Mazda 929 L LA4 Luce Legato – Better than the Europeans?

Mazda 929 L

A drive in the second-generation Mazda 929 L LA4, better known in Japan as Luce Legato: simple technology is not necessarily a disadvantage.


Dimmed lights, tinted windows and a velvety-smooth carpet. This is how the branch of the established German brand presented itself to me, and I must admit that they looked picture-perfect: the matt-glowing automobiles framed by flowers. Well-placed spotlights and a salesman dressed discreetly in grey did their bit to put my dream car into the right light.

The environment at the dealer of Japanese cars, on the other hand, was – to put it mildly – a little simpler: the salesroom, which was also a little off the main road, was immediately recognisable as a place where people also traded in other things. And the salesman was the master himself, who indicated with a spanner in his hand that he himself was willing to take care of the car and maintain it.

He had best do that right away, I thought, when the master found out about the strange car in the yard that was supposed to be “tailor-made for me”.


What kind of automobile was this all about? Well, I was intending to buy a mid-range car with two litres of engine capacity, was prepared to fork out up to 15,000 marks on the house table – and had actually already made up my mind. After all, the well-mannered salesman had emphatically confirmed to me the numerous advantages of the Opel Rekord 2.0. The purchase price of 14,740 Marks was even just under the calculated upper limit.

If the Mazda master hadn’t pulled out this brochure: Mazda 929, it said, for the complete price of 14,400 Marks – all accessories included: headlight washer system, tinted windows, radio, antenna and much more.

The Opel salesman with the chic Pucci tie was not impressed: “You can also get it from us – and it can be put together according to your personal wishes. We searched, tallied and added up: 17,271 marks for an Opel Rekord – for a car that, right down to the lockable fuel filler cap for 17 marks, now had the same equipment as the Mazda.

So in the end there was a price difference of just under 3,000 marks for two absolutely comparable cars with very similar dimensions and identical power output of 90 hp. The clear price advantage is one of the reasons for the slow but steady success of the Japanese on the German car market. This applies to all classes and also to the new Mazda 929 L that has just been presented.

Why the cars from the “Land of the Rising Sun” have not yet overrun the German market is also clear from our example: Of course, the sophisticated pricing policy of the German manufacturers has not only disadvantages: it allows the customer to order and pay only for the details that he considers good and useful.

Of course, the local companies benefit from their perfected sales and service organisation. Of course, the long-established companies have built up a brand image over decades that no newcomer can shake so quickly. Of course, the strongest on the market make fashion and determine with their styling what the customer perceives as chic and modern.

And honestly, who can tell a Mazda from a Toyota or a Datsun from a Mitsubishi at first glance? It is only the car driver who manages to leave emotions aside when it comes to the status symbol car, for whom the decision for the qualities under the sheet metal and chrome is reduced to technology, suitability for everyday use and economy, and it is with these factors in mind that we tested the new Mazda 929 L.




In terms of economy, the car from the Far East is undoubtedly quite good. In addition to the favourable price, there is the low fuel consumption. On a leisurely country road trip, the Mazda was content with a good nine litres, and even at fast motorway speeds it stayed below the twelve-litre mark. In addition, the mechanics are so undemanding that some dealers have already criticised them: “The quality of our vehicles is so good that we can’t even speak of a spare parts business in this sense,” says Heinz Schmickt, head of Mazda’s spare parts department.

Nevertheless, even with the new Mazda, the loss of value will be rapid and thus cancel out many a saving. For the technology in one vocabulary: rock solid. Delicacies are missing, however. Propulsion is provided by a two-litre four-cylinder that delivers 90 hp (66 kW) and 4,800 rpm. In the upper rev range, the engine releases this nominal power only sluggishly and with greater noise and, after an appropriate start-up, provides a top speed of 163 km/h. Here, however, it is advisable to drive carefully, because the 929 reacts extremely sensitively to crosswinds. On the one hand, this results from the shape of the body, which has become more attractive compared to earlier models, but still has a too high waistline.

The second reason is the chassis, which has a rigid axle in the rear that is not yet as perfectly controlled as the Opel Rekord. The Mazda rumbles on bad roads and surprises with small lateral misalignments on motorway bumps. The 929 is unproblematic when cornering: it pushes over the front wheels and brakes itself when cornering too fast. The Mazda’s suspension and damping provide sufficient comfort.


The four wide-opening doors also make it easy to get into the car. The interior is appealing, offering sufficient knee room even for rear passengers. Seating comfort is not quite as good: The cosy and comfortable seats offer little lateral support. And the support surface for the thighs is too short.

Now to the driver’s workplace: the seat, which can also be adjusted in height, can be adapted to almost any stature. The dashboard is clearly drawn and hardly reflective; the control levers are easy to hold – except for the fresh air fan switch, which is too small.

Once you have decided to go on a long journey, you will find a luggage compartment in the rear that is also sufficient for four people, and the 65-litre tank located above the rear axle – thanks to its favourable fuel consumption – provides for action radii of over 500 kilometres.

The low compression ratio of 8.6:1 also makes it possible to move forward quickly with Anatolian highland fuel.

To sum up: the Mazda 929 L is a car that meets all a driver’s needs at a comparatively low price. However, it is also a car that, apart from its rich equipment, nowhere exceeds the normal average standard. A sensible utility vehicle, but not a partner for decidedly long-distance or particularly sporty drivers.

For the moment, the German manufacturers still have an advantage through technology. For the moment – because the Japanese are learning fast.

This article first appeared in the magazine hobby No. 22/1978 of 16 October 1978.

Pictures Mazda Motor Europe GmbH

Author: Jürgen Lewandowski

Jürgen Lewandowski schreibt seit mehr als 40 Jahren über Menschen und Autos - und hat mehr als 100 Bücher veröffentlicht. Traumklassiker: Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 Touring Spider und Lancia Rally 037. Eigener Klassiker: Alfa Romeo R.Z. von 1993.

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