1 Mar 1977
By 1976 Mazda’s over-reliance on the thirsty, unreliable rotary engines led to sinking sales and near-bankruptcy. The remedy came in the form of the first 323.
Developed from the platform of its simple rear-wheel drive predecessor, the 1970 FA3-series 1300, the 323 won over buyers with its savvy VW Golf-like three-door or five-door hatchback styling, low prices, versatile interior and economical drivetrain.
The long-serving 44kW 1.3L four-cylinder engine could be had with either a four-speed manual or three-speed auto gearbox, while the live axle rear suspension and ball and nut steering were also proven 1960s technology.
In June 1978 changes to the 323 included different model variants (base Special, Deluxe, CS), three-door and five-door wagons, the arrival of a bigger engine (now a 48kW1.4), revised cabin trim and rubber bumper bar caps.