The compact hatchback from Japan immediately enjoyed enormous popularity. Ever since the introduction of the 1000/1300 successor (the first Mazda 323 rolled off the production line in January 1977). And in February 1977, the 323 made its European debut in the country that loves the concept of “a lot of car for a competitive price”… the Netherlands. The place of performance was the Amsterdam Auto RAI.
Two sources of power in the first year
From the very beginning, the interest in the Mazda 323 was therefore enormous. The properties were therefore impressive. The Mazda 323 had a new modern styling, excellent basic equipment, practicality and competitive pricing. These were excellent in relation to the choice of a three- and five-door variant and two engine variants. The 985 cc/45 PK variant (in the beginning assigned to the already well-equipped basic EL version) and the 1272 cc/60 PK power source that was reserved for the luxury ES, and could be supplied in combination with a 4-speed, a 5-speed or an automatic transmission. The power units were performed with 1 overhead camshaft.
Complete equipment, competitive price
The Mazda 323 was, as mentioned, characterized by a complete equipment. A split-folding rear seat backrest, fixed headrests, an electrically heated rear window including wiper and washer. But also fabric carpeting, clocks with anti-reflective glass, three-point automatic belts and adjustable backrests are just a few of the attractive basic package that was assigned to the EL version. The ES version was even more extensive, with the real added value manifesting itself in the aforementioned larger power source and transmission options. In 1978 the range of delivery was expanded with the EC at the bottom of the range (a fairly complete car for a economy version). In the same year, the Mazda 323 SP saw the light of day: a sports version painted in matt black, which was also equipped with the new 1415 cc engine. It delivered 70 HP to the crankshaft and a maximum torque acceptable for that time of 114 Nm at 3200 rpm. In 1978 the Estate also came on the market, available in a three- and five-door version and can only be combined with the new 1415 cc engine, also with one overhead camshaft.
Modern car with conventional traits
In terms of design and layout, the Mazda 323 was a modern car. That was less true for the chassis and drive and the extent to which the body was worn. At the front, the construction was up to date. The wheels were suspended independently and were combined with the coil springs according to the McPherson construction. The rear had a rigid axle with coil springs and a Panhard rod. It gave the Mazda that typical Japanese stiff, but otherwise problem-free, traits in a handling. Unlike various European opponents and a few compatriots, the wheels were rear-wheel drive. The braking system – on every 323 with discs at the front and drums at the rear – was in keeping with what was customary at the time. The body was semi-self-supporting.
The first generation received a facelift in 1979. It was mainly visible at the front and rear. The grille with the large round headlights was replaced by a more formal front with rectangular headlights. At the rear, the light units were enlarged. The 1.0 liter engine expired. The type designations also changed. After the summer of 323 a 1979 was only available as SEC (only with 1.3), SN and SSP (only with 1.4 engine). The Estate was only available as 1.4 SN. The facelift heralded the end of the first generation of a solidly constructed car with a modern body, ditto usability and lots and lots of 'value for money'.
The first Mazda 323 can therefore safely be seen as a forerunner of the success of the current 3. In 1980 it was succeeded by the second generation of the 323. The Estate ran - also as part of the second generation - until 1986.
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