This is a 323 reference page under construction... Basically while there is a lot of really good information on this website about 323's, it can be a bit hard to find and sometimes contradicting.
The aim for this page is to have all the facts. I will update the front page to have all the relevant info on top, so as they get edited over time, the following pages might not make sense!
The 323 arrived in 1977 under changing times for Mazda. The Great Oil Crisis in the US was hitting the rotary powered models hard, and the less than perfect reliability of the rotary engine was driving customers away from the dealers. The 121/RX5 of 1975 helped to turn the hopes of Mazda, but the aging 808/RX3 line was due for replacement. Mazda stuck with the conventional front engine, rear drive configuration based on the 808 chassis. For such an important model, it made sense to stick to simple and proven technology. The hatchback body, with the split folding rear seats ended up being much more practical and roomy than the comparative 808, while fitting 4 in reasonable comfort. The tighter turning circle, safe and predictable handling characteristics due to a favorable weight balance, and immediate avaliability of a fully automatic transmission were also favorable virtues.
It was launched to favorable reviews internationally, being praised for it's good value, comfortable seating, vice-free handling with excellent traction, flexible engine, slick gear change, good vision and a decent ride. It was let down by engine and road noise (which they are still saying today about the Mazda3) a cheapness to the interior, amateur exterior styling, and a slightly thirsty engine.
The advertising in the US was very much promoting the Great little piston engine
and the reasonable mileage