Mazda's Anniversary: How the First Mazda 323 Hatchback Appeared

The progenitor of the modern Mazda 3 appeared in 1977. Let’s find out how it happened.

The post-war years were marked by a period of fairly rapid development for Japan, including the automobile industry. Japan's Economic growth was accompanied by a real automobile boom, and each company offered its own vision of the country's motorization. Mazda, in turn, introduced the R360 model. This two-door compact vehicle with an engine of 356 cc (16 hp), however, was proudly named ‘coupe’. But the key to success was something else, namely in its fuel efficiency and low price. Thanks to this, it was able to win the commitment of buyers and sales began to grow rapidly.

Mazda's Anniversary: How the First Mazda 323 Hatchback Appeared photo 2

Along with the sales growth, the needs and requests of customers increased. Many people wanted a bigger, more comfortable and more functional car. Therefore, at the end of 1963, Mazda launches the Familia model. Since the car at that time remained a luxury product, it was decided to produce the model in the most usable bodies — a van and a station wagon. Then there were 2- and 4-door sedans. Compact cars designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro were popular not only in Japan, but also in neighboring countries. In 1967, the second generation Familia was released with a whole range of bodies, including even a coupe. But the hatchback was not among them.

Mazda's Anniversary: How the First Mazda 323 Hatchback Appeared photo 3

It is worth noting that along with conventional internal combustion engines, the Familia has been equipped with a rotary engine since 1968! With a volume of about a liter, the unit produced 100 hp, which was actually twice as much as conventional engines. Plus, taxes on this version, called the Familia Rotary, had to be paid less. In the early ‘70s, Mazda even started exporting such cars to the United States, where they made a real splash.

The first Mazda hatchback was released in early 1977. For most export markets, the model was named as the Mazda 323, and for the US market – the Mazda GLC. In Japan, the name was changed and remained the Familia. Nevertheless, it was a global model. Moreover, the number of body options decreased: 3-and 5-door hatchbacks, vans and everything else were offered to customers to choose from.

The Mazda Familia/323 - the first Mazda hatchback The Mazda Familia/323 - the first Mazda hatchback

The stylish first generation RWD 323, a compact and family model, was a worldwide success for Mazda. A small line of petrol engines was offered especially for the 323. Initially, they were with a volume of 985 cc or 1272 cc. However, since 1978, 1415-cc units were released. The standard car was equipped with a 4-speed mechanical transmission. A three-speed automatic transmission could be installed for extra charge. The Familia/323 featured front clasp and rear drum brakes and a steering wheel without hydraulic amplifier.

The Mazda 323 was sold until 1980. During this period, about 890,000 vehicles were purchased, including export markets in the United States, South Africa, and Indonesia. Well, then the second generation was released, which also marked the company's history, becoming Mazda’s first front-wheel drive hatchback.

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The Mazda 323 / Familia appeared on the wave of growing popularity of hatchbacks and played an important role in the development of the Japanese company. The history of the model has continued to this day, embodied in the new Mazda 3.

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