The first generation MX-6 appeared in 1988 and lasted until 1992 in the United States. In some markets the model years were from 1987 to 1991. It was based on a series of futuristic sports compact concept cars of the early 1980s. It was a large coupé, based on the Mazda GD platform, and was powered by the I4 Mazda F engines.
The US market made use of the F2 2.2L engine, with the base engine produced 110hp (82kW), but a 145hp (108kW) turbocharged version was available. European and Japanese market versions were shipped with either the F8 1.8L, FE 2.0L or FE-DOHC 2.0L DOHC engines.
The MX-6 was produced with two transmission options, a 5-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed automatic with overdrive. The MX-6 was also known to be a very reliable car, mechanically.
This generation was available in several trim levels, which differ depending on the market the vehicle was sold in. In the United States, the MX-6 was available in DX, LX, LE, and GT trim levels:
- DX was the "bare bones" model, offering the base 120hp (89kW)/130lb·ft (176N·m) F2 2.2L engine and few options, but most MX-6s sold in the U.S. were equipped with air conditioning.
- LX added power windows, power locks, and power mirrors, as well as an optional electric moonroof.
- LE was a rare "Leather Edition" model that was the same as the LX, but included leather seating surfaces and a leather wrapped shift knob on manual transmission-equipped vehicles.
- GT included all options from the LX, but also stepped up to the F2T 2.2L turbocharged, intercooled engine, which put out 145hp (108kW) and 190lb·ft (258N·m) of torque delivering a significant performance boost. It also had 4 wheel disc brakes with ABS as optional, and 3 way electronically adjustable suspension, dubbed AAS.
In 1989, Mazda offered a special four wheel steering (commonly abbrieviated 4WS) option on MX-6 GTs destined for the U.S. This system consisted of an electronically controlled rear steering rack that turned the rear wheels opposite to the fronts at low speeds to improve cornering, and turned the rear wheels with the fronts at high speeds to improve highway lane change maneuvering. This option was available through all years for GT models in other markets.