Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1
The rebodied Mazda Luce Legato was introduced late in 1977
and became the second generation 929 for export markets, often called the 929L, which it was here in Australia. There was no coupé version developed of this generation, although a four-door hardtop body was available in Japan and some other markets. A station wagon was added in February 1979.
The design was American inspired, with stacked rectangular headlights and a large chrome grille. A more efficient 2.0 litre L4, producing 90 hp (66 kW) with a single-barrel carb replaced the existing engines. First presented in Japan in October 1979
was a facelifted version with large, rectangular headlights and a more orthodox appearance.
The 929L in Australia
In Australia the 929L's release was a fairly low key affair. Most people thought it looked a little too much like a Toyota, be it the Cressida or Crown. In fact, some motoring journalists even thought it was the same car that they had seen at the Melbourne Motor Show – but Mazda had in fact brought out the Luce Legato. The styling was very similar, but the 929L was both smaller and less expensive. Unlike the 929/RX4 range it superseded, the 929L was available in only one body style, a four door sedan, and with manual transmission and no options, it would set you back A$7451, while the auto cost A$7995.
The one model strategy was not a case of penny-pinching by Mazda, as the 929L had pretty much every option then available on a car from the mid to late 1970s - the only option was air- conditioning. Soon, and a little unfairly, people were referring to the 929 as a Japanese Cadillac imitation, but the Cadillac was not on Australian roads, and Mazda had mid-size luxury cars such as the Sigma SE, Cortina Ghia, Torana SL, and Nissan Skyline in their sights. It cost more than the previous model 929, but the second generation car had the goods to carry it off. After all, the Cressida was doing very well in this arena.
Like the body of the 929L, the mechanicals were new too. At the front, McPherson struts with coil springs were retained although new geometry was employed to withstand the rigors of the more powerful motor. The Japanese were slow to adopt rack and pinion steering, and persevered with the ball and nut type, so it was at the rear where all the changes had taken place. Gone was the leaf spring live axle, replaced by a four link coil sprung rear end. When combined with the longer wheelbase (not quite 100mm longer), it made for a very stable and well mannered car.
Sloppy Suspension, Sloppy Steering
Well that was the theory. But if you have ever driven one you will know the Mazda engineers wanted the 929L to offer a soft, quiet ride - which they achieved – but that meant it also offered handfuls of body-roll thanks to its long-travel suspension
. It also suffered from a lot of impact harshness on bumpy roads, yet surprisingly there was a general lack of road feel transmitted through to the cabin. The steering too suffered from this. The steering wheel wasn't bad for this type of car, but you couldn't feel anything through it. The power assistance may have been good in tight spots, but it didn’t provide any feel on the open road. The steering
simply didn’t allow for any precision or accurate placement through corners.
Provided you were not interested in any type of spirited driving, and were happy to lope along aware of the 929L’s shortcomings, then inside the cabin was not such a bad place to be. Very little road noise managed to get through to the cabin, as it was outstandingly well insulated. What did get through however, was engine noise. The engine in the 929L (there was, unfortunately, no rotary any more) was that same unit used in the previous generation 929, except that it was now being stretched to two litres from its original 1.8. The engine was never a dog, but in 2 litre guise it was much better – even if it was noisy. It revved willingly and with its well matched four speed box it would propel the 929L well in a straight line. Accelerating in the gears from 40 km/h to 80 km/h brought plenty of engine chatter which penetrated through to the cabin, although generally it was not too bad.
Inside the 929L
Inside, the new Mazda was pleasant to drive, if a little uninspiring. The cloth covered seats supported well although we have read one long term driver report where they complained that they were too soft. All the controls were set up ergonomically. There was also a surprising amount of rear legroom, together with all the usual Japanese gadgets, including electric release for the boot lid and fuel filler cap. Mind you, we cannot explain why it didn’t come with a digital clock, which just about every other Japanese car from the era was fitted with – an item that had become a hallmark of the Japanese car interior.
The 929L’s styling was bland, its handling ordinary, but despite that, it wasn’t too bad. The final addition of the 2nd generation 929 was a 2.2 litre Diesel engine in September 1980
. Its output was 66 hp (49 kW) and 104 N·m (142 N·m). The 929 was replaced after 1981 by the next generation Luce/929, although the second generation station wagon continued in production until the March 1988
as no wagon replacement of subsequent generations was ever developed.
Mazda 929L Gen 2 Quick Specifications:
Toyo Kogyo Ltd. Mazda 929L Sedan; Price: (basic) $7451 (Airconditioning +$650).
Location Front; Construction Iron; No of cylinders Four; Configuration In line; Capacity 1970cc; Valve gear OHC; Induction system - Down draft, two stage, two barrel; Compression ratio 8.6:1; Bore and Stroke (mm) 80 x 98.
Type Four speed manual; Shift location Floor; Drive Rear; Ratios: 1st 3.214:1, 2nd 1.818:1 3rd 1.296:1, 4th 1.000:1; Final drive 3.727:1.
Construction Unitary; Panel material Steel; Weight (kg) 1170.
Length 4645; Width 1710; Height 1415; Wheelbase 2610; Front track 1430; Rear track 1400.
Front Coil spring, McPherson strut; double acting shockers; Rear Four-link with coils, gas filled double acting shockers.
Power assisted disc/drum; Front Ventilated power assist, disc.; Rear Power assist, drum.
Type Ball and nut, power assisted; Turning circle 10m.
Pressed steel; Diameter 14in; Rim width 5.5in; Tyre make Notch Rib; Type Steel radial; Dimensions 175 SR14
Acceleration from standstill to 60 km/h 5.8; 80 km/h 9.6; 100 km/h 13.3; 120 km/h 21.7; 140 km/h 32.1; Standing start 400 metres - Elapsed time 19.5, Terminal speed 122; Maximum speeds in gears: 1st 60 km/h, 2nd 118 km/h, 3rd 148 km/h. 4th NA; Braking 110 km/h to zero (average distance taken in metres): 54; Fuel consumption (litres per 100 km/mpg) 14.0/19.9; Tank capacity 65 litres.