From a boxy bean to a speedy sports coupe, Noelle Faulkner looks back on the style evolution of this beloved hatch and takes each one for a spin.

Everyone knows someone whose first car was a Mazda3 (or its predecessor, the Mazda323). It was a ride that gave lifts to parties, snuck you out of the house, acted a cosy setting for teenage romances, brazenly raced other P platers at the traffic lights and a car that was ( and still is) known to rarely die, no matter how hard you hammered it: a  trusty steed to fairly new drivers. And still, it's a car that has seemed to mature as fast as we did, in style, design and performance. 

This year marks the 40th Anniversary of the beloved hatch, which has evolved from a cool, yet dinky, boxy bean with tan vinyl seats and a cigarette lighter and ashtray, into a sleek, tech-savvy showstopper with Bose speakers and text-to-voice SMS software. To celebrate, I flew to Mt Cotton Driver Training Centre (a closed-road track in Queensland) in the rain, where Mazda boldly handed the keys to their Heritage Collection, an archive of "rare, museum-quality" specimens and said, take a slippery trip down memory lane....  

 

The Buro test drive: 40 years of everyone's first car