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Davy

Mazda 323 BJ-II Astina SP20 Hatch

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I've sort of been off the grid for a few weeks because of so many personal matters including moving house and what not. Finally found the time to post this. :) 

Meet the newest addition to our family. A 2003 Mazda 323 Astina SP20 BJ-II J48.

Wait what?? :D Let me break down each part of that...

It's a 2003 Mazda 323 (JDM version is known as "Familia"). I guess that's pretty clear. "Astina" is the name used for the hatch. The sedan is called the "Protege" (Remember the Mazdaspeed Protege anyone? 😍) SP20 is the top of the range model with a 2.0L FS engine (131 horses), sports suspension, different body styling, white gauge cluster, automatic AC etc. BJ is the series. BJ-II (BJ2) is the facelift version. J48 is the very last revision of the BJ series. 

I was on the lookout for a car to be used as a point A to B car and to be driven on a daily basis to the train station etc. I didn't want it to be boring, hence the SP20. I wanted it to be a small hatch so that my wife can easily drive it (she finds the RalliArt a bit too intimidating due to the power). It was between The 323 and Lancer CS VR-X. Gave up on the Lancer after seeing the options on the Mazda and how popular and rare the SP20 is (sounds like blasphemy I know). After about a month of hunting down one, finally found this beautiful example in Titanium Grey, just 139,000km (remember, we are talking about Australia here and that is a really low mileage). The icing on the cake is that I even got it with 1 year dealer warranty (car had been a trade-in).

Of course there's signs of age - a few scratches here and there, wheel paint flaking off, front rotors need to be replaced etc. But it certainly is a zippy little car that's fun to drive. :) 

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Nardi Torino steering!

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White gauge cluster

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The different front end with large fog lights. 

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The FS engine. Note the factory fitted strut bar.

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I've not seen bonnet and headlight protectors in Sri Lanka, but the car has them installed from the dealership. So the headlights are like brand new -no yellowing. 

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A couple of the SP20 stickers are faded. I've ordered a new set already. :) 

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Congratulations @Davy. She’s a minter and Looks like an excellent buy. Back in the days my best friend used to have a Red Astina and I remember how it got me hooked. Brings back loads of memories!! cheerz!

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Posted (edited)

Nice Buy.!!  

was thinking about replacing the "train station" car myself, what other "kind-of-fun" options are there around this price point? similar sized /aged cars?  There are SO many cheap/awesome European options from Alfa 159`s to Renault Clio`s , but just dont have the time to spend on upkeep required for Euro`s at the moment. :

The Swift Sport is quite high in my list. Didn't think about the SP20 before, this got me thinking. Too bad Toyota didn't sell a mild-performance oriented Corolla here, the Levin is just a cosmetic exercise.  Quick list below, I may have missed some ?? 

  • Swift Sport - said to be a brilliant chassis, not too sure how good the auto gearbox is
  • Pulsar SSS - older platform
  • Lancer VRX - prefer the 2.4 liter 4G69. Thirsty and noisy, but has got plenty of torque. CS series auto gearbox is a letdown, dont know whether the CY/X had a better box. Non-VRX hatchbacks are cheap as chips though.
  • Civic Sport - owned an FD series 'sport' before, but in manual form. Mechanically bulletproof, but interior and paint does not age well. Too bad the hatchback (FK) doesnt come with the 2.0 K20Z, though I think the FK series is better made compared to FD
  • Mazda 3 SP23/SP25 -  Possibly the best bang-for-buck, but i dont think the interior bits age well on the BK and later series compared to the older series 323

 

Edited by MrCat
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21 minutes ago, MrCat said:

Nice Buy.!!  

was thinking about replacing the "train station" car myself, what other "kind-of-fun" options are there around this price point? similar sized /aged cars?  There are SO many cheap/awesome European options from Alfa 159`s to Renault Clio`s , but just dont have the time to spend on upkeep required for Euro`s at the moment. :

The Swift Sport is quite high in my list. Didn't think about the SP20 before, this got me thinking. Too bad Toyota didn't sell a mild-performance oriented Corolla here, the Levin is just a cosmetic exercise.  Quick list below, I may have missed some ?? 

  • Swift Sport - said to be a brilliant chassis, not too sure how good the auto gearbox is
  • Pulsar SSS - older platform
  • Lancer VRX - prefer the 2.4 liter 4G69. Thirsty and noisy, but has got plenty of torque. CS series auto gearbox is a letdown, dont know whether the CY/X had a better box. Non-VRX hatchbacks are cheap as chips though.
  • Civic Sport - owned an FD series 'sport' before, but in manual form. Mechanically bulletproof, but interior and paint does not age well. Too bad the hatchback (FK) doesnt come with the 2.0 K20Z, though I think the FK series is better made compared to FD
  • Mazda 3 SP23/SP25 -  Possibly the best bang-for-buck, but i dont think the interior bits age well on the BK and later series compared to the older series 323

 

Thanks! I too steered clear from Euros because it didn't make sense to buy a car that is expensive to run for my purposes. The Audi A3, BMW E46 and VW Golf GTI were on my list, but I drove this and immediately fell in love with it and thought it would be a perfect match for the job. The car is small enough to park in tight places (you know how it is at stations) and my wife is happy that it's so easy to drive. When you need the power, it's there for a bit of spirited driving as well. I joined an Australian Facebook group for Mazda BJ series to get to know more about the car and found out that the 323 SP20 is highly sought after. There are more "wanted" ads out there than actual cars. :D 

As for your list of options, how about these:

- Honda Accord Euro Luxury (the one with the 2.3L engine and tiptronic tranny). Very comfortable car with plenty of power. A friend has one.

- Subaru Impreza WRX Blob-eye or maybe even a G3 hatch - need I say more? :)  

 

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Jokes aside, congratulations m8! Seeing as you have a Demio in Sri Lanka I can totally see you buying this as a grocery getter for your wife (Although a VRX along with the RA would have made your garage look totally badass and drool-worthy)

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1 hour ago, Davy said:

Thanks! I too steered clear from Euros because it didn't make sense to buy a car that is expensive to run for my purposes. The Audi A3, BMW E46 and VW Golf GTI were on my list, but I drove this and immediately fell in love with it and thought it would be a perfect match for the job. The car is small enough to park in tight places (you know how it is at stations) and my wife is happy that it's so easy to drive. When you need the power, it's there for a bit of spirited driving as well. I joined an Australian Facebook group for Mazda BJ series to get to know more about the car and found out that the 323 SP20 is highly sought after. There are more "wanted" ads out there than actual cars. :D 

As for your list of options, how about these:

- Honda Accord Euro Luxury (the one with the 2.3L engine and tiptronic tranny). Very comfortable car with plenty of power. A friend has one.

- Subaru Impreza WRX Blob-eye or maybe even a G3 hatch - need I say more? :)  

 

Ah yes! the Accord Euro is a great package isn't it? Very well built because it`s actually made In Japan unlike the normal Accord and Civic at the time. One of my friends` had one with over 220k kms on the clock, ran like new with minimal maintenance. 

The WRX is a performance bargain, but a bit towards the 'project car' side of the spectrum for me at this point :( Something with a new/rebuilt engine/drive-train would be good. If not, the Mrs wont be a happy chappy when that boxer blows a head gasket('s' - there`s two) :D
 

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On 6/17/2019 at 9:25 AM, Davy said:

but I drove this and immediately fell in love with it and thought it would be a perfect match for the job.

Aha.. tell me about it. Guess its normal to drive a mazda and then immediately fall in love with it. Welcome to the 323 club bro!
It would have been great if you were around to share all the 323 stories. :)

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4 hours ago, LashNeo said:

Aha.. tell me about it. Guess its normal to drive a mazda and then immediately fall in love with it. Welcome to the 323 club bro!
It would have been great if you were around to share all the 323 stories. :)

Thanks bro. Imagine if I had this in Sri Lanka! Would have been great! :) Do you still have your one?

What made me fall in love with is actually the power of that 2.0L FS engine in such a small car. You get wheel spin on occasion when you take off from a stop if you are not graceful on the throttle. Like I said before, it is fun to drive. It requires 95 octane to run, so I guess the higher compression ratio contributes to it to a point. 

On 6/17/2019 at 3:26 PM, Hyaenidae said:

Jokes aside, congratulations m8! Seeing as you have a Demio in Sri Lanka I can totally see you buying this as a grocery getter for your wife (Although a VRX along with the RA would have made your garage look totally badass and drool-worthy)

Thanks! It was honestly a very close battle between a CS Lancer VR-X and the 323. The only reasons the 323 won in this case is because A. Hatchback, and B. Found a good example of a 323 first and C. With one year warranty. There were only two Lancer VR-Xs for sale online in the whole of Victoria. One was a 2002 pre-facelift which looked weary. The second was a 2005 facelift with a bit of a high mileage (220K km) and the interior was totally wrecked. I honestly wanted a different experience from the CS as well, since I've owned one. 

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During the first weekend, I had to make sure the timing belt looked okay. The car does have a fairly regular service history, but unlike Sri Lanka, owners don't really handover actual repair invoices to the next one. The only thing that goes with the car is the service booklet that has the mileage and stamp by the dealer/garage that carried out the repair. So if you wanted to find out what they really did, you can call up and ask them. If they have it on record, they'll tell you. For things like the timing belt, they usually paste a sticker on the timing belt cover indicating the date and mileage of replacement. But no sticker found here.

Given that 100,000km could have been several years ago, I didn't want to try my luck asking previous dealers, so I took out the valve cover and did a visual inspection myself. Cleaned out the spark plugs, ignition leads and coil packs a bit as they were covered in dust and grime. 

I was happy to find out that the valve body didn't have any sludge or dark oil residue or anything. It looked pretty clean and the oil was nice and gold. The timing belt looks brown in the photo. Must be due to the over-exposure from the flash or something. It looks black in person. The belt itself looks okay. There's a bit of wear and belt dust on the cam cogs, but no fraying, cracking or anything like that. Should be good for another 50,000 kms. 

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I also got the SP20 stickers. Only one set was for sale on eBay Australia. So snatched it quickly. Will paste them once I have the time for a cut and polish. There are a few things I will attend to during the next couple of weeks. There are a few places that have the paint chipped off (on the bonnet, roof, A pillar). I will get a touch up paint kit and touch them up before doing the cut and polish.

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Last weekend I also replaced all wiper blades. 

The drive belts look brand new and it looks like one of them hasn't been tightened properly after installation. The loud drive belt noise comes about a minute after the car is started in cold weather. So I will be tightening that also during the weekend.

I also discovered that the driver's side rear view mirror has an aftermarket mirror on it. I saw this during the test drive because that mirror looked like it was less convex than the other one. Objects in the mirror are further than they appear :D. So I will be replacing the mirror as well. Will probably source one from a salvage yard and transfer the housing from the current one to avoid having to paint. 

Maybe I'm too used to the RalliArt's whiplash-inducing brakes (they are really strong), I feel like the brakes could do with some TLC. So rotors and pads will go in soon.

And finally, I am going to take it to a Mazda dealer to get the transmission oil replaced. There is no record of it being replaced during the past 40,000km and the 4th gear is a bit notchy when cold. Hopefully an oil change (maybe filter as well) will solve it.

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That my good sir is a great looking car. Looks in excellent condition. Congratulations.!

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On 6/19/2019 at 4:48 PM, Davy said:

Thanks bro. Imagine if I had this in Sri Lanka! Would have been great! :) Do you still have your one?

What made me fall in love with is actually the power of that 2.0L FS engine in such a small car. You get wheel spin on occasion when you take off from a stop if you are not graceful on the throttle. Like I said before, it is fun to drive. It requires 95 octane to run, so I guess the higher compression ratio contributes to it to a point. 

 

Of course. She's still with me and will be with me for a long time as well. Even if i want, my kiddo won't let me part with her. :D She has this unconditional bond with it and cries like hell whenever i talk about selling. Did few cosmetic mods recently. Got herself a protege body kit etc.

And as for your one, if that thing was in Sri lanka, that would be the one and only Mazda 323 hatch running a 2L under the hood as far as i know and it will be a good contender to Amesh's (M*na Motors) 323 hatch which is arguably the best kept 323 hatch around SL.

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