The Mazda Luce is the name of Mazda's largest sedans in Japan from 1960, to 1990.
Following an agreement signed with Bertone in April 1962, the 1965 Luce 1500 show car was 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. The production version, launched in August 1966, had a higher roofline but retained the BMW look. It was a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive 4-door sedan, and featured a square 1.5 L (1490 cc) 1500 SOHC engine, producing 78 hp (58,1 kW) at 5,500 rpm and 84.5 lb·ft (114.6 N·m). It sold poorly at ¥ 695,000 (US$1,930) and a stroked 1.8 L (1,796 cc) 1800 engine was added for 1968. This new model, the Luce 1800, produced 104 hp (74,5 kW) at 5,500 rpm and 112 lb ft at 2,500 rpm. An estate (station wagon) was also added. It was introduced two years before the Toyota Corona Mark II and the Nissan Laurel in Japan. The Luce Mark I was sold in Australia under the names "Mazda 1500" and "Mazda 1800".
A rotary-powered Luce appeared in 1969. The Luce R130 was produced from October 1969 to 1972. It used a 1.3 L 13A engine, which produced 126 hp (94 kW) and 127 lb·ft (172 Nm). Quarter-mile (400 m) performance was 16.9 seconds. This model was a front-wheel-drive two-door coupé with front disc brakes. This model, Mazda's only front-wheel-drive rotary, is now a collector's item and very rare.
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 1200, mid-size 616, and full-size 1800. The US-market 1800 produced 98 hp (73 kW) and 108 lb·ft (146 N·m) and cost US$2,280. Performance was sluggish, with a 0-60 mph time of 17.5 seconds and a 20.5 seconds and 65 mph (105 km/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. It was gone from the market for 1972. Opposite to what happened in the U.S., in Europe the 1800 had a better performance with 104 hp (78 kW) at 5,500 rpm (SAE) and maximum torque of 109 lb·ft (148 N·m) at 3,000 rpm (SAE), for a 0-60 mph time of 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 at the time had an octane index of 95 r.o.n (up to 100 r.o.n. today). Also the manual transmission with four gears used in Europe contributed to a much better performance than the three-speed automatic transmission usually used in the US. The 1800 (fitted with a manual transmission) also sold in small numbers in Australia.
The 1972 rotary Luce was also known as the Mazda RX-4 in export markets. It was available as a coupé, sedan, and "custom" (station wagon). Two rotary engines were offered, the regular 12A and low-emission AP 13B.
The 1978 Luce Legato (introduced in October, 1977) was a large and luxurious sedan, still powered by Mazda's piston or rotary engines. It was also available as a four-door pillarless hardtop that looked like a huge, square coupé, and a wagon, which had more of a utilitarian role than the sedans. Aside from the regular piston-engined variants, the 12A or 13B rotary engines were on offer. The piston-engined variants were exported as the Mazda 929. A rotary-engined version was exported to "general issue" countries and sold as an RX-9. Most RX-9's were sold with the smaller 12A engine. A facelift was given to the range in 1980, giving the car a more 'European' styled front. When the range was replaced in 1981, the wagon models continued, due to there being no wagon model of the new range developed.
For 1981, Mazda brought back the Cosmo name for the HB platform Luce coupé. The sedan was also exported as the Mazda 929. The wagon was essentially the same as the last one from the A-pillar back. Production of the Cosmo continued after the Luce was replaced in 1986.
The 1986 Luce was large and luxurious on the HC platform, now with the 13B turbo engine as one of many engine options. It was still exported as the 929, and differed from the (continued) Cosmo. In the 1990s Mazda sold the body stampings to Kia where it was reproduced until the early first decade of the 21st century in piston form and sold in Korea only. 1991 was the last year of the Luce nameplate. The Eunos Cosmo was already on sale (JC), and the HD platform spawned the Mazda Sentia (now exported as the 929), and the Efini MS-9, making 1991 the last year for a 4-door rotary powered sedan prior to the RX-8