Monday, November 26, 2012

Used Car Review - Mazda 323 Familia (1996-2000)

Before we end the year, among all the compact sedans sold in the 90s, Myk Belmonte reviews this rather forgotten compact before that delivers all the goods and equipment which most popular choices lack. So, are you ready to review this car?

1996-2000 Mazda 323 Familia

Thanks to user basti08 of for supply some data!

What is the main similarity of the Toyota Corolla, Mitsubishi Lancer, Nissan Sentra/Sunny, and the Mazda Familia? These four models were launched in during the 60s and since then, all but the Mazda remained in the market with the Mazda Familia was replaced by the Mazda 3. And a fact, the Ford Laser was basically a twin of the Familia due to the ownership stake that Mazda gained with Ford back then.

The seventh generation model with the platform code BH was introduced first in the Japan Domestic Market  in 1994, together with a Van version (which is essentially a rebadged Nissan Sunny California). Various model styles include a three door hatchback named as the Neo, a four door hardtop known as the Lantis, and a five door hatchback using the Lantis/Astina names. While it ceased production in 1998, other nations had it for a little bit longer.

Interestingly enough, the 323 Familia nameplate used in the Philippines is very wide and in fact, a number of them are sold side by side. Which included the Lantis, Astina, 323 (a popular choice among taxi drivers back then), and the 323 Familia. Family lineage aside, the Seventh generation model was introduced to the market by Columbian Autocar Corporation in 1996. Initially it was offered in GLX trim at launch, then 1997 saw the releases of the base GLi and the limited MazdaSpeed variant. An update in late 1997 had the top line model being renamed as the GLXi, and the addition of a base model named as the GL, which used a 1.3 engine. The GLi was retained with minimal updates, which will be elaborated more in the Exterior and Interior section of this article. You could buy one until the year 2000, which are basically leftover units.

Value and Costs
Due to the perception that Mazda gained (it was active in motor sports back then but relegated to the taxi market during its time) when it pulled out, prices of a second hand Mazda 323 Familia would set you P110,000-P160,000. To be honest, if you are looking for a bang-for-the-buck car, I advise to check this vehicle out apart from the Nissan Sentra B14. It does have a complete set of standard equipment back then, so you get more for less. Even power amenities and other niceties are never scrimped even in the lowest models.

Say you will buy a 323 Familia and they will discourage you due to the popular reason of "konti lang piyesa yan", but, there are numerous parts stores that cater to Mazda vehicles and some components are switchable with the Ford Lynx. If you plan to get one, have your foot be friendly to the pedal since reaching 100kph with the tach be on the 3,500rpm range would result to less-than-stellar fuel consumption. One common problem with this vehicle would be the rear suspension bushings and other related parts, especially if the owner doesn't care placing tons of stuff at the trunk.

Exterior and Interior
Among the sedans offered in the mid-Nineties, this looks sexy and curvy among the boxes and edges that is prevalent back then. You my say that that Aeolus sculpted it, but thank God that it does not have that sharply sloped rear windshield which causes reduction of rear headroom that afflicted other sedans back then. If you are a Mazda enthusiast, you could point out the 1996 and the late 1997 models by their lights. 1996 units had their headlights and bumper-mounted signal lights while the update had them relocated in the corners. Fluted lenses are standard in 1996 models while late 1997 models do carry the clear headlamp and foglamp lenses. There exists a Mazda Speed variant with a different set of alloys, body kits, and other accessories.

The dashboard won't win any best dashboard awards if there is one, it is built on the function side and done in grey to avoid glare, that's if the previous owner wasn't crazy about Armor All. Controls are appropriately sized but the switchgear is flimsy feeling. The driver's seat has adjustments for different sizes, while the shotgun passenger has decent seating support. Rear passengers are treated to a leg stretching ride, credit the long wheelbase of the 323 Familia. A first in the industry is the additional glovebox on top of the main one in the pre-facelifted models (the glovebox was redesigned in the update), this concept was done by other manufacturers recently which includes the Toyota Innova. The 1996-1997 GLX had ABS Brakes, 60/40 seats, rear center armrest, center console, rear defogger, and its air conditioning is the push type one. GLi models do have power amenities at least, but blacked out bumpers are standard, as opposed to the GLX's body colored. The late 1997 update had the addition of the base GL model; it had power amenities except that it had vinyl upholstery, black bumpers and side mirrors and a decontented interior. The GLi had cloth seats, body color panels which the previous one had it blacked. The GLXi gained a driver's airbag, fog lamps, and four wheel disc brakes while retaining the same kit.

A standard fare among 90s sedans is a choice of a carbureted engine and one with fuel injection system. The GL trim utilizes a B3 1,324cc carburetor that has 75hp at 6,000rpm and 104Nm at 5,200rpm. While the rest of the variants get to have a B6 1,597cc with 115hp at 6,000rpm and 139Nm at 3,500rpm under their hoods. Let's leave out the B3 since you'll be mostly encountering models with the B6 engine. The 1.6 liter engine does have that flexibility on different speeds at low revs, but drive prudently since the throttle can get twitchy.

Driving Impressions
Place the ignition and the 323 Familia starts without drama. Shift to first gear and you'll be rewarded with a peppy acceleration that tempts you to speed up, and notice that it has more than the indicated 115hp. Shifts are fluid once you are used to the fairly torques power band of the engine. Whenever you extract maximum acceleration in a little amount of time, accelerating to the peak is not that smooth but not that rough. Rev up to the redline and you'll hear a boomy noise that could get annoying but drive smoothly and no engine noise would be heard. Steering can get lifeless in road imperfections which is common with vehicles that use the McPherson suspension and slightly high profile tires. Braking is excellent, since ABS come standard and the all disc combo.

Shopping for a well equipped car in the price range of P150,000 (not including repairs) is a hard task, but knowing the secret about this vehicle would make you want to check this beauty out. Nightmares of the past such as lack of parts availability are now banished. If you desire sports car driving characteristics for less but with more equipment, the time for hunting one is now.

The Good:
  • More equipment for the price
  • Peppy 1.6 engine performance
  • Available MazdaSpeed variant
The Bad:
  • Cheapo interior trim
  • Some quality quirks
  • The Automatic transmission can be a liability
The Pick: The top line GLX (1996-1997) or GLXi (1998-2000) in MT

Engines: 1,324cc B3 Carburetor (added in 1998) and 1,597cc B6 I4 gasoline
Power: 75hp @ 6,000rpm (1.3), 115hp @ 6,000rpm (1.6)
Torque: 104Nm @ 5,200rpm (1.3), 139Nm @ 3,500rpm (1.6)
Fuel Consumption: 6-10km/L (city), 8-12km/L (highway) (*estimated and varies)
Transmission: 5-speed manual, 4-speed automatic
Suspension: Front McPherson strut, rear multi-link

Price (New): P450,000-P650,000 (range from 1996-2000, estimated)
Price (Now): P110,000-P160,000
Rivals: Honda Civic, Mitsubishi Lancer, Nissan Sentra, Toyota Corolla, Daewoo Cielo, Daewoo Espero, Hyundai Elantra, Proton Wira
On Sale: 1996-2000

Kia Pasay - 852-1490 (this dealer also services Mazda vehicles)
Mazda Greenhills - 722-1102
Kia Quezon Avenue - 712-2923 (this dealer also services Mazda vehicles)

Photos courtesy of


  1. How is the fuel consumption on this car?

    1. Fuel consumption depends on how you drive but consumption is lower than a Corolla Big Body.

  2. Sir Mike somebody is selling me a 323 familia 1998 but he says engine is a 1.3 but efi - is this correct? Because you say only the carbureted GL is 1.3. How about the Gli was it 1.3 or 1.6?

  3. Sir Myke,

    Any ideas as to where I can find rayban 323 tail light garnish? Phdm.