SEE ALSO: Mazda Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 19,445 Price As Tested $ 25,245 Engine Type DOHC 24-valve 2.5 Liter V6 w/SMFI* Engine Size 152 cid/2497 cc Horsepower 170 @ 6000 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 163 @ 5000 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 105.1"/69.3"/187.4" Transmission Four-speed automatic Curb Weight 3137 pounds Fuel Capacity 16.9 gallons Tires (F/R) P205/55R16 Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/front-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Five-passenger/four-door Domestic Content 70 percent Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) N/A PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 20/26/24 0-60 MPH 9.0 seconds 1/4 (E.T.) 17.0 seconds @ 81.5 mph Top speed 125 mph * Sequential multi-point fuel injection
The Mazda 626 is produced as a joint venture between Ford and Mazda at the company's Flat Rock, Michigan plant. It uses enough U.S.-made parts to qualify it as a domestic vehicle and it's Mazda's best-selling car. Now a member of the Ford family, its sales numbers are on the rise.
OUTSIDE - Mazda has been keeping the 626 as unremarkable as possible. In this "mainstream" category of family vehicles, bold styling is a risk that most car makers don't take, so the 626 is as clean and stylish as most sedans in its class. New this year are a five-point grille, new headlights and tail lights, new front valance and a chrome license plate surround. Also, Mazda has body-colored the upper door trim where previously it had been black. Sound-deadening insulation has been added in key areas and foam inserts are now in the roof pillars. Fifteen-inch steel wheels with bolt-on wheelcovers replace the previous model's 14-inchers, while 16-inch alloy wheels are optional.
INSIDE - Its interior is comfortable and spacious, but the seating position is very low, so our shorter testers had difficulty seeing over the dash. Fortunately, the driver's seat offers a height adjustment. A unique feature of the 626 are oscillating air vents in the center of the dash. New chrome accents add an upscale theme to the door handles and shifter, while the steering wheel, shift lever and hand brake are now the same color as the rest of the interior. Several other items have been upgraded as well. There is a new center console that now houses a pair of cupholders and more storage than before, while the window switches, ignition slot and glovebox are now illuminated. A handy 60/40 split folding rear seat gives access to a commodious 14.2 cubic-foot trunk. Standard interior features includes an AM/FM/CD stereo, keyless remote, air conditioning, power mirrors, windows and door locks, cruise control with steering wheel mounted controls, variable intermittent wipers and a rear window defogger.
ON THE ROAD - Two engine choices are available in the 626. The first is a 2.0-liter dual overhead cam four cylinder. It produces 130 horsepower (125 in smog states) and 130 lb-ft of torque. It comes in either the LX or ES model and is the fuel-sipping champion of the 626 lineup. Our engine of choice is the 2.5 liter V6 that produces 170 horsepower (165 in smog states) and 163 lb-ft of torque. Improvements to the V6 for 2000 include a steel crankshaft, a stiffer engine block and an improved motor mount system. This all translates to less noise, vibration and harshness. Mated to this is either a five-speed manual or the four-speed automatic transmission such as the one in our test car. Also available is an optional traction control system.
BEHIND THE WHEEL - Improvements to the 626 suspension have made for a better ride and more confident handling. Mazda was able to increase overall stiffness by adding stronger front suspension towers and new diagonal bracing to the rear suspension. The front suspension uses traditional MacPherson struts but the rear suspension uses Mazda's patented Twin Trapezoidal Link system. It is designed to keep the tires in full contact with the road at all times and is about midway between a fully independent rear suspension and a simple torsion beam rear axle. A smoother-operating steering gear has improved its overall road feel and precision while a new solid front stabilizer bar and a thicker hollow rear stabilizer bar have been added. The resulting responsiveness gives the 626 a handling advantage over some of its competitors. A four-wheel disc braking system is standard on V6 models, and new this year are improved front brake pads, a larger brake power booster and a new proportioning system that together have decreased pedal effort by 20 percent. An anti-lock braking system (ABS) is optional.
SAFETY - Dual dashboard airbags and side-impact door beams are standard; ABS, traction control and side-impact airbags are optional.
OPTIONS - Automatic transmission, $800; ABS package (ABS, traction control, side airbags), $950; Luxury Package: (alarm, power driver's seat, floor mats, 16-inch wheels and tires, heated outside mirrors, power moonroof), $1,850; Bose-brand Premium Audio Package, $600.