That was the Cosmo, a diminutive (3ft 8in high, to be exact) but handsomely distinctive two-seat sports coupé that arrived in prototype form in 1963 but didn't go on sale until May 1967.
Its engine was a twin-rotor unit, with a capacity of just 1964cc, producing 110bhp at 7000rpm and 96lb ft at 3500rpm. This sent power to the rear wheels through a four-speed manual gearbox and enabled a 0-62mph time of 10.0sec.
Under the name 110S, the car became the first Mazda to be officially imported to the UK, and with it, Autocar received its first experience of Hiroshima's finest on 8 February 1968.
"This car is different from anything we have previously experienced," we began. "Searching for similarities, we thought it had a suggestion of competition Saab about the feel of its power unit and of Porsche in its handling.
"The exhaust has a very distinctive sound, with a touch of two-stroke; the engine itself produces a blend of gear whine and nasal roar. On fast journeys, the collective drone heard inside the car is rather loud even for a GT coupé and after a time becomes tedious, yet with light throttle and gentle driving, the car is unusually quiet.
"There is no lack of pull at lower speeds, as some engineers expected, nor is it rough or uneven when idling. The idling speed is on the high side, at 750rpm, but perfectly smooth and unobtrusive when standing in traffic. We were surprised to find that the car will pull away at under 1000rpm in top gear – very slowly at first but without protest. No one would ask it to do this except to prove the point and, in fact, it prefers to be driven hard with revs well up. At the top end, this very responsive, free-revving unit has a normal limit of 7000rpm.
"We have known 2.0-litre six-cylinder piston engines as smooth, but only in the 2000-5000rpm range.
"This Wankel proved to be a good cold starter and it warmed up unusually quickly to 80-85C. It runs happily on the lowest grade, two-star fuel, so this is some compensation for the fairly heavy fuel consumption, which reached only 20mpg on gently driven journeys. Ordinary city driving gave us an average of 18.5mpg."
So, the engine was a success. As for the other key element of a sports car: "‘Handles like a Porsche’, we said – but only to a point. Quick, precise steering, with a weight bias in favour of the rear wheels, are part of it. Then the rear-end adhesion is impressive, especially on wet roads. The car goes just where you point it, with momentary understeer at first, which is possibly no more than distortion of the radial front tyres at the unusually low pressures recommended.