A Photo For Sunday: 1994-1998 Mazda 323 saloon

This is beyond weird. I don’t even see interesting cars at the other end of the street.

1994-1998 Mazda 323 saloon. Immaculate.

These mysteries and these enigmas appear just on my bit of street, not the other three bits. Here we are with the kind of old man’s car the residents find irresistible. Usually that means Carinas, Astras and 406s. Today it’s a mint-condition Mazda 323 saloon in a pale golden metallic colour. I had a close look at it and all the black plastic is in lovely, dark condition, box fresh from Hofu. Yes, I know you can

garage a car and this one was obviously garaged. It goes further. This one looks as if it never left the garage at all and might even have been living roomed or bedroomed.  Certainly pampered. It even lacks the fine, grey-beige dust that settles on garaged cars that can be hard to remove with a tooth-brush (the voice of experience, sorry).

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On first viewing you think a car like this is boring. Ordinary is written on every part, alongside the part number. Why look twice? Because these are hard to find now. They have been taken for granted, driven and dumped.

1998 Mazda 323 interior: source

There are not many of these left. I found one in Germany for 1500 euros, just 65,ooo km on the clock. The rest of them are not saloons, not the right age, not a 323 at all. There are a good few of the fastbacks and even the three-door with its flared flanks. So the four-door manages to be a special 323, in its own way and also just worth 1500 euros, the price of a lot of very problematic near-classics like the Trevi I still dream of.

How does a peppy 1.5 litre, four-cylinder petrol sound? 65 kW on tap. That was what Mazda sold most of in Europe, to judge by a trawl of Mobile.de. You could also get the 323 with  1.3, a 1.8, a 2.0 V6 though not all the same body. A few 1.3s were sold too: I found one for sale.

In the UK some managed to get the full GLX work-over: leather and air-con. Today’s has simple cloth, base-model stuff. You can read the world’s only user-review at Parkers. It’s not really all that enlightening but strikes me as honest. I don’t know what might have motivated the author write the review, like reviewing a Mars bar (“Chewy, not expensive, there are nicer chocolate bars out there”.)  Since the car is not one which sets enthusiasts’ hearts on fire I think the text might be believable. Summary: reliable, cheap motoring, not many faults.

This kind of car is cherishably ordinary and  now rather extra-ordinary. It took me about two weeks for the car to break the surface tension of my sub-conscious and make it to the forefront of my mind. That’s how nearly subliminal it is.

4.4 metres long, in case you want to know. 1994: the year of the frog Scorpio.

Finally, a car almost as ordinary as this zoomed past the other night, a Suzuki Baleno. I wondered how capable and competent that was compared to a 1960s or 1970s saloon car hero like the Giulia, Flavia, 2002 or Toledomite. Same goes for this 323. In 1967 a car like this would have been a revelation.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

10 thoughts on “A Photo For Sunday: 1994-1998 Mazda 323 saloon”

  1. You seem to live in a truly interesting street, car-wise. All I can see when I look down at the small parking lot in the front of our house are the same grey German cars.
    I don’t know when I last saw a 323 of this age, and if, it most certainly wasn’t a saloon. I’m not sure if they were even available in Switzerland. When we see cars like that, their numberplates usually show Austria or something even further east. What we also rarely have here are standard everyday cars that are well preserved over twenty or more years. Usually they either end up on a trailer for sale in Bulgaria or in the neglecting hands of a youth buying their first cheap car and longing for something “real”. Let’s hope this is not the case with “your” 323 and you’ll be able to admire it for some more time.

    1. True, it is a peculiar street. That said, my visits to Basel always yield an interesting car or three: Americans usually but often Italian oddities.

    2. Basel and other larger cities in Switzerland are a bit more interesting car-wise as the alpine regions. Less conservatism and more diversity, I assume. I remember my time in Zurich around 2000, where I still regularly saw CXs parked on the streets. They also had a specialist for importing US cars that usually weren’t available in Europe. If it still exists, I guess you can now buy monstrous SUVs and pick-ups there.

  2. This is the exact same color as my mother’s Protege, as it was called in the US. Though there wasn’t a sporting bone in her body, she drove three Mazdas over the last fifteen years of her life. I remember this one being roomy and nimble but with a horrible sounding engine and starter motor. Competent but forgettable and ultimately not missed once it was passed on to my cousin and Mom upgraded to a Mazda 6 wagon.

    1. Thanks for your comment. Are Mazdas sporting? I think Mazda US pitches them as being a bit lively – my own narrow experience is to see Mazda as an alternative to Nissan without much of a USP. They do offer good engineering and this 323 will running for another decade if the owner wants it to. I thought the Protege was a “student” car. Here in the EU it’s been more of a pensioner’s car: inexpensive, reliable and durable.

  3. The owner could probably make good money out of this as a prop for TV and films set in 1990s Europe.

    This was a fairly disappointing period for Mazda though, after their burst of creativity in the late 1980s / early 1990s, and today’s rather good range of offerings. It seems that a close association with Ford did nothing for the company’s ingenuity.

    Oh, and the Mazda 6 is indeed sold as a sports sedan in USA.

    1. I once read a US review from the eighties about several ‘luxury sports sedans’, featuring, among others, a Peugeot 505. So yes, American categories are a bit different from European ones.

  4. By the way, did the better versions of this car feature plack paint on the window frames? With the body-coloured ones here, the mirror sail panel and the plastic cladding behind the rear window look a bit odd.

  5. This car would go down a bomb in the Concours De la Ordinaire, the Festival of the Unexceptional. Think any mark Cavalier, Escorts in brown, Austin Ambassadors and anything like this Mazda which may, or may not have been popular then but nowadays as rare as rocking horse doings. Folk keep, find and look after the most unexceptional cars which by virtue make them far more interesting than, say a Ferrari fleet.
    It’s a crackingly different car show, free and held in July at Stowe school, near Silverstone. I sweated on a Fiat Strada due to its stunning rust free state and the thirty degree heat, t’uther year.
    Are you paying people to bring in unusual cars to your environs, Mr Herriott? If not, you have indeed an exceptional bunch of unbeknownst article fodder. Love it.

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