The Mazda Lantis and Mazda’s 2.0-liter V6.
Photo: Mazda

When it debuted, Mazda’s K-series engine was the smallest V6 ever put into production. While it was quickly overtaken and then expanded into a more reasonable 2.0- and 2.5-liters (as opposed to a minute 1.8), it remained almost oddly overbuilt.

Regular Car Reviews went down to New Zealand and got a good look at one of these K-series sixes, the KF-ZE. It’s a two-liter, and it’s the good one. Built for the Japanese domestic market, it gets all of Mazda’s best internals for a solid 160 horsepower.

But it’s not the numbers that make it interesting. It’s the weirdly strong build to the engine, from its massive bottom end to its forged internals. It looks like an engine that was meant for racing, though it went into only sporty coupes.

It’s worth remembering that this was a project of the Bubble Era, when Japanese carmakers felt free to build their cars and components to last, with the utmost quality. Regular Car Reviews and his host wonder if this engine was designed for a racing program that was cancelled. I see it as a good example of the lunacy of its time.