New Mazda RX-8 revealed

* On sale mid-2009 * Extra performance * Prices expected to be from 22,000...

New Mazda RX-8 revealed

Mazda's heavily revised RX-8, which will go on sale in the UK in mid-2009.

With 167,000 RX-8s sold around the world, Mazda has opted to refresh rather than revamp its styling, but it promises that performance will take a major step forward.

Performance and engines
The car's body has been strengthened to enhance performance, while improved suspension, driveshafts and differentials improve the RX-8's handling and acceleration.

Engine choice is limited to either a 230bhp 1.3-litre model fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox or a 210bhp 1.3-litre engine linked to a six-speed semi-automatic gearbox.

Styling changes
Revised front and rear bumpers, remodelled headlamps and larger exhaust pipes are the biggest changes to the styling. The wheels also have a unique five-spoke design, evoking the layout of the rotary engine for which the firm is famed.

The clever reversed rear-hinge doors remain, enabling the RX-8 to carry four adults.

In the cabin, new features include a revised centre console with a section of the rev counter that glows a deeper red as the engine temperature rises. A new shape of steering wheel, and redesigned front and rear seats have also been fitted.

The RX-8 is available in four trims.

These are topped by the R3 sport package, which features sports suspension, a rear spoiler, side sills, foglights, 19-inch alloy wheels, sports seats, keyless entry and an aggressive front bumper.

The other three trim levels are called Sport, Touring and Grand Touring.

Safety features
Safety features include six airbags and stability control, which is an option on the base Sport model and standard on the other trims.

Pedestrian safety is also considered, with Mazda's pop-up bonnet system providing protection in an impact.

No prices for the car have been released, but they are expected to start from around 22,000, which is a slight increase on the current model.