Mazda Lantis Type R – Rare, Quirky And (Sort Of) Fast

What comes to mind when you see “Type R” on a car?

Almost certainly one of Honda’s legendary creations, such as the DC2 Integra Type R, EK9 Civic Type R, or the ultra-rare and desirable NSX-R.

Other manufacturers have used the Type R badge over the years too, such as Jaguar with the S Type R (which is a very underrated car in my view, and I hope to do an article/feature piece on this car in the future).

But did you know that Mazda have also used the Type R badge too?

In this edition of Forgotten Heroes, I’m going to explore the history of a quirky, interesting 1990s performance car made for the Japanese domestic market – the Mazda Lantis Type R.

What Is It?

Long story short, the Mazda Lantis Type R was the sportiest, best-performing version of the Mazda Lantis.

Some of the Lantis family lineup

As was Mazda’s proclivity at the time, the normal Lantis was sold in different markets under different names.

Some got the Mazda 323F, others the Astina, and even the names Allegro and Artis. Maybe Mazda thought that “Lantis” sounded a bit too much like “Mantis”?

The Lantis was available in two body styles, across the different spec levels/trims.

There was a four door sedan:

And then also a five door hatchback, that was marketed somewhat optimistically as a “four door coupe”:

A fun fact about the design of the coupe – it was designed by Ginger Ostle, a German designer who also worked for Porsche and worked on the design of cars such as the 944.

Engine options were a range of four cylinder units, and a range-topping 2.0 V6 (more on that later). Buyers could opt for a five speed manual or four sped automatic transmission. This car has an FF layout, with front-wheel drive and front engine.

Interestingly – at least for the time – emphasis was placed in advertising material on the strong safety scores that the Lantis received in testing (in the early 1990s it was typically Volvo, Saab and German manufacturers to a lesser extent who were more aggressively promoting safety)

The Mazda Lantis Type R – to the best of my knowledge/research – was only available in the coupe shape.

The Lantis Typ R sports some visual enhancements and improvements from the lesser models in the lineup – but the primary improvements are mechanical in nature. From https://carsonfilm.tumblr.com/

Mazda Lantis Type R Specs

The Lantis Type R is one of those cars that is relatively difficult to find much information about.

It was a genuine JDM-only car (read our JDM meaning guide for more information about what this term actually means) and never sold in Japan in great numbers anyway, meaning that spec info etc is relatively hard to come by.

However, in terms of basic specifications, the Mazda Lantis Type R offered owners the following:

* 170hp 2.0 V6 (KF-ZE) – similarly fitted to the 2.0l Mazda MX-6.
* 5 speed manual transmission
* Limited slip differential
* Visual modifications, such as a front lip spoiler and side skirts
* Sportier seats, although the interior is very bland and 1990s Japanese – function over form, all the way

The Lantis was produced from 1993-1998. I can’t find any reliable information on whether the Type R was produced for every manufacturing year of the car’s run – so feel free to comment below if you know the answer.

Rather confusingly, the Mazda Lantis Type R is sometimes referred to as the “Lantis Coupe 2000 Type R”, for example when it appeared in the Gran Turismo series of games:

According to GT Planet, the Lantis didn’t appear in every version of Gran Turismo, and the car lineup does vary somewhat from region to region – but nonetheless the video above shows a Mazda Lantis Type R in Gran Turismo 1 for PS1, although this appears to be emulated potentially?

And also on some official posters/promo material:

As mentioned above, the “2000” refers to the engine displacement. This is from a brochure scan, taken from Stephens Motorsport, one of those great little sites that you don’t see much anymore, where an owning has loving documented their journey with their Lantis Type R, including repairs and improvements undertaken and more. The site hasn’t been updated in almost 10 years, and isn’t mobile friendly etc, but is well worth a read: http://stephensmotorsport.com/

In this context, 2000 doesn’t refer to the year of manufacture but rather the engine displacement.

Performance-wise, it’s definitely not in the same league as a Honda Type R (such as the DC2 Integra Type R) from the same era … but there is something undeniably appealing about a small, relatively powerful V6 engine – it’s a bit of a time warp.

Mitsubishi were doing something similar in the 1990s with the FTO, with the higher specification FTOs coming with a 2.0 V6 as well. In fact the “base” 2.0 V6 FTO has similar performance to the Lantis Type R, but the top-spec MIVEC FTO was quite a bit faster (learn more here in our article about whether the FTO was a fast car).

The Lantis does have some Motorsport pedigree, having competed (although not hugely successfully) in both British and Japanese Touring Car championships in the 1990s.

For example, here’s some grainy footage from a ripped episode of Japanese show BestMotoring, showing a JTCC Lantis in action:

Feedback from “real world” owners – at least in terms of what I could find online trawling YouTube, forums etc – is that the Lantis is a great little car to drive, with agreeable handling and power delivery.

Mazda Lantis Type R 0-100 Time

It’s hard to find accurate 0-100kph (0-60mph) information for the Lantis Type R.

A couple of those automotive performance/stats “aggregator” sites seem to put it around the high 7s.

The regular 2.0 V6, which produced 150hp, allowed for 0-100 times of around 8.5 seconds. There are plenty of good quality YouTube videos showing this, e.g.:

Therefore, with the extra power of the improved Type R engine, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect anywhere from 7.5-8 seconds, depending on conditions and driver skill.

Not wild, especially by today’s standards, but quick enough to be fun.

I haven’t driven a Lantis Type R, but it was a relatively popular used ex-Japan import in New Zealand (along with lower spec cars) and they were cheap to buy when I was first getting into cars. In fact, I recall a friend from high school having a regular 2.0 V6 one as their first car – that was a great drive, and felt plenty punchy enough to 17 year old me. On this basis, the Type R must surely be even better!

Mazdaspeed Lantis Type R

While the regular Lantis Type R did have some visual modifications and enhancements, it’s still a fairly “normal” looking car. Whether that is a good thing is a matter of personal preference.

Mazda recognised this plain appearance might have been an issue for some, and so released (once again only on the Japanese domestic market – read our JDM meaning guide here for more info) a “Mazdaspeed Lantis Type R”

This sports what must be one of the wildest rear wings ever to come from the manufacturer, and is reminiscent of the old Ford Cosworth:

There isn’t a huge amount of readily-accessible information on the Mazdaspeed Lantis Type R – probably because production was limited to 150 units (according to our Japanese-speaking editor who did some translation on the grainy promo poster above).

The primary focus of the Mazdaspeed variant was simply to make the car look more impressive and performance-focused.

There were some other modifications, such as:

  • Eibach springs
  • Yumex exhaust
  • Enkei-made Mazda wheels (very similar looking – perhaps the same? – to what came with some RX-7s of the era)
  • Bridgestone Potenza Tires

If you have any more specific information about the Mazdaspeed Lantis Type R, then feel free to leave a comment below or email admin@garagedreams.net – it would be great to hear from you and get your expertise.

Mazdaspeed Lantis Type R – additional brochure detail. We will try to translate in full when time allows. You can see from the spec sheet on the right there is no lift in power output etc.

Recap – Mazda Lantis Type R

As mentioned in the introduction to this article, the name “Type R” immediately invokes to most car enthusiasts a mental image like this:

However, Mazda actually beat Honda to the punch in terms of using the Type R badge, with the Lantis coming slightly before the original Integra Type R (read our DC2 Integra Type R buyer’s guide and model history here).

Of course the Integra is the car everybody remembers and lusts after … and to be fair it is, at an objective level, a superior car to the Lantis in just about every way – certainly in terms of performance at least. It probably didn’t help that Mazda never bothered to sell the hot version of the Lantis outside of the Japanese market, whereas the DC2 Integra Type R was exported.

But we all know that there is a strong element of subjectivity to car ownership, and to being a car enthusiast.

While the Lantis Type R never set the world on fire, I believe with a car like this you need to look past the headline stats.

What you are getting here is a slice of history that will never be repeated. You just aren’t going to see small displacement V6 engines, at least not in any kind of “volume produced” car. If the opportunity came knocking, I’d consider one myself purely on that basis alone – as a chance to preserve automotive history from what must surely be the best era of Japanese car manufacturing (the 1990s).

The Lantis Type R also harks back to an era where Japanese manufacturers seemed to build a performance variant of just about every car in their lineup (although many of these were reserved for the local market, and have only found their way into Western countries as used imports). Mazda makes superb cars these days – the likes of the CX-5 and Mazda 6 are as good as you can get for the money in terms of style, luxury and driving experience … but let’s not kid ourselves that a modern Mazda 6 sedan is anywhere near as interesting as something like the Lantis Type R.

Hopefully you found this article on the Mazda Lantis Type R interesting.

If you’ve got any corrections, feedback or suggestions, then you are welcome to leave a comment below or email in confidence on admin@garagedreams.net. With information being relatively scant for this car due to its JDM-only nature and limited production run, I greatly appreciate any insight or information you have – and apologise in advance for any errors in my research.

Don’t forget to check out the other “Forgotten Heroes” articles on Garage Dreams, as well as our detailed classic car buyer’s guides, product reviews, and Car Fact articles.

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