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Paris show: Mazda unveils revised 323

Mean machine: Mazda's revised 323 range, due here next February, will be spearheaded by a sporty SP20 variant.

Mazda is using the Paris motor show to pull the covers off its updated 323 line-up

Mazda logo28 Sep 2000

By GAUTAM SHARMA

MAZDA has unveiled a facelifted version of the 323 with a distinctly sporting flavour at the Paris motor show.

The updated 323 line-up - spearheaded by a performance-oriented SP20 model - is due to make its local debut next February.

Mazda says it has made a number of changes to the 323 to improve performance, safety, refinement, handling and comfort.

External changes include a new five-point grille with a bolder Mazda emblem to bring it in line with the marque's other new-generation models.

New clear-lens headlights along with a re-profiled bumper and bonnet contribute to a more aggressive and streamlined appearance.

The flanks gain body-coloured mouldings.

Motivation for the range-topping SP20 is expected to come from a 2.0-litre, 16-valve engine that generates around 125kW and 180Nm.

Transmission choices are likely to comprise a five-speed manual or four-speed auto with sequential-style shift capability.

The SP20 will be equipped with white-faced instruments, amber illumination of controls, trip computer, a leather-bound three-spoke Nardi steering wheel, leather gear knob and silver-coloured trim on the centre console.

Other goodies for the SP20 will include sports seats, an aggressive front spoiler with built-in driving lights and 16-inch alloy wheels shod with low-profile tyres.

There is no official word on pricing for the revised 323 line-up but expect the base model to remain around the $20,000 mark, while the range-topping SP20 may cost about $30,000.

The current 323 range has been a steady performer for Mazda since its launch in September, 1998.

It earned 10,230 sales in 1999, placing it fourth in the small car class behind the Toyota Corolla (28,387), Nissan Pulsar (22,591) and Mitsubishi Lancer (15,338).

The 323 has slipped to fifth place this year as a result of a strong showing by the Holden Astra, bolstered by a sedan variant.

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