Mazdas midsize sedan returns with minimal change for 2001, and it appears that the present version will continue in present form through 2002. A redesigned 626 is scheduled to arrive for 2003.
Ford owns a controlling interest in Mazda and builds the 626 at a plant the two share near Detroit. The 626 was designed in Japan, however, and uses Mazda engines. The 626s front-drive platform serves as the basis for the new Mazda Tribute and Ford Escape sport utility vehicles.
The 626 was last redesigned for 1998, when it grew to true midsize proportions. The wheelbase is 105 inches and the overall length is 187 a couple 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. The upholstery is cloth in the base LX model, and leather comes standard on the ES. Among the standard features on all models are air conditioning, a CD player, remote keyless entry and a security system with an immobilizing feature that activates if the incorrect key is used in the ignition.
Under the Hood
The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine thats standard on both models generates 130 horsepower, and the optional 2.5-liter V-6 makes 170 hp. Both engines are available with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.
Acceleration is decidedly livelier with the manual transmission in both the four-cylinder and V-6, while the automatic tends to shift harshly compared to some rivals automatics.
Side-impact airbags for the front seats are packaged with antilock brakes as an option on all models.