Earlier this week, Wheels24's contributor Robin Classen wrote about the older-generation Mazda Astina, in his opinion, being one of the most unattractive cars, but the automaker has kept the nameplate on the new Mazda3 and turned it into a beautiful vehicle.
"Mazda thought they could renew the love affair motorists had with earlier 323 EGI's by introducing the Astina sedan back in the late '90s. What a failure that proved to be.
"In my opinion, it's looks and design offered nothing to the customer, only the real Mazda die-hards could find some plausible reason to buy it when a Nissan Sentra was clearly the better vehicle to buy.
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"However, the new Mazda 3 Astina changes your whole outlook of what it used to be. Once upon a time, it was unappealing and slow, now it finds itself on the opposite end of the spectrum."
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Image: Wheels24 / Chad Gallant
Naturally, our passionate Wheels24 readers responded to these claims. Rene Frans is one of those readers; she wrote to us about her 'old car' and was not happy about Classen's thoughts at all.
Rene Frans says: "I have to wholeheartedly DISAGREE with the article by Robin Classen regarding the looks of the Mazda 323 Astina. He describes it as the ugliest creation by Mazda and even compared it to a Nissan Sentra.
"I acknowledge that beauty is in the eye of the beholder so to each his own. As a past owner of a Mazda Astina, I can say that it was love at first sight. I always liked the underdog when it came to choosing my cars and not just going with the popular choices.
"My 1998 Astina was a beaut with its sleek coupe styling back when most cars had quite boring boxy styling (I'm talking about you, Nissan Sentra). It was convenient with five doors featuring frameless windows.
"I definitely think the design was ahead of its time and not truly appreciated. The rear featured a continuous light bar design that is making its appearance on a lot of cars today. Yes, the headlights were tiny and had terribly ineffective projectors, but hey, I'm not claiming it was perfect.
Image: Rene Frans
"The only downside for me was the engine, the 1.8 BP. It was prone to smoking around 150 000km, perhaps sooner. It should have had the 16V 2.0-litre EGI motor, or the 1.8BPT from the older 323. That would have been an epic package!
"I was very sad the day I sold my Astina but took solace in the fact that I was replacing her with a 2011 Mazda3!
"I am by no means a brand snob having explored other car brands along the way, but Mazda will always have a soft spot in my heart, and I know quite a few people that feel the same."
Another Wheels24 reader, William Sibande, says: "I do think your comment on the Mazda Astina of the late 90s is not correct. That Mazda was a beautiful car way ahead of its time. Why people didn't buy it in droves I do not know. It was certainly better than the other boring vehicles of its class."