Mazda gets top honours in Japan for RX-8 sports car

TOKYO, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Mazda Motor Corp's RX-8 sports car picked up the 'RJC Car of the Year' award in Japan, giving Mazda one of the industry's most coveted awards for the second straight year, Japan's No.5 auto maker said on Wednesday.

The four-door four-seater RX-8, launched this April, beat out runners-up Toyota Motor Corp's new Prius hybrid sedan and Fuji Heavy Industries' Subaru Legacy, which won the Car of the Year award last week from a separate group.

The 74 judges of the RJC (Automotive Researchers' and Journalists' Conference of Japan) also awarded Mazda's new "Renesis" rotary engine, which powers the RX-8, its Technology of the Year award.

After spending half of the 1990s in the red, Mazda, owned one-third by Ford Motor Co , has been rebuilding itself by crafting a fresh brand identity with attractive and unique cars.

A day earlier, its sporty Mazda3/Axela compact was named runner-up in the 2004 European Car of the Year awards, while the Mazda6/Atenza sedan won the RJC's top award last year.

The RJC panel consists of automotive journalists, lawyers and university professors.