Theme : Evolution – The Missing Links 3

THE NON-BOXY HATCHBACK

Mazda 323F

Today, there is a dearth of truly practical hatchbacks. VW’s excellent Golf routinely gets lambasted by various enthusiasts as ‘boring’. Everyone wants their family runabout to look like it belongs at the ‘Ring, and much of what is now on the market seems designed to flatter the driver’s self-image whilst ignoring their passengers needs. The lack of rear headroom, visibility and easy access in so many current bread and butter vehicles in the quest for someone’s idea of a cool exterior is now the norm, rather that the exception. But, if I wanted to point at a car that, at the time seemed rather refreshing for breaking away from the ubiquitous boxiness, I’d nominate the Mazda 323F from 1989..

11 thoughts on “Theme : Evolution – The Missing Links 3”

  1. While it’s not boxy, it still looks to me as if it’s much less impractical than most of what’s sold today: the roof runs relatively horizontal until it joins the hatch, and the lower window line is children friendly. The only impractical point is the thick C-pillar, a characteristic that it shares with the Golf, by the way.

    I actually quite liked this car when it came out, probably just because it brought some diversity on the streets. Though, for a car wanting to have a sporty touch, I found it a bit coarse in some places. The successor was more refined, and it even reminds me much more on the discussion we have here about 4-door coupés. I think it’s actually an early example of this, but not as influential as the CLS which really brought this genre back.

  2. True that looking at this is like looking at pictures of the first mini skirts in the Sixties (Four Inches Above The Knee!). The 323F once looked very sporty, now it seems a lesson in practicality. The same with the First Focus and the second Megane – the designers produced interesting designs and suggested curves, yet felt obliged to ensure a civilised roofline and reasonable visibility. Now they don’t. Incidentally, is that orange original? I don’t remember seeing that in the UK certainly.

  3. Isn’t that just plain red? The whole picture seems to have a yellowish tint. I don’t remember any orange cars at all being offered at that time. But red was pretty much the standard colour for the ‘F, becoming very, very faded red a few years later.

  4. How disappointing! But you’re probably right Simon. I was just convincing myself that it was photographed in some toxic smog zone, hence the yellow sky. Orange would have suited it though.

  5. Before this there was, I believe, the Honda Integra. I know because I had one, in fact I went on honeymoon in it. It was white, and an EX16! It looked very sporty, had one of the best engines of any car I have owned, but had the most awful chassis known to man – I would feel car-sick whilst driving it. The interior was a blue period piece. I think it came first because I spotted the 323F as something newer from the same mould (or should that be mold!?).

    1. The Integra is a reasonable proposition. I didn’t include it, partly because I forgot about it (OK, entirely because I forgot about it) …. but on reflection, its sportiness is all at the front. The rear looks very ordinary, The Integra always looked like it had a Prelude front end grafted on, whereas the Mazda is coherent. However, if in order to be a coupe, there should be a more staid looking sibling in the line up, then the Integra certainly qualifies. I hope the lousy ride quality didn’t spoil the honeymoon.

  6. When I think about Mazda, there is another “missing link” that comes to my mind: to my knowledge, the Demio from 1996 was the first micro-van (even smaller than the Prairie or the later Scénic that were already discussed here). It opened the way for cars like Renault Modus, Opel Meriva or Citroën C3 Picasso.

  7. Does anyone think this car ought to have been a Citroen? Imagine if this was what Citroen served up instead of the ZX. Look at the shape of the body side. It´s like a CX. The blacked out A-pillar would have suggested the XM. The plastic rub strips are essentially the same as on the XM. This was a car from Mazda that seems sui generis. It´s packed with charisma and visual interest yet it´s not overtly expressive. The Japanese have made some really fine looking cars but coat them in a special material that makes people ignore them. If Ford had presented this as an Escort, there would be two competing owners´clubs and ten magazines devoted to the topic. As it is, it´s a very striking and fully resolved design that nobody (not even me) thinks about all that much.

  8. The 323F as a Citroën – why not? Citroën could have been a bit more daring in these years. However, it should then have had very slim headlights like the XM – the pop-up lights look just too japanese and are nothing the French have ever used. That black A-pillar must have been in the air in 1989 – the XM was presented in the same year.

    As for the ZX, it’s a car that is much underrated in my eyes. Besides not being spectacular, it has very good proportions, and a nice, dynamic, light-footed stance. The rear wheelarch and the almost closed grille are true Citroën. Only later the design became corrupted by a full height grille, non-matching bumpers on the estate and cost optimized rubbing strips. And it became overshadowed by the excellent 306.

  9. If I squint a bit I can see hints of Citroen in the ZX but they are almos to homeopathic levels of dilution. The rear side glass is neither alligned with the door glass nor really distinctly off set. It´s ambiguous. As a package is is fine and understand it´s a decent drive – I only wish they had not downplayed the car´s roots so much. The 306 would be my choice. Though it´s not a loud design its clearly a Peugeot and it all hangs together as well any Golf or Astra and decidedly better than Ford´s last Escorts. A modest re-style would be all that was needed to make the 323 into a Citroen: as you say, delete the pop up lights and the job is nearly done.

  10. Nice coincidence – I saw a 323F a few days ago and could admire it for some time, as we both were stuck in a traffic jam. It even had the same red colour as the example here, and very well preserved, too. No fading as is often encountered with this kind of red paint. It seemed that the (Polish) owner was really caring much for this car and driving it with pride. It had nice alloy wheels, too.

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