEV (partial zero emission vehicle) standard in the United States. The engine in mated to a close-ratio, short-throw five-speed manual transmission.

The MX Sportif features the latest evolution of the Mazda Advanced Impact Distribution and Absorption System body, dual stage opening Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) front airbags, as well as SRS side curtains and seat mounted front side airbags. This level of passive safety equipment - matched to the active safety that is inherent in any vehicle with exceptional driving dynamics - gives MX Sportif a reassuring level of safety that is expected in all automobiles. Active safety is pushed to the highest levels with the inclusion of Mazda’s sophisticated anti-lock brake system and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), boosting the MX Sportif’s overall handling stability and braking performance beyond their basic potential.

For the MX Sportif, Mazda’s designers established independent standards of craftsmanship, incorporating them in ways that drivers and passengers could immediately see and feel. In addition to build quality and functional aesthetics, the MX Sportif team focused on the element of customer delight - an area of craftsmanship that seeks to offer finish quality on par with the highest-grade cars in the world and was a key focus in the development of the Mazda RX-8.

The design team paid particular attention to more than 300 structural requirements in creating the headlamp units, hood, fenders and other areas throughout the vehicle. The goal was to further reduce gaps between parts, improve fit-and-finish levels and ultimately deliver an exceptionally refined finish quality. With the interior, designers considered the texture and appearance of all the finishing materials for the instrument panel and door trim, carefully coordinated the bright and dark elements and, with steps as simple as eliminating the parting line normally present on the passenger’s side airbag housing, have been able to create a clean and uninterrupted instrument panel that is a pleasure to look at and touch.

To improve the visibility and ease of operation of the instrument panel’s central section, Mazda engineers conducted wide-ranging evaluations using a driving simulator (furthering work performed in Mazda RX-8 development). The result of these studies helped determine the shape and layout of displays and switches in the MX Sportif and emphasizes the importance of the vehicle’s functional aesthetics. The navigation system and audio/climate control displays, for example, were relocated even further upward, so they can be read easily with minimal driving distraction, while some switches were consciously moved downward, closer to the driver’s hands. Engineers also performed a range of ergonomic studies in an effort to perfect the seats, aiming to reduce fatigue on long journeys while also achieving the exceptional and uniform support required for sporty driving.

With the MX Sportif, Mazda’s design team pushed even further in the important area of customer delight and have produced a fresh and sophisticated interior ambience. The instrument panel illumination system is a good example. The three-meter cluster is the blackout type: when the lights are switched on, the amber-red backlighting is augmented by indirect blue lighting to create a pleasant glow that alleviates eyestrain. Amber-red backlighting and indirect blue lighting is also used on the center panel, for coordination with the meter illumination.

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