The opportunity to dig deep into motoring history and to experience it first hand can be as frightening as it’s possibly enlightening. In the case of Mazda Australia’s recent 40th Anniversary of the company's Small Car shindig, it was both. And thanks to an unforeseen person twist, for me at least, it was memorable in more ways than I’d anticipated.
Simple format: seven touchstone models tracking the Japanese marque’s small-car evolution from 1977 to today, driven back to back around Queensland’s handy Mount Cotton driver training facility. In quick succession, I could compare the current flagship 2017 Mazda 3 SP25 Astina to 12-year-old first-gen Mazda 3, then onwards and backwards to 2001 323 Astina SP20, versions of the 323 Astina SP in 1996 and 1991 vintage, then back further to the boxy 1984 323 and curvaceous originator, the first-generation 323, albeit a 1980 rather than a ‘first year’ 1977 example.