mazda Cars

UK CAR Reader Review: Mazda 626 GSi 2.0 16V 1998 *


This generation Mazda 626 is a star in terms of performance and refinement. All models feature smooth and quiet engines that are very responsive, especially in 2.0i auto form and they are also easy on the wallet. The car I drove had covered over 100000 miles and it ran like new. Even the engine’s pistons didn’t make themselves audible. Unlike the 626’s Japanese rivals such as the Toyota Carina and the Nissan Primera this car does not have a mini-cab image and the design, whilst isn’t the most exciting, is well finished off to a very pleasing standard. Good equipment throughout the range is another positive feature of the car; all models have electric mirrors and windows x4. Just by the way the electric windows open, so quickly and quietly demonstrate sheer supreme quality. 

GLX and GXi models feature a sunroof and alloys, whilst the 2.5iGT added even more. A slightly indifferent specification between different models and different years spoil otherwise what is a simple and straightforward buying package. The 2.5iGT for example has cruise control and electric drivers seat in 1992 but in 1994 these were dropped when the airbag was introduced. Why?? Luxuries such as soft Connolly leather interior, ice cold air-conditioning and 15-inch alloys where available as options.  Little goes wrong with this generation 626; a majority of cars have covered over 100000 miles and will last and last. Over the 100000-mile mark means that a service about every 6000 miles is vital for continual engine care and efficiency.

Handling is rather lacklustre, whilst it is totally competent and safe, fast cornering does not inspire full confidence and some drivers may find the steering too light and lifeless. Not the car for the keen driver but perfectly adequate and safe. Unlike the Nissan Primera, one of the cars main rivals, the interior is smoothly finished off and the seats offer excellent back support and they are neither too soft nor too firm. Ergonomics are sound, too. Most models have dark grey cabin materials, but the Coral brown 1992-1994 model had a classier taupe with tweed seats. Look closely inside and such minor details will be noticed, for example the oval door courtesy lights that are positioned on a pleasant and curvaceous carpet layer. These details may not sound anything special, but when compared to other cars Mazda really knows how to make occupants feel at home in this 626 range. 

The dashboard is tilted upwards and boasts clarity with its large bold figures. Plenty of warning lights, too. Whilst the car may not have a particularly overt image and it fails to ‘shout’ anything about its personality or lack of it, the car looks sensible and is well suited to a family express. Body coloured everything with the use of no cheap looking black plastic body panels add that extra ounce of quality craftsmanship. The wheels on most 626 models are too small, particularly on the 2.0iGLX models, where they are only 14-inch. This may also not do anything for the iffy grip levels either. A very practical and well finished off interior and a respectable image is what this Mazda 626 says about itself. All models from 1994 gained an airbag and from 1993 side impact protection was standard. ABS on most models too. Mazda’s impeccable build quality and solidity add even more reassurance for passenger and driver safety. Avoid the very sluggish and slow diesel, it certainly does not feel supercharged! The diesel in the new 626 betters the ‘D-CX’ by miles.

I really do recommend this car, if you are looking for a 140+mph hatchback with good room, reliability and comfort, as well as fair economy and image then the 2.5iGT should suit you just right. Whether you are looking for a mature, but responsively powerful saloon then the GLX 2.0i 4-door is for you. This is not your average bland, boring and stodgy Japanese car, i.e. the Nissan Primera Mk1; the 626 MK3 promises to please all. 

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