Side-impact airbags for the front seats are a new option on the 626, Mazda's midsize sedan. The side airbags are packaged with anti-lock brakes as an option available on all models.
Ford owns a controlling interest in Mazda and builds the 626 at a plant the two share near Detroit. However, the 626 was designed in Japan and uses Mazda engines.
Car watchers will be seeing a lot more of the 626 starting next summer, though in a much different form. The 626's front-wheel-drive platform will be the basis for a new sport utility vehicle that will be built in the United States and sold as the Ford Escape and Mazda Tribute, giving both brands their first car-based SUVs.
A new grille, front bumper and taillights give the 626 a freshened appearance, but the basic styling remains the same since 1998, when the car grew to true midsize proportions. Wheelbase is 105 inches and overall length is 187, a few inches less than the Toyota Camry or Honda Accord.
Seats for five are provided on all models, with front buckets and a three-place rear bench seat with a split, folding rear seatback. With the base LX model the upholstery is cloth, and on the ES it is leather.
Among the standard features on all models are air conditioning, a CD player, remote keyless entry and a security system with an immobilizing feature if the incorrect key is used to try to start the car.
Under the Hood
The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine standard on both models gains 5 horsepower this year to 130; the optional 2.5-liter V-6 remains with 170 horsepower. Both engines are available with manual or automatic transmissions. Acceleration is livelier with a manual transmission, and the automatic tends to shift harshly compared to some rivals' automatics.