Other than regular servicing, the car has been very reliable, although there are a few niggly things with it as you would probably expect from a 14 year old car, such as:
Idling has always been erratic, it varies between about 800rpm and 1300rpm, this probably has an effect on fuel economy, the carburettor could probably do with a service.
There is no gate between 5th gear and reverse (which it should have) though this isn't really a problem, but is a bit odd.
Bad steering vibration and brake pedal pulsation under braking, replacement of rear discs, and machining of fronts has not fixed this, but it has improved it greatly.
Has some corrosion on the edge of the rear left wheel arch and below the boot seal, unusual for a car of this age (in New Zealand anyway) think this is the result poor accident repairs.
The seats have a thread-like insert, which is wearing on the drivers seat, every time I vacuum the car out I have to cut a few more threads off. The steering wheel is quite worn, and has separated from the inner wire at the top - fairly common for 1990s Mazda's & Japanese Ford's.
The front seats could go back a bit further (I'm 6ft and can only just manage) though with the seat right back already there is only around 3-4in of space before the back seat.
An odd design feature is when I have my left foot on the foot rest, I cannot put the heater to the windscreen de-mist setting, as my foot is in the way of the control!
The fastback-like styling and pop-up headlights certainly give the car that something else, which similar cars (Toyota Corolla, Mitsubishi Lancer, and its Ford Laser cousin) certainly lack. It really stands out in a class of boring hatchbacks, and it looks like it is much faster than it really is.
1.6 engine is very reliable and simple to maintain, in contrast to the ex japan import models (which look the same, but have all the mod cons). Is also quite economical when driven nicely.
Handling is quite positive, with minimal body roll compared to similar models. The 64kW provided by the 1.6 single cam engine doesn't match the handling capabilities, the 1.8 GT variant with 103kW is the one to go for in that respect.
Good for pottering around town, it can cope on long runs, but it is noisy and less refined than a 2+ litre car, e. g a 626 or similar - which has better gear ratios and more power (for overtaking all of the people in 323s).
In conclusion; it's an ideal first or second car, or even just a cheap hack. It is perhaps the one of the newest cars that is simple enough the average person to maintain. Looks good for what its worth, likes going around corners, but not up hills. Don't bother trying to tow anything with it either (other than a small load of green waste maybe).