1 Jan 2004
Another winner from Mazda, its front-wheel drive Mazda3 small car replaced the popular though dull Mazda 626-based 323.
After 26 years, Australian small car buyers were becoming more sophisticated and this delivered a big dose of style and driver appeal (thanks to being based on Ford’s global C1 platform that also spawns the Focus Mk2 and Volvo S40/V50), as well as more space, pace and practicality.
Four well-equipped models appeared – the Neo, Maxx, Maxx Sport and SP23.
All bar the latter utilised a 104kW/181Nm 2.0-litre DOHC 16V four-cylinder engine, while a detuned version of the Mazda6’s 2.3 unit underpinned the 115kW/203Nm SP23 – big alloys, a bodykit and lots of interior kit also set it apart.
All transmissions are five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. Dual airbags, keyless entry, cloth seats, full instrumentation and a CD player are in all models.