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Mazda Motor Corp.’s Atenza has been chosen by a group of auto researchers and journalists as the car of the year, the group said Wednesday.

The Automotive Researchers and Journalists Conference of Japan said the Mazda Atenza was chosen from among 23 Japanese models released between November 2001 and October.

The RJC said it gave high marks to the Atenza for its exterior design, roomy interior and driving performance.

The Atenza is the first Mazda model to win the award since the Demio in 1996.

Honda Motor Co.’s Accord sedan and wagon, which won the Japan Car of the Year Executive Committee’s Japan car of the year for 2002-2003, was rated third by the RJC.

The Citroen C3 was chosen as the RJC import car of the year.

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