Mazda Familia GTX

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Mazda Familia GTX

Post by MrFamilia on Mon Jun 24, 2013 12:27 am

The standard specs of a Mazda 323 GTX : 1.840 cm³, 122kW, 185 bhp, 0-100 km/h 7.8 sec. Top speed 210 km/h. 

History 
Group A rallying is the sport from which the Mazda GTX was spawned. Mazda took the plunge into full Group A competition in 1986 with their B6 1.6 litre turbocharged 4WD 323. This vehicle enjoyed considerable success over its fairly short competition life, which led to the continuation of the small turbo 4WD theme. It was in 1989 that the all-new BG8Z Familia was introduced. The new car received a larger BP engine (1.8 litre) and made its rally debut in the 1990 Thousand Lakes rally. It then continued competing quite successfully, giving Mazda another motorsport car to complement the road-racer RX7.The ultimate version of the Familia is the awesome (but quite rare) GT-R. This hard-edged car was brought into action in the latter part of 1992. 

Chassis 
The 3-door only Familia GT-X weighs in at 1180kg and is poised on a 2450mm wheelbase, with an overall width of 1690mm and a length of 4030mm. Its suspension system comprises a compact arrangement of MacPherson independent front struts, and transverse A-arms with trapezoidal twin-link strut rear end. To help reduce understeer, a fairly large solid 20mm swaybar is also bolted under the back end. 

Engine torque is put to all-four wheels though a viscous front-to-rear LSD contained within the transverse 'box, with distribution varying depending on available traction. Compared to cars such as the Subaru WRX, the Familia GT-X is superior in tight manoeuvres and its compact size enables the driver to pick a flowing racing line through most corners. The vehicle we had on test came to us with extremely harsh aftermarket struts fitted ex-Japan, and although the ride was very stiff, the overall balance of the car was still maintained. With careful throttle control, the little monster can really be juggled from everything from mild under steer to snap oversteer. (The latter only happened with the test car when there was a mid-corner bump that could upset the rear end.) 

Braking for the Familia is by virtue of a set of four reasonably sized discs (vented at the front), and it pulled up well with no fade (under road conditions at least). We did notice the car getting a little jumpy under heavy braking at some times, but this may have been caused by the aftermarket suspension. Speed-sensitive power steering is fitted to the GT-X as standard and it performs very well, but it's a little bit too low in ratio for our liking. There's minimal freeplay, the amount of power-assistance at varying speeds is pleasing, and a fair amount of feedback is available through the wheel at all times. 

Externally, the GT-X is based on the conventional Familia, but it comes with only two passenger doors. To keep everyone happy though, a mild body kit is also fitted, comprising a revised front bumper (with an intake to feed air to the intercooler), side skirts and a rear roof spoiler. Without it, the GT-X would look just like any other shopping trolley. 

The hot GT-R Familia we mentioned previously scored a set of 15 inch alloys to fit a larger set of brakes, but the GT-X makes do with 14 inch alloys standard wearing 195/60 rubber. The car we had was fitted with fairly ordinary tyres and it did lose grip around corners at quite an early stage, but it's a nothing a good set of rubber wouldn't improve upon. 

The interior of the GT-X is very functional with well-laid out instrumentation, easy to reach controls and good seating. There's plenty of room in the front, but the back can be tight when there's a tall person in front with the seat set back. 

Engine 
The 1.8 litre BP turbo engine is the source the GT-X Familia's punch. It's a transversely mounted DOHC engine with 16 valves, EFI and an air-to-air intercooled turbo. The Japanese Domestic Car Market Book lists it as being good for 133kW at 6000 rpm, and 237Nm of torque at 3000. However, this output may vary slightly, depending on the fuel octane being used - Japan has quite high grade fuel. A static compression ratio of 8.2:1 is used, and it's low enough to allow the use of normal unleaded fuel - however, premium grade is recommended on the filler flap. Being a knock sensed car you certainly can feel it performs better with PULP in the tank. On the road the BP turbo feels very similar to Mazda's larger F2 engine as fitted to the MX-6/626/Capella, with a flat torque curve and excellent boost response. We'd guess that the turbocharger fitted as factory is fairly small, as the small green boost light on the dash glows very frequently. (Well it did with MK driving it! - Ed) 

Performance 
The little GT-X is a good all-round performer. Through fast corners, in a straight line, either around town or on the highway - it's very capable. The combination of all-wheel drive 134kW and 1180kgs is certainly a wonderful thing. 

Pushing through corners, the aftermarket suspension fitted to our car gave an incredibly firm ride with minimal roll. Because of this, it did become very skitish whenever the road got slippery, and it really flicked the back end around if it hit a bump mid-corner. It did feel though that the car had inherent mild turn-in understeer that could be easily be converted to oversteer with a throttle lift-off. In the wet, the car showed quite a lot of understeer and a tendency to slide prematurely, but this was probably a result of the tyres and the aftermarket suspension, rather than a characteristic of the car itself. 

If you can get the launch right (which isn't as hard as some other 4WD turbos), the GT-X is listed as giving a 0-100 km/h time of 7.8 seconds and it will pull willingly to its 210 km/h top speed. 

Official Mazda test data also list the car capable of returning 7.3l/100km at a steady 90km/h, while we got around 11 litres/100 km during our test. That'll give it quite a good range given its 60 litre saddle-type fuel tank. 

Modifications 
Mazda have fitted a cheap exhaust system and intercooler that could be easily improved upon by the average enthusiast. Bolting up a 3 inch high flowing exhaust system should be the first mod (probably good for another 13kW on its own) and a larger turbo intercooler would be recommended if you want to increase boost - and don't we all?! To maintain reliability, we'd guess that the engine would perform very well with around 14 psi of boost pressure. The air intake system can also be freed up with an aftermarket pod filter or cold air duct to the factory airbox. So with an exhaust, bigger intercooler, boost and a proper air intake you should be talking around 170kW, which should transform the car into a real road stormer. 

On the other hand though, an extreme full engine build (along the lines of the ex-rally cars) might give the hot hatch around 220 or more kilowatts. And who'd ever guess by looking at it?? 

Since the car we had was equipped with way too hard struts, it's difficult to make suggestions on improving the standard suspension system. A mild increase in spring stiffness, quality dampers, Nolathane bushes and a hi-performance wheel alignment would surely make a good improvement on a road car though. The bigger brakes (and wheels) from the GT-R would also be a good upgrade if you had access to the parts. Perhaps Mazda 626 brakes will fit with some mods? 

Buyers' Guide 
The Familia GT-X was released in 1989, and (to the best of our knowledge) was limited to the Japanese domestic market only. The reason that they're now starting to appear on Australian soil is thanks to Japanese used vehicle importers. Such cars are typically imported to Australia in fairly good condition but may require some detailing and/or repairs. Note that the Familia must be fitted with a compliance plate if you want to legally drive it on the road. Our 90-odd thousand kilometre car was supplied to us by Adelaide Jap Imports and was ready to be sold for only A$13,500 - a true performance bargain! However, if you want the electric sunroof, windows etceteras of the up-spec models, the price will climb to around A$16,500. 

Many of the mechanical components of the car are also common with the locally delivered BP-powered 323s and Lasers. It is suggested that virtually all of the engine and drivetrain system is the same, while the body panels are completely different around the rear, as are the doors. The front end is very similar to the local 323 though. 

And if you're thinking of buying one, make sure the clutch isn't slipping - a common problem of constant 4WD turbocars. Labour and parts to fix such a woe can be expensive. 

Performance of Intended Role 
Although it was designed to be the platform for a Group-A winning rally car, the Familia GT-X was marketed and perceived primarily as a pocket-rocket type of car. Its conventional hatchback practicality, plain exterior wrapper and high level of refinement was the main reason for this. We can only imagine if its engine and mechanicals were packed into something that looked like the MX-5... But what the GT-X does deliver is an excellent blend of everyday run-around practicality, outright acceleration and dynamic handling. 

Summary 
For the money, the GT-X Familia is the perfect car for someone that wants to go fast and wants to be a little bit different from the rest of the flock. It's practicality and economy are hard to beat.

MrFamilia
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Location : Dublin
Age : 28
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