Mazda For 1998
By Carey Russ
Mazda enters the 1998 model year with a new corporate logo and new versions of its core models, the midsized 626 sedan and B- Series compact pickup. The MX-6 coupe has departed, but a new MX- 5 Miata is on the way. Until it arrives, special-edition 1997 1/2 Miatas will be available.
There is a new generation of Mazda's most popular car for 1998. While keeping the character of the previous 626, the newest version is slightly larger, roomier, and more powerful. It bears more than a passing resemblance to the top-of-the-line Millenia in style.
Four trim levels are offered. Lower-level models have a 2.0- liter, 125 horsepower 4-cylinder engine. The upscale models have a 2.5-liter, 170-horsepower V6. All have a 5-speed manual transmission standard, with a 4-speed automatic optional.
The 626's interior was redesigned using the "OptiSpace" concept first employed in the Protege. This has the same result as with the Protege -- a large amount of interior room for the exterior size.
The new 626 has a more rigid chassis and revised suspension for better ride and handling characteristics and lower noise levels.
The 1998 Mazda 626 was designed specifically for the North American market, and is built only at Auto Alliance International in Flat Rock, Michigan.
It used to be true that "style" and "pickup truck" were mutually contradictory. Although full-sized pickups discovered style a few years ago, the compact segment has been slow to catch on. Now, Mazda is using style as well as content to differentiate its B-Series pickup from the competition in the compact truck segment.
The 1998 Mazda B-truck was styled by the same Southern California design studio responsible for the Miata and MPV All-Sport. Two trim levels are offered, in both regular and extended-cab models. Model names are by engine size, with the B2500 having a 2.5-liter 4- cylinder and the B3000 and B4000 having a 3.0-liter and 4.0-liter V6 respectively. B3000 and B4000 models are available with 4-wheel drive.
Increased frame stiffness and a redesigned suspension make for improved ride and handling. There is more cab space and a revised interior design with new storage and comfort features.
Mazda B-Series pickups are made in Edison, New Jersey.
"MPV" stands for "multi-purpose vehicle". To this end, the MPV All-Sport is the world's first, and so far only, sport-utility minivan. It features aggressive sport-utility styling and minivan space. The All-Sport package is standard on 4-wheel drive and uplevel 2- wheel drive MPVs and optional on the base 2-wheel drive model. All MPV models have 4 hinged doors for easy access to the interior. Power is from a 155-horsepower, 3.0-liter V6. A standard rear-wheel drive configuration with the availability of 4-wheel drive makes the MPV a better choice for a tow vehicle than most other minivans. Maximum towing capacity is up to 4500 lbs.
The Protege continues as one of the roomiest cars in its class. Three trim levels are offered for 1998. DX and LX models have an efficient 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. The Protege LS uses a 122- horsepower version of the 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine from the Miata, making it one of the sportiest of the small sedans.
Mazda's premium luxury sedan continues into 1998 with few changes. Two well-equipped models are offered in the Millenia range. The Millenia uses a 2.5-liter, 170-horsepower V6. The Millenia S has an innovative Miller-cycle supercharged 2.3-liter, 210-horsepower V6.
Until the debut of the second-generation Miata later in the 1998 calendar year, the 1997 1/2 STO (Special Touring Option) edition will be offered.