I originally started looking for a second-hand small sedan, but after viewing many different cars online I considered the merits of other body shapes and widened my search parameters. A small wagon would be a useful vehicle, but I reconsidered and decided to go halfway and look for a suitable manual hatchback with at minimum airbags but ideally with ABS.
As a first car safety is important for my son, and a budget of around the $5000 mark would be a good starting point that he could afford, along with reasonable maintenance costs. I had decided that a 2-litre, 4 cylinder 5-speed would suit his needs, so I looked at various the models from Japan and European manufacturers that matched the criteria. I thought this would be a reasonably quick affair, as there are many available on the second-hand market. Unfortunately the majority were high-mileage vehicles or crashed and tired - or worse - had been already owned by a "P" plate driver. If all of the above applied to the car, then they were well on the way to becoming a "bucket with holes" just waiting to empty your wallet.
As several months and many cars had passed by, I was becoming despondent until a low kilometre (87000km) Mazda Astina 2-litre V6 in white (all options) came up. I have to admit I knew little about the V6, but on viewing I knew this example had a healthy drive line and was in good condition with service history. Having owned several Mazda's over the years, I knew the engineering was top notch, and I had always liked Mazda's style; alway's "pushing it". This car was no exception - a classic Japanese shape.
The cabin material is good quality and is driver functional, with all controls close at hand. The seating is comfortable, the audio system does the job but obviously has none of today's newer tech. Performance-wise, it's not “sports car fast” but it is light and agile, giving a certain go-kart feel to it (while still being easy to drive). The 2-litre V6 is a sweet clockwork-like engine with a well matched gearbox that is happy to go down to the shops, to work, or cruise on the open road. Alternatively, you can row it through the gears and throw it into a corner or two. It has a good chassis, and when given a handful of revs, obtains a "rotary engine" quality about it.
Brakes are solid, and along with ABS it’s even better. On taking possession we had a major service done and with scheduled servicing and a little care, the Mazda 323 Astina should last my son for many years to come.