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Hagerty Employee

Mazda wonders if you remember its great rear-wheel-drive hatchbacks

Mazda turned 100 this year, and while this centenary gave us some very tempting Miata special editions, it also opened the floodgates to Mazda's archives, starting with a deep dive into the history of the fantastic rotary-powered RX-7s. However, long before Mazda's more humble hatchbacks went turbocharged and all-wheel-drive in 323 GTX form, blazing a trail for the Subaru STIs and Mitsubishi Evos of this world, the first 323 of 1977 was a rear-wheel-drive affair, as well as Mazda’s first modern compact family hatch. In America, the 323 was known as the GLC (as in Good Little Car), while Japanese customers knew it the third-generation Familia.


The EV-era may give us more and more rear-drive hatchbacks, but with the current Mazda 3 being the descendant of eight previous front-drive Mazda compacts, it's hard to imagine that for the first 17 years of its life, this entry-class of Mazdas sent all its power to the rear axle.


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I had a 1980 RWD 5-speed 5-door Wagon when I first got my license.  It was great!  No power steering, no power windows, no radio, no clock.  But it was a blast to drive.  My current car is a 2-door, 2-seat, convertible MX-5 Miata (2016), and yes, it's even more fun.  But the driving on rails feeling of manual steering still isn't quite there.  I remember being able to drive past much more powerful cars in a tight turn, as the GLC could hold 70 MPH through the curve that the American muscle cars couldn't do at 35.  Good Little Car?  Maybe.  Great Little Car?  Definitely.

Community Manager

Agreed, my only experience with that Great Little Car back in the 1990s was very positive.  So much fun in a simple, basic and honest package. 

Intermediate Driver

It looks like a Chevette. Yawn.