1 Jul 1994
Mazda’s profit-obliterating proliferation of models reached its zenith with the Mk5 323 range, which included three sedan variations (carryover Mk4 BF 323 base, Protégé 4-door sedan and Astina 4-door Hardtop), a pretty new 5-door Astina hatchback, and four engines – 64kW 1.6L (323 base), 80kW 1.6L EFI (base Protégé), 92kW 1.8L (Protégé, Astina hatch and, from late ’96, Astina Hardtop) and an all-new 104kW 2.0L V6 powerplant reserved for the top line Astina V6 hatchback and Hardtop.
And while refinement, features and handling improved, Astina buyers had less headroom to enjoy – a corollary of the model’s sporty aspirations.
Sales were not strong, so the old Shades special edition was rolled out in April ’96, available across the range.
Meanwhile, the ageing entry-level BF 323 sedan had finally vanished by then.
From November '96 Mazda introduced a facelifted range with slight trim changes and the added safety of a driver’s airbag.
The Shades edition reappeared in October ’97, while the 80kW Protégé 1.6L was now the base 323 model.