The Mazda RX-2 was a midsize car introduced in 1970 and sold through 1978. It used a rotary engine and shared a chassis with the piston-engined Mazda Capella/616/618.
The RX-2 was really an option package for the Capella, albeit one that included a powerful rotary engine. In fact, early RX-2s were simply badged "Capella" with a small "RE" or rotor shape in the grille. The RX-2 was intended as a rotary-powered family car, while the Mazda RX-3 would be the sporty coupé.
The first RX-2 (known as the Series I and II) were introduced in 1970 and replaced in 1974. They shared chassis of the Mazda Capella and used a 12A Wankel engine. They were a tremendous success due to their comparatively high power and performance. In 1970, output was 130 hp (97 kW) and 115 lb·ft (156 Nm).
The 1974 RX-2 got the 12A engine, although it was not publicized in some markets.
Last production year of RX-2 at the South African Mazda-factory, where it was only produced with the 12A engine.
The RX-2 was one of the first Mazda vehicles offered for sale in the United States, lasting from 1971 through 1974. It appeared just after the Familia-based Mazda R100, and distribution of both cars was initially limited to the West Coast.
American emissions modifications reduced the 12A engine's output to 120 hp (89 kW), slowing the car's acceleration to 60 mph (97 km/h) from 10 to 11.3 sec. Nevertheless, Road & Track magazine reviewed the car favorably, calling the engine "impressive" and "plenty torquey" and comparing it to a smooth straight-6. The car's suspension and brakes also pleased the reviewers, but they were less enthusiastic about the "notchy" 4-speed manual transmission. All in all, the contemporary reviewers considered the RX-2, priced around US$3,000, "a steal".
Early RX-2s had trouble with failure of the oil seals, causing excessive oil consumption and heavier exhaust. Another failure mode involved overheating of the O-ring side seals between sections of the side housing which introduced coolant into the combustion chamber, reducing available power and making the engine hard to start, and ultimately rendering the vehicle inoperable.At first, Mazda fixed the engines under warranty, replacing the overheated seals with new ones of the same design. Later, they offered a better, redesigned set of seals but at a cost to the consumer of US$1,000 per engine. This caused many Mazda RX-2 owners to abandon rather than repair their cars, accounting for the extreme rarity of these exotic, sporty sedans.