Owner Review

2002 Mazda 323 Protege Sports Edition review

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I bought this Mazda 323 in January 2019 as a downgrade to a cheap runaround car whilst saving for a house. Over two years later and 70,000km put on it, I'm still driving it after buying my house a year ago.

I was scouring Facebook marketplace for a car close to me and I wasn't particularly fussed over what it would be, except that I would have preferred a manual.

This car came up in my search, and was 20 minutes down the road. It was in pretty rough cosmetic shape, but other than that it ticked all the boxes. It was listed for $2,500 with 220,000km.

Viewed, test driven, boxes ticked and bought for $2,000.

Within a couple of months I noticed a noisy passenger side front wheel bearing. I booked it in at the shop because I don't have access to a big enough press. About a year later the only mishap with the car was a stuck closed thermostat. At the time I managed to not cook the engine, as I pulled over and got recovered for the 15 minute trip back home. I swapped the thermostat for about $50 and was back on the road.

I had a rear caliper begin to leak, but after I had a second hand one sourced I was back in business. Overall this car has been brilliant. Travelling over 70,000km in two years means you get pretty familiar with a car. I wish it was quieter on the highway, and I really I wish it had a 6th gear so I wasn't doing 3500rpm at 110km/h on the highway. Other than that it has done everything I've asked of it.

The boot is constantly full with work equipment as I travel around to different locations for work. The longest drive I do at the moment is a 500km round trip in a day to rural NSW.

I also do multiple shorter trips up and down the NSW south coast as well as the occasional drive up to Sydney.

The back seats have only ever been used for my two dogs so they are pretty dirty, but are holding up okay with wear. The driver's seat is however less so. Steering wheel (a beautiful Nardi wheel) was shot when I bought it, so has just had a Supercheap cover over it since I've started ownership. The gear knob was also pretty worn. I carried on with it for about a year before it would constantly leave dirty black leather marks and glue on my hand so I bought a black aluminium one.

The driver's seat right bolster is split, and the driver's door card where you would rest your elbow is split, but I can't really blame it after the number of kilometres it's showing. Normally these would be fairly easy parts to source as used, but being a "Sport Edition" this isn't a normal SP20.

They have smoked headlights, a black dashboard and different coloured seats and trim, so it would have to be sourced from another Sports Edition. Apparently there were only ever 250 of them sold in Australia, which probably makes mine a bit of an eyesore and a tragedy for the Mazda 323 BJ enthusiast. But I bought this car to do a job and it has excelled at it.

The car currently averages around 6.5 litres per 100 kilometres on one of my long drives for work. I do an oil change every 10,000km and there's no sign it won't keep going for a long time yet.

I would absolutely recommend it, either as a first car or for the same reasons I had; a (less than) temporary substitute stop gap car.

The only reason my overall rating isn't higher is because I can't really give it any points for "Tech & Connectivity" because it doesn't have any compared to modern cars.

Regarding the "Performance & Economy" of the car, I find that aspect to be a bit of an oxymoron. It has good economy not just in terms of fuel, but it lacks performance, and vice versa. If it had good performance it probably wouldn't have good economy.

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