Parkers overall rating: 3 out of 5 3.0

The performance of the 323 steadily improves across the engine range, with the responsive 1.8-litre a vast improvement on the tame 1.5 and uninspiring 1.3-litre engine. The 1.8 is by far and away the best option, as it is lively and understated at higher speeds, whereas the smaller engines struggle and can be a little loud. The 323 happily cruises in fifth gear and is confident and comfortable around corners.

The brakes on the 323 are superbly responsive, whilst handling on corners is especially assured when coupled with the firm suspension. However, one complaint is that the suspension may be a little too hard, particularly at low speeds - making the drive a bit choppy - and on uneven surfaces. On rough terrain or poorly surfaced roads, every bump is transmitted through the steering or your seat, spoiling the overall ride.