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Mazda used the Luce (pronounced lu-che) name on its largest sedans in Japan from 1969 until 1990. These vehicles were exported under a variety of names, including RX-4, 929, and Cosmo. The Luce nameplate was replaced by the Mazda Sentia name in 1991. The name "Luce" was taken from the Italian word for "light".

Following an agreement signed with Bertone in April, 1962, the 1965 Luce 1500 show car was a beautiful sedan designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro of Italy. It was low and sharp, looking more like a contemporary BMW Bavaria than any of its smaller Mazda brothers.

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The production version had a higher roofline but retained the BMW look. It was a front-engine, rear wheel drive 4-door sedan, and featured a square 1.5L (1490cc) 1500 SOHC engine, producing 78hp (58,1kW)5500rpm and 84,5lb ft. It sold poorly at 695,000 yen (US$1,930) and a stroked 1.8L (1796cc) 1800 engine was added for 1968. This new model, the Luce 1800, produced 104hp(74,5kW) 5500rpm and 112 lb ft 2500rpm. An estate station wagon was also added.


A rotary-powered Luce appeared the following year. The Luce R130 was produced from October, 1969 to 1972. It used a 1.3L 13A engine, which produced 126hp (94kW) and 127ft·lbf (172N·m). Quarter-mile (400 m) performance was 16.9 seconds. Interestingly, this model was front wheel drive.

1800 (USA)

The Mazda brand entered the United States market in 1970 with just the small R100, but expanded to a full line in 1971. This included all three of the company's piston-powered models, the compact 616, mid-size 1200, and full-size 1800.

The US-market 1800 produced 98hp (73kW) and 108lb·ft (146N·m) and cost US$2,280. Performance was sluggish, with a 0-60mph time of 17.5seconds and a 20.5seconds and 65mph (105km/h) quarter mile.

Unlike the rotary cars, the 1800 was a flop. Road & Track magazine said it was solid to the point of being overly-heavy, with pleasant handling but poor performance. They went so far as to call it the "Dullest Car of the Year"! It was gone from the market for 1972.

Opposite to what happened in USA, in Europe the same Mazda 1800 had a better performance with 104hp (78kW) at 5500 rpm (SAE) and max. torque of 109lb·ft (148N·m) at 3000 rpm (SAE), 0-60 mph in 13.4 seconds. The poor performance of this engine in USA was probably due to fact that in USA the petrol had an octane index of only 85 r.o.n. while in Europe the petrol used to have an octane index of 95 r.o.n (up to 100 r.o.n. today). Also the manual transmission with 4 gears used in Europe contributed to a much better performance than the 3 gears automatic transmission usually used in the US.

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1990 - 1989
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