PRICE WHEN NEW
2002 Ford Laser LXi 1.6-litre manual hatchback
2002 Mazda 323 Astina 1.6-litre manual hatchback
AVERAGE KILOMETRES: 120,000
CRASH RATING (ANCAP): Not tested
GREEN VEHICLE GUIDE RATING: Not rated
From 1999 to 2002, the Ford Laser and the Mazda 323 Astina were basically the same car. Mazda built both and allowed Ford to rebadge some to sell as their own and fill a gap Ford had in its model range. Badge-sharing is not uncommon and a few cosmetic changes can make a marked difference. These models were the last of a long line of vehicles from the early 1980s to carry the 323 and Laser names, and those made in the late 1990s were probably the best examples.
There will be a model out there to suit your specific needs, as both were available as a sedan or hatchback, with options of manual and automatic transmissions and either a 1.6- or 1.8-litre fuel-injected engine – both are relatively fuel-efficient. Sports versions, the Mazda SP20 or Ford Laser SR2, were also manufactured and had a 2.0-litre engine. These are still highly sought after, holding their price well.
Ahead of their time, in the late 1990s both Ford and Mazda offered these cars with upper levels of equipment, such as power windows and central locking. Although not tested by ANCAP, the latter versions of these vehicles came with driver’s side airbags, providing better protection.
Mazda has a reputation for building reliable medium-sized cars and these two are no exception. Our search for faults, and discussions with RAA’s Technical staff failed to identify any serious common faults in these models. But, when buying one second-hand, it’s a good idea to have a vehicle inspection to check the drive shaft boots and for any oil leaks that may have been neglected by the original owner.
Servicing these vehicles is not too harsh on the budget, with services every 10,000 kilometres or six months. The major service should have been done at 100,000 kilometres. This is when the timing belt is replaced, and the price of this service is around the $850 mark.
Overall, these cars represent good value for money. If the vehicle has been looked after and serviced correctly, either the Mazda 323 Astina or Ford Laser will make an ideal second family car or first car for someone starting out their motoring life.
1999 Mazda 323 Astina hatch manual