Mazda 323 Hatchback 1998 - 2001

Mazda 323 Hatchback 1998 - 2001

Review by it
Monday, May 16, 2016


  • Large inside-space and boot area
  • It is very reliable and cheap to maintain


  • The ride is uncomfortable and bumpy around town and at low speeds
  • Some engines are noisy at high speeds
  • The instrument layout isn’t well thought out


The Mazda 323 is a surprisingly spacious family car with plenty of room for all passengers in both the front and back seats as they have plenty of head and leg room. The large boot and split folding rear seats add extra practicality and the wide range of engines should have one to suit anyone’s needs. The handling is superb with sharp and accurate steering and perfect body control in the corners that provides a fun driving experience especially on twisting country lanes.

Exterior and Interior

The Mazda 323 isn’t the best looking car from the outside and it is now looking rather dated compared to many of the other cars in its category. The inside helps to make up for the outside though with a surprisingly spacious cabin that can fit the whole family. The boot is more than big enough although you may struggle to get five lots of luggage into it. The split folding rear seats help to fit in any oddly shaped pieces of luggage you may have. The interior trim is cheap looking and the dash doesn’t help matters either being laid out in a haphazard way with no clear thought put into it. There are loads of trim levels to choose from but we’d opt for either the GSE, GXi or Sport trim as the first two come with good levels of kit and the GXi comes with plenty of optional extras too. The Sport trim is the top of the range option and as such offer you everything you are likely to want.

Performance and Economy

The entry level 1.3-litre was only introduced to the range after the 2001 facelift and if we’re honest would really have been best left out. It is uninspiring and it struggles on motorways or when fully loaded. The 1.5-litre and 1.6-litre engines are better, but the 1.6-litre is the better engine to go for as it quicker going from 0-60mph in 11.2 and is slightly more economical too achieving 38mpg compared to the 1.5-litres 37mpg. The 1.8-litre was replaced in 2001 by the 2.0-litre which is slightly quicker at 9.4 seconds to 60mph, this is compared to the 1.8-litres 9.5 seconds, but it is less economical by 1mpg at 33mpg. The 2.0 Di was replaced in the 2001 facelift by the slightly less powerful 2.0 TD. They are both just as quick of the mark reaching 60mph in 11.8 seconds, but the newer engine is far more economical achieving 55mpg compared to the older engines 47mpg. Insurance costs start at group 6 for the 1.3-litre with the 2.0-litre TD falling into group 7 and the 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre petrol engines being in group 10.

Like to Drive

The 323 is a good drive with sharp accurate handling, well controlled body roll in the corners and the brakes are very sharp making it a good car for travelling down twisting country lanes. The only downside is the stiff suspension that helps to keep the car well planted, but has a negative effect on the ride quality. At lower speeds it feels choppy and uncomfortable especially on rougher roads with all bumps and potholes being transferred through to the cabin.

Faults and Repairs

There has only been one recall on the 323 over the years and this was only over worries that the fuel tank heat shield could possibly work itself loose on cars built between October 1999 and June 2000. Other than that there are no other standout problems, but it wouldn’t hurt to check everything thoroughly such as the electrics, clutch, brakes and suspension. The 323 does need to be serviced every 9.000 miles which is more often than most rivals, but the service and repair costs are fairly competitive.