After having driven the Mazda 323 in base version with standard 5-speed transmission, we`ve spent some time with the upgraded SE edition with optional automatic. The Mazda 323 offers everything you`d want in a little car-except a radio.
The car comes sans radio from the factory. Radio is an accessory, Mazda said, not an option. We don`t understand the difference, but if you want a radio, you can buy one from your favorite sound outlet or from the Mazda dealer (Clarion for $325). We
reverted back to the `50s and hung a transistor unit from the rear view mirror. The 1.6-liter, 82 h.p. 4-cylinder engine had more than ample power with the 5-speed and seemed to sacrifice little if anything in the way of pep with the optional
($700) automatic. The notable difference is a little groan when you kick the pedal with automatic. The speedometer goes up to 140 m.p.h. It must have been lifted from an RX-7. What pleased us the most is that the exterior finish on the 323 SE was
a dark gray, unlike the brilliant red on the base model we first drove. The darker color camouflages an overly simplistic design that brings back memories of the Renault Le Car when the sheet metal is covered with red, white or yellow. Unlike the
base 323 with its dime store vinyl seat covers, the SEhas cloth, which also looks like it came from the dime store. A few dollars needs to be invested in interior trim. The SE continues the Japanese tradition of obtaining a lot of room in a little
car. Though built on only a 96.5-inch wheelbase and 163.6-inch length, the rear seat was more spacious in the 323 than in the Lumina. The base 323 starts at $6,599, the SE at $8,329. Standard equipment includes power brakes, rear window
defogger, rear heater ducts, center console, trip odometer, tinted glass, digital clock and body colored bumpers. Air conditioning is a $785 option; power steering, $250.