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Mazda Millenia Millennium (2000)

SEE ALSO: Mazda Buyer's Guide

By Tom Hagin

Mazda Full Line Video footage (2:53)

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 30,995
     Price As Tested                                    $ 31,745
     Engine Type        s/c* DOHC 24-valve 2.3 Liter V6 w/SMFI**
     Engine Size                                 138 cid/2254 cc
     Horsepower                                   210 @ 5300 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               210 @ 3500 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  108.3"/69.7"/189.8"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3373 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  18.0 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                         P215/50VR17 all season
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                               Five percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            20/28/25          
     0-60 MPH                                        9.0 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                          17.0 seconds @ 85.5 mph
     Top speed                                           135 mph
     * Supercharged ** Sequential multi-port fuel injection

Much has changed since Mazda scrapped its plans to create a luxury line. The new brand was to be called Amati, but it was put on the back burner while its parent company struggled against worldwide competition.

But a lot of work went into the line and one model, the Millenia, saw production and continues today as a Mazda product with unique parts. The base model is the Millenia, followed by the more powerful Millenia S. Our tester for the week is the top-line Millenia Millennium Edition.

OUTSIDE - The car is nicely styled with a low nose and raised rear, but as it approaches its sixth year, it is due for a redesign. Still, it's rounded in all the right places and offers an elegant grille and slit-like headlights. Its body panel gaps are tight and uniform. Millenia Millennium models wear standard 17-inch, 50-series performance tires and elegant chromed five-spoke alloy wheels that look as good as the best aftermarket rims available. Millennium Editions are available in either Highlight Silver or Millennium Red. Special badging on the rear roof pillar distinguish this as the top-line model.

INSIDE - Mazda scrapped its luxury line plans but the beneficiary of all of the upscale marque's development is the Millenia. Lots of sound insulation and padded carpeting keep things quiet inside. There is ample room for four, but five is a pinch. Headroom, legroom and hip room is abundant, although the front seats feel a bit low. The interior feature we like best is the soft, suede-like upholstery covering the very supportive seats. It is standard with the Millennium model and feels cozy, especially on cold mornings. It also grips the seat of the pants to help keep driver and passengers in place during hard cornering. The feature we like least is the oversized rotary knob that functions as a multi-function ventilation control. It's located in the center of the dash, which is within easy reach, but it's strange looking and doesn't match the rest of the knobs. All Millenia models come standard with such items as power windows, door locks and outside mirrors, climate control, cruise control and variable-speed intermittent wipers. Standard Millennium features include faux wood trim, a leather-wrapped shifter and brake handle, and special Millennium Edition seat embroidery and door sill scuff plates.

ON THE ROAD - While the standard Millennia comes with a capable 2.5 liter, 170-horse V6 engine, the engine to have is the smaller 2.3 liter V6 that produces 210 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque. To get so much power from such a small engine, inventor R.H. Miller proposed over 40 years ago that an engine with intake valves that stay open longer than a conventional engine will produce more power and use less gas from less displacement. A intercooled supercharger was added by Mazda, which forces fuel into the cylinders and produces stellar off-line performance. The result is a smooth powertrain that rivals many of the 3.0 and 3.5 liter engines of today. Mated to it is a four-speed automatic transmission with a traction control system.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - The Millenia is built atop a unibody platform with superb structural stiffness. Its smooth body shape and special underbody shields contribute to a low .029 drag coefficient and it has good resistance to crosswinds. And added bonus of this comes in the form of reduced wind noise. Handling is quite good because of its front and rear multilink suspension. Tube shocks and coil springs are used all around, while anti-roll bars are fitted to both ends. Bumps and jolts are well-controlled and damped, and body lean in tight corners is more than acceptable. The larger tires of the Millennium Edition make it grip better in corners than the S version we tested a few years back, yet we still felt the ride overall was as good as the best in the near- luxury segment. Four-wheel disc brakes with an anti-lock system are standard.

SAFETY - Dual airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction control and side-impact door beams are standard.

OPTIONS - Four Seasons Package: (heated front seats, heavy-duty wiper motor, larger washer fluid tank, heated mirrors, heavy duty battery) $300.