MAZDA'S profit-obliterating proliferation of models reached its zenith with the Mk5 BA 323, which included two sedan variations (Protégé 4-door sedan and Astina 4-door Hardtop), a pretty 5-door Astina hatchback, and four engines – including the 64kW 1.6-litre four-cylinder unit powering the popular Protege sedan.And while refinement, features and handling improved, Astina buyers had less headroom to enjoy – a corollary of the model’s sporty aspirations.From December '96 there was a facelifted range with slight trim changes and the added safety of a driver’s airbag.After this model Mazda was pared right back by major shareholder Ford.The subsequent BJ 323 from late '98 was based on a shortened GF 626 platform, making the BA Protege here the last true small 323 sedan...
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