THE arrival of the Mazda 323 to our shores in 1977 marked the beginning of a storied history for Mazda small cars here in Australia.
You might have been driven around in one as a child. You may have learned to drive in one or had one as your first car. Maybe there’s one parked in your driveway right now.
This first 323 sold locally was a far cry from the Mazda 3 of today – it was only the second five-door hatch sold in this country, but its rear-wheel drive running gear dated back a decade.
The eighties ushered in a front-wheel drive platform to underpin the second-gen 323 sold here, which was named Wheels Car of the Year in 1980.
This new platform was shared with the Ford Laser of the day, and was the start of Mazda’s long relationship with the Blue Oval.
From the early eighties BD to the BL of the noughties – the first to be badged as simply the 3 – we saw the rise, the fall, and the recouping of Mazda’s popular small car lineage after plenty of hits and some misses.
While the first 3 was a success story, it was far from smooth sailing for Mazda. The global economic downturn in 2008 saw Ford sell their stake in the company, and Mazda found itself near bankruptcy in 2010.
Fast forward to today and the brilliant BM-series Mazda 3 is one of the best-selling cars on the Aussie market, with Mazda themselves currently ranked as the most reputable car company in the country.
From the first 323 to the current 3, Mazda’s small car hasn’t had it easy, but it’s fought its way through tough times and into the hearts of many.
Any car that can hack it out for this long is going to earn fans and respect, and over the last 40 years here in Australia, Mazda’s small car has done just that.