4th Generation Mazda 323
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1
Mazda's First Front Wheel Drive
Mazda’s 4th generation 323, the BD, was released on October 10, 1980. It came hot on the heels of Mazda investing $A471 million at their Hiroshima plant during 1979
- which had saddled the company with huge long term debt, which effectively prevented the company from joining the Japanese rush into US production. That debt opened the doors to Ford, who took a 25 per cent stake in Toyo Kogyo, for a seeming bargain basement price of only US$118 million.
Ford assisted Mazda with the 323's development, their first front-engine, front-wheel drive subcompact car, and the first front wheel drive vehicle from Mazda since the R130. The new Mazda E engine-series, losely based on the preceding PC/TC/UC series, was developed expressly for the BD and was offered in three different displacements. The smallest 1.1-litre E1 unit was reserved for certain export markets where the tax structures suited it. Chassis codes were BD1011/BD1031/BD1051 depending on the engine installed.
The crisply styled body came in three and five door hatchback models and a three box-four door sedan which landed in January 1981
. The aforementioned OHC E series engines sat across the car with the exhaust
pipes forward and the carburettor at the back. The distributor was driven directly from the camshaft and stuck out from the side of the cam cover in a very accessible spot.
The gearbox was on the left hand side of the engine (as you look from the driver's seat) with the final drive poking out behind. This made the right hand drive shaft much longer than the left. MacPherson struts and a lower wishbone kept the front wheels in place and a positive rack and pinion setup took care of the steering. At the rear Mazda has came up with a neat solution to the problem of wheels toeing out on bumps or when cornering hard.
A pair of unequal length rods reached out to the hub from a cross member, making a four sided shape with the hub at one end and the cross member at the other. With movement possible at each corner of this construction, the end result was that the rear wheels always pointed dead ahead regardless of the forces acting on them. Trailing links helped stabilise the whole affair and more MacPherson struts did the springing-damping. All models had a rear anti-roll bar
but only the 1500 was fitted with a front one.
Car of the Year
The Mazda engineers worked long and hard to get their first front drive right, aiming at avoiding the traditional problem of understeer and trying to get the car to handle neutrally so that when it let go, both ends went at once. They got it right, with Wheels magazine giving it the gong for "Car of the Year" in 1980. For the Japanese market two top end models were offered, the 2-door Familia XGI with a 1500 cc single cam, multi-point fuel-injected engine and an XGI Turbo R with a turbo added. Its twin the Ford Laser S were also offered with the same specifications but in limited numbers. Claimed outputs in the Japanese market were considerably higher, presumably due to the of the differing JIS standard rather than DIN.
This Familia made a strong comeback for Mazda in the Japanese market, even outselling the Toyota Corolla on several occasions. The four-door sedan was equipped with a reverse-rake front grille and lights in the Japanese market, to make it appear more "senior". The same front design was used for the GA/GB Ford Meteor. The station wagon version was unfortunately simply a facelifted version of the previous rear-drive model (fitted with the square headlights and grille from the new model), and was sold in parallel with the BD. The wagon was available with either three or five doors and was equipped either with the old 1272 cc TC engine or the 1415 cc UC.
The 1.4 was replaced from 1983
with the newly developed 1490cc E5 engine. The 1.3 produces 60 PS (44 kW) while the larger versions offered 70 PS (51 kW). The equivalent American GLC appeared in 1981
. It was only offered with a single engine (the 2 barrel 1.5 L) and lasted through 1985
, after which it was replaced by the next-generation Mazda 323 and the GLC nameplate was retired. It was the only front-wheel drive Mazda vehicle using the GLC name.