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Friday, October 10, 2008

Full review: Mazda 323F Lantis 1.8GT(A) 5dr

Full review: Mazda Lantis 1.8GT(A) 5dr


Mazda 323F/Lantis were launched in 1994. It came with 4 bodystyles (see photos below). Picture 1: Mazda 323F Neo, Mazda Lantis Hardtop (back and front view), Mazda Lantis GT Hatchback AND Mazda 323F Protégé.

In this review, I’m focusing on the 323F Lantis 5 door. In Malaysia, the Lantis 5 door came OFFICIALLY with either 1.6 Manual, Auto or 1.8 Auto. Back in December 1995 it were priced from 86,000 (for 1.6M), 90,000 for 1.6(A) AND a whooping RM100,679.06 for the ABS Equipped Lantis 1.8GT.

Today, the 2nd hand pricing of the Lantis are as follows:
(Sourced: 1 The Star Metro Classifieds, 2) Motortrader Issue 375 to 395 averaged)
All prices in RM (Ringgit):
1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
1.6M 18000 21000 23800 26000 29800 NA-
1.6A 18000 20500 23800 26000 29000 31k
1.8A ABS 21000 23000 25000 27800 NA- NA-
2.0V6** 22000 24000 26800 NA- NA- NA-

** => Very rare in Malaysia. Either Grey Import (recond) or Engine transplant.

In this blog entry, I dished out 3 reviews of Lantis 5 door hatchback. Review 1 from Malaysia, review 2 from UK and review 3 from GoAuto Australia.

Also, I'd like to personally add 2 reviews. How? By asking 2 Lantis 1.8 or 2.0V6 owners to allow me to check out your car for 15 minutes. I'll then write an article of your car AND adding photos as well. Will acknowledge your car (eg. Lee's from PJ's car). I set 1 month deadline (by September 19 - as this final draft was actually completed on August 19).

Meanwhile, enjoy my Article/reviews:

ARTICLE/REVIEW 1 FROM MALAYSIA. Source: Highway Malaysia, December 2005 issue.
By either Mr. Leeps P S Lee OR Mr. Chips Yap (2 editors, no indication who wrote the article).


It wasn’t long ago that the Mazda 323 Astina held a strong niche in the market because of its racy and exclusive styling. The “pop-up” headlights gave the Astina a unique touch that was generally not found in ordinary cars and usually associated with sport models.

When the Astina made way for the new Mazda 323 Lantis 5 door earlier this year, its successor was left with the unenviable position of taking over where the Astina had left off. We decided to find out if the new Mazda Lantis 1.8GT has the redeeming qualities to match its predecessor.

The testcar loaned was a 4 speed Automatic model and holds the flagship status of the range. It earns its top class image with a price just under or just above RM100,000, depending on the body colour. The cheaper option, the 1.6 5-door which comes with a 5 speed manual gearbox goes for under RM89000 on the road.

At certain angles, the new Mazda Lantis 5-door appears to have some of the Astina in its body styling. The tapering curve of the bonnet that flows gracefully up to the roof before sweeping gently down to the notchback rear reveals some Astina Influence. There is less of a rounded presence but a little more angular edges to cut some dynamic thrust into its sporty contour.

Strong supporting items include the well sculpted front airdam with large central vents for engine cooling, a spoiler on the read deck that blends superbly with the Lantis’ aerodynamically efficient lines and visually pleasing 5-spoke alloy wheels to bring out the macho character of the car.

In the place of the pop-up headlights are the more conventional type which are rather slim horizontal units that add to its breakaway culture from the ordinary. The current styling favoured by most Japanese carmakers has larger headlights (dual if possible).

Put together, the Mazda designers have shown that you don’t need to have exclusive features to capture the imagination of car buyers. Well crafted lines are a nice blend of well-chosen supporting features will do an equally good job of getting the adrenalin racing, just imbibe the visuals!

The striking part about the Lantis 5-door is that it is not as bulbous looking or as wieldy as its Ford Cousin, the hatchback. There is a slimmer and more svelte look as if the car has gone through a crash course at the slimming session. It’s that chic looking.

The reason why the Lantis 5-door is so different from its Ford cousin is because there is an understanding between them that one variant of the range would be different. For this generation of Mazda 323 and Ford Laser, the model that is chosen to separate them distinctly is the 5-door variant. Previously, it was the Ford TX3 which had no equivalent in the Mazda 323 range.


The air of difference is also noted inside the Lantis in some of the design adopted for key areas like the door arrangement, dashboard styling and instrument panel.

We were a little surprised to see a completely different instrument panel. It was not the same as that in the Lantis 1.6L sedan we tested some months earlier which featured the common facia adopted in the entire range of Ford Laser Lynx.

The one in the Lantis 1.8GT has a less sophisticated design but it’s still simple and effective. Each meter (there are four of them) features a raised circumferential outline, perhaps to add a touch of “Olde” sportiness.

The layout features the two big dials (for tachometer redlined at 7000rpm and speedometer) and to the right are two smaller dials, one on the top of another (see picture below), to serve as fuel level and coolant temperature. On the extreme right is the gear shift location indicator and a series of warning lights, including that for the standard Anti-lock Braking System (ABS).

With a different dashboard comes a different cowling and different air vent design that curves with the fascia. The layout of air-flow control, buttons for the rear demist and a hazard light, and the air-conditioning control are thus all different. The only similarity is the dummy buttons bunched up on each side of the steering column.


At the bottom, there’s no retractable cupholder facility and there’s generally an absence of practical coin trays. The central control has a lidded compartment between the seats that double as an armrest. This is good for bigger items like handphones or a purse but NOT coins.

Elsewhere, there is a small compartment just below the instrument panel that opens downwards. This is fairly deep box that seems best suited for a pair of sunglasses rather than coins. We used it once but the coins rattled all over as the car went over bumps and winding roads.

On the passenger side, the double glovebox feature was the only consistent feature. The upper compartment is actually meant for an airbag for the front passenger in models that have this item as standard. Otherwise, it’s turned into a second storage space with a top opening lid.

As for the other area of storing minor paraphemalia, there are no door pockets of the type that we have come to expect in the Mazda Lantis and Ford Lynx. Here too, the Mazda Designers seem to have tried something different.

The door pockets are designed in the midway point rather than at the bottom of the door panel. Each of them is covered by a lid that acts as an integral part of the door armrest. It has a deep compartment that should be wide enough for diaries, notebooks and even handphones.

The other half of the door armrest on the driver’s side locates centrally the controls for the power utilities, such as the windows and door mirrors. To assist in pulling the door shut is a little “ledge” above the armrest which needs a little getting used to.

Roominess in the cabin is a virtue that puts it above the Astina. The layout is more organized and rear headroom is –surprisingly – not too limited by the gently sloping C-pillar. There is also a foldable central armrest for the comfort of rear passangers.

True to its 5-door design, the rear seatbacks can be folded down in a 70:30 split format. The rear parcel shelf is easily removed if tall items need to be carried in the luggage compartment.


The Lantis 1.8GT 5 door is certainly a user-friendly car from the driver’s seat. There’s good level of adjustments including seat tilt and seat height. The latter features didn’t raise the seat too high to defeat its flashy image.

Although the rear windscreen is smaller as a result of the rear roof slant and there’s also the rear spoiler in the way, vision of the traffic behind is not as hampered as might be imagined. (the spoiler design allows a bit of the see-through).

A feature common to the Ford/Mazda range is the multi-speed intermittent wipers. It offers a variable range of intermittent speeds to suit various rainfall conditions. Unlike it’s Ford equivalent, the Lantis 5-door has frameless windows, a design feature that is usually found on sports models and Japanese hardtop variants.


The engine is transversely located DOHC which are largely similar to Ford Laser Lynx 1.8. This is an undersquare engine with small 83mm bore and long 85mm stroke to displace 1840cc. There are 4 valves per cylinder for efficient breathing and electronic multipoint fuel injection.

But the power figures claimed are slightly different from Ford’s: Mazda claims the maximum power output is 91.9kw against Ford’s 95.6kw at the same engine peak. The torque output is closer though at 159 to 160Nm peaking at 4000rpm. A 3-way catalytic converter is standard. Similarly, the 4-speed Automatic transmission is exactly the same right down to the final drive.

The slight difference in power output gives the Lantis a less impressive power-to-weight ratio of 12.7kgs/kw to Ford’s 12kgs/kw. It’s heavier than the Laser Lynx 1.8GTI Exec by 30kgs too, due to the added weight of a 5th door with its large glass area.


Initial drives revealed traces of a mild lethargic pace that called for a greater depression of the accelerator to get going. Generally, there was enough torque to putter around in city traffic and harder prompts on the accelerator had the engine opening up to gather pace.

With a stopwatch, the Lantis recorded a respectable acceleration time (for an Automatic), averaging 13.1 seconds from rest to 100km/h on normal automatic change-ups. Likewisem the kickdown performance was also brisk; slightly above 6 seconds against the Ford’s 6.2.

The tall gearing on the transmission system was also enjoyed in the Lantis; the engine speed was a relaxed 2500rpm at 100km/h increasing by 250rpm at 10km/h intervals. If the tachometer needle is at 3000rpm, you are definitely exceeding legal speed limit.


We couldn’t help being impressed by the firm and solid feel of the Lantis. It had a firmer feel than in the 1.6L sedan we drove earlier and was as good as in the Laser Lynx. Those who are comforted by such solid feelings in a car would find this Lantis model much to their liking. This was also experienced during high-speed runs; the Lantis felt as if it was glued to the road. As the engine had done more than 9000kms when it was loaned to us, its state was a quieter hum, even when stressed to 6000rpm. It revved smoothly; perhaps a bit too smooth for the sporty pretensions of the car.

The wind noise was bearable and the rustle generated by the wipers and door mirrors was not too intrusive. High exhaust resonance was mildly intrusive but the rumble of the tyres was higher than what we had expected. These were Malaysian made Silverstone STV138, 185/65VR14.

The winding road feel wasn’t too had either. With the “Hold” facility on the gearshift selected, which engaged and retained a lower gear, the Lantis could be kept at a fairly high speed through our favourite winding stretch. The steering was mostly accurate and mild understeer crept in if the car entered the corner a little too quickly.

The 4-wheel independent suspension with MacPherson struts all round, anti-roll bars front and rear and the multi-link rear that are significantly improved over the twin-transverse links introduced in the 1st generation Mazda 323 FWD, kept the car very predictable and forgiving. Body roll was well checked and it was hardly noticed.

The well selected spring ratings helped to balance its sure-footed quality with good ride comfort. Washboard road surfaces were ironed pretty quickly to maintain good poise and the good pliancy of the suspension system cut out a lot of the road harshness. This was despite the fact that the Silverstones did feel a little hard, especially over the bumps and speed-breakers.

The ABS-modulated brakes showed themselves to be impressive and effective during a couple of panic stop-and-steer routines. The pulsating feeling didn’t come through the brake pedal too strongly and we could steer confidently out of a simulated adverse situation.

The new Mazda Lantis 1.8GT 5dr is not a sportscar with a peppy start but it will go if you work the accelerator a fair bit. Like the Astina, is more of a fashion statement for those who want to project a young image but who like to drive at a modest pace. As the flagship of its class, it has the looks to complement its status and that should be its main draw.


Mazda 323 Lantis 1.8GT 5-door

Location: Front
Capacity: 1840cc
Bore/stroke: 83/85mm and Compression ratio 9:1.
Cylinders: 4 in line, transversely mounted
Valve arrangement: DOHC 4 valves per cylinder
Head: Light alloy
Block: Cast iron

Fuel feed: Electronic multi-point fuel injection
Catalytic converter: YES


Max Power: 91.9kw @ 6000rpm (125bhp@6000rpm)
Max Torque: 159Nm@4000rpm
Weight/power ratio: 12.7kgs/kW
Kw per litre: 49.9kw


Front wheel drive

4 speed automatic
1st – 2800
2nd – 1540
3rd – 1000
4th – 0.700
Rev – 2.333
Final drive ratio: 3.833


Bodystyle: 2 box, 5dr hatchback
Cd: 0.32
Side impact bars: Yes
Front suspension: Independent MacPherson struts, coil springs, double acting telescopic shock absorbers, anti-roll bar.
Rear suspension: Independent, multilinks, coil springs, double acting telescopic shock absorbers, anti-roll bar.
Steering system: Rack and pinion, power assisted
Wheels & tyres: 5.5Jx14 alloy, 185/65VR14
Front brakes: Ventilated discs, ABS
Rear brakes: Discs, ABS.


Overall length: 4240mm
Overall width: 1695mm
Overall height: 1355mm
Wheelbase: 2605mm
Front/rear track: 1460mm/1460mm
Kerb weight: 1175kgs
Fuel tank capacity: 55 litres
Turning circle: 10.2m


Top speed: 190km/h (119mph – Source Whatcar? UK)
0-100km/h: 13.1 secs
50-80km/h (kickdown): 6.03 secs
RPM at 100km/h in OD: 2500rpm

NB: Performance tests were carried out at 9233kms on a car supplied by Cycle and Carriage Bintang. Actual performance may vary depending on mileage clocked, state of engine tuned, atmospheric conditions etc. Fuel consumption in particular, will vary depending on traffic conditions. Silverstone STV138 were fitted on the test car.

PRICE (Back in December 1995):

Retail price: RM96,775.41
Insurance: RM2723.90
Colour choices:
Kubuoko White, Silver Grey, Calypso red, Laguna Green, Nautical Blue (Add RM1918.75 for metallic finish)."

AGAIN, SOURCE: Above Review and specifications (except top speed): Highway Malaysia December 1995 issue by Leeps P.S. Lee.

Article 2 (From United Kingdom):
Mazda 323 Fastback (1994-98) by Farah AlKhalisi 29 May 2003

All the information on this page has been taken from

Prices: £1500-£5000
Engines: 1.5i - 1498cc, 90bhp, four cylinders; 1.8i - 1839cc, 115bhp, four cylinders; 2.0 - 1995cc, 147bhp, V6.

Check for: Full service history, minor electrical faults, scuffed bumpers and alloy wheels, general about-town knocks and scrapes, fulservice history as correct timing belt change is important.

Yes, it has five doors - we spotted that. But the bulbous M.azda 323 Fastback is the five-door hatchback that thinks it's a coupe, almost looks like a coupe, and has often been bought by people who thought that they wanted a coupe. If you're about to give up your two-door for all the usual reasons - imminent parenthood, getting a dog, getting too old to climb in and out of something low-down - or aren't quite sure whether to forsake five-door practicality for sporting looks, then this could be the car for you. It's not necessarily a compromise, and it's a lot more practical and livable-with than the rare and tiny MX-3. It's also cheaper, by virtue of being older and discontinued, than those other coupe-alikes, the five-door Alfa 147 and 156 saloon.

Mazda's hatchbacks haven't always been the most dynamic of offerings, but the 323 Fastback picks up where its pop-up-headlamped predecessor left off: slightly overlight to steer, but well balanced with good grip, lively engines and adept suspension. All the ingredients that make the MX-5 such a great drive, except, of course, rear-wheel drive. The 323 is also well equipped, to a higher level than equivalently-priced European hatches. All except the earliest 1.5s have twin airbags, while many have air-conditioning, and you should look out for special-edition models which usually have pretty metallic paint finishes, nice alloys and extra kit.
Keen drivers will have to have the 2.0 V6; it's beautifully smooth and refined yet torquey. However, the 1.8 is plenty fast enough for most, and even the 1.5 does the job.

Most Mazda 323s have led relatively sedate lives, so don't accept anything less than a full service history. As they're so reliable, lazy owners may have been tempted to skip a service or two. However, a large proportion of 323s have lived in town and have parking knocks, scrapes, bumps and scuffs, so you might have to get busy with the touch-up paint.

This artical has been sourced from

End of Article 2.

Article/Review 3 (Australian): Source: GoAuto Australia.
Car review: Mazda 323 Astina 2.0V6
Model release dates: July 1994 - September 1998


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 Hardtop sedan and hatchback - with the latter featured here. And while refinement, features and handling improved, Astina Hardtop buyers had less headroom for occupants to enjoy – a corollary of the model’s sporty aspirations. Nevertheless it makes a sweet, fast, refined and off-beat small car that was one of the first to be axed when Ford-controlled Mazda decided to go for the humdrum BJ Astina model of 1998...

We Like (+ve): Creamy smooth V6, refined and sophisticated engineering, practical hatchback body, great build quality, classy styling

We Don’t like: (-ve): 2.0 V6's absent low down torque and thirst when pushed hard

Our Opinion

THE Mazda 323 has been one of the mainstream small cars since it was released in 1977.

The last decade has seen the 323 grow in size and move upmarket while the new wave of budget-priced South Koreans have moved in underneath and now dominate the small entry level car sector.

When a new generation of the Mazda 323 range was released in mid- 1994 the top of the range Astina V6 set new benchmarks in styling, performance and refinement for small cars.

Compared to the previous model, the Astina was more aerodynamic, had more power and a larger interior.

The Astina was sold as a four-door hardtop or a five-door hatchback. To most peoples eyes, the hatchback was the better looking of the two and this made it the most popular buy.

The Astina's steep new price made sure it would never be a volume seller but the high level of equipment went a long way towards justifying the money and it cornered a sizeable share in the hot- hatch market niche.

Dual Airbags, a good five-speaker sound system with CD player, electric windows and cruise control were part of the Astina package.

The only options were air-conditioning and anti-lock brakes but ABS was moved onto the standard equipment list in 1995 to help justify a hefty price increase.

The Astina's 2.0-litre engine is a high technology statement which sets it apart from its rivals.

The little all-aluminium V6 has double overhead camshafts, variable length inlet manifold, four valves per cylinder and multi-point fuel-injection. The result is an extremely smooth and powerful engine with 104kW which is willing to rev right up to the 7000rpm red line.

Transmissions are either a five-speed manual or optional four- speed automatic. The suspension is typical small Japanese car with MacPherson struts at the front and struts at the rear.

On the road, the results are much better than average. The handling and cornering ability is almost up there with the best of the European hot hatches, which translates into competent, stable and safe without too much compromise in ride quality.

Mazda also worked hard on reducing road and suspension noise in the cabin and the Astina is much quieter inside than most of its competitors.

The Astina has retained its value better than most small cars, especially if it is a well cared for car with a service history. The extra complication of the high tech engine will make repairs more expensive and regular service will maximise the car's life.

The Mazda Astina V6 is a neat package of small, sporty and luxurious with styling that has stood the test of time.


LASTLY, MAZDA 323F LANTIS @ ASTINA is a Hot car among car enthusiasts as there’s almost endless modifications can be done to the car. Here’s some photo galleries of Mazda 323F Lantis @ Astina sourced from

Picture 1:
Owner: Stuart Butterworth (aka Stuartspel). Location:Driffield East Yorkshire Car: 323F BA 1.5 16V GXi

Picture 2 to 4: Owner: Craig Jenkins.

Picture Above: Owner: Murray Maclennan. Below: Owner: Adam Jakielski.

Picture above: Owner: Jay Williamson.

Below: Both picture of Lantis owned by “Joe Cool”, Location: The Netherlands, Car: 1996 323F BA 1.8I GLX

END OF A SUPER LONG REVIEW. Thanks for reading…

1) (ALL ABOVE Photos of “Owner’s cars” are members of this club.
3) (for Picture of Mazda Lantis Hardtop)
7) Highway Malaysia, December 2005 issue. Article by Mr. Leeps P.S. Lee or Mr. Chips Yap. There’s 2 editor, not sure who wrote the article.
8) John Mellor’s GOAUTO Australia Website


  1. The classical is really different than others
    Thanks author for this beautiful post

    All About Mazda Lantis Car

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