With its 323 range, Mazda reintroduced the Australian motoring public to what had always made the brand so popular. With a choice of a four-door sedan or a five-door hatch, the manufacturer again staked a claim to providing one of the best small car drives on the market. With some upgrading of materials and features, the four-door Protege and the five-door Astina were replacements for the previous 1.6-litre offering from Mazda. Together with the Mazda 323 SP20, they still provide a comfortable ride and great value for money.
The Mazda 323 SP20 boasts the bonnet and grille that Mazda introduced to give the range a more corporate look. Unseen changes add stiffer suspension and a power-assisted rack-and-pinion makes steering more precise, while seating is a lot more comfortable and supportive. The car also provides amply for passenger safety with twin airbags and anti-skid brakes. A six-disc CD sound system allows great musical entertainment, while auto air-conditioning takes care of those sweltering summer days. What is most important, though, is the way this car drives.
A five-speed manual gearbox makes changing a slick operation and the 2-litre, four-cylinder, fuel injected engine cooperates by producing 98kW that somehow seems faster. With a firmer suspension the Mazda 323 SP corners tenaciously with great front-rear balance and is easy to park.
Parked in the driveway or taking to the road on 16-inch alloys, the Mazda 323 series is certain to draw attention with looks as well as the kind of performance expected of Mazda.