Overview of the Mazda 323
The Mazda 3 is today one of the country's most popular cars, yet Australia fell in love with Mazda hatchbacks as early as 1977 with the first 323.
It sold like hotcakes in 1981 when a new-generation front-wheel-drive 323 replaced the rear-drive model.
There were various hatch, sedan and wagon body styles, and in the mid-1990s there was even a V6 alternative to the mainly four-cylinder line-up. A sporty SP20 model bolstered the 323's image before the model was replaced from 2004 onwards by the Mazda 3.
MAZDA 323 GENERATIONS (SINCE 1994)
1.6L 4-cylinder: 7.0 to 7.7 litres per 100km
1.8L 4-cylinder: 7.7 to 8.3 litres per 100km
2.0L 4-cylinder (SP20): 8.0 litres per 100km
2.0L V6: 10.0 litres per 100km
= Highly economical.
= Good economy.
= Average fuel use.
= Heavy consumption.
SIMILAR MODELS TO MAZDA 323
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR: MAZDA 323 (1998 TO 2003)
The youngest Mazda 323 is now quite an old car. That means you really need to look at every prospective purchase on its individual merits, rather than on any hard and fast rules.
That said, there are a couple of recurring themes to be observed, starting with a 323 that has ever had its engine overheated.
This can be tricky to determine years later, but any engine that blows blue or grey smoke on start-up, has a misfire or a rough idle could be exhibiting the long-term effects of once having been too hot. This damage is permanent, too, and won't go away with a service.
Automatic versions also required their transmissions to be serviced according to the factory maintenance schedule.
A quick check involves getting the engine temperature up to normal (after a five-minute drive, for instance) letting it idle and removing the transmission dipstick.
The fluid on the stick should be a clean, clear red colour and shouldn't smell of burnt toast.