CC reader C5Karl knows a rare car when he sees one; finding a BF-series 323 with a turbo is rare enough, but finding one without all-wheel drive is especially uncommon. I actually saw this uploaded to the cohort several months ago, but never got around to posting it. After finding a rather rough one for sale on Los Angeles Craigslist, though, I figured I’d give this car its CC due.
I can’t help but love Mazdas of this era because they look so plain but perform so well relative to their competition. That’s especially true in the case of this four-door, which married its 132 torquey, mildly tuned turbocharged horses with a curb weight a good 300 pounds lesser than that of its all-wheel drive hatchback cousin, the 323 GTX (so, about 2300 pounds).
It’s not as if these cars couldn’t handle, either. Early generations of Mazda’s front-drive sedans distinguished themselves with good handling, despite their other shortcomings. Unlike so many competing cars, it seems that engineers in Hiroshima knew that the rear-wheels could be used for more than simply supporting the back of the car, and the result was European-style throttle adjustability.
All-wheel drive cars may understeer less under power, but a well-tuned front-wheel drive car is more tail-happy under trailing throttle, and the best pocket-rockets have been powered by their front wheels only. If the other 323s and Escort GTs I’ve driven are any indication, this car probably has a more lively feel on tarmac than the dirt-devil GTX.
Combine the less glamorous two-wheel drive with the stiffer, ultra-conservative sedan body, and you have the very obscure, fun car seen here. And apparently, it’s quite the well-kept secret, since the few which were sold are mostly gone and don’t cost a ton on the market today. Certainly puts those $5-10k CRXs into some perspective doesn’t it?