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By Rick Popely
November 23, 1999
Vehicle Overview Mazda tries to cash in on Y2K mania with a Millennium Limited Edition of its near-luxury sedan. The Limited Edition is a Millenia S model with charcoal suede upholstery, a Bose audio system with a six-disc, in-dash CD changer, 17-inch alloy wheels and either silver metallic or red mica paint.
Ford holds a controlling interest in Mazda, and word from Ford headquarters is that the slow-selling Millenia may not have much of a future. The Millenia was created as part of Mazda's plan to launch a luxury division similar to Toyota's Lexus and Nissan's Infiniti. That plan was scrapped, and Ford later stepped in to rescue the struggling Japanese manufacturer.
Exterior The front-wheel-drive Millenia is about 3 inches longer than Mazda's 626 sedan in both wheelbase and overall length, measuring 108 and 190 inches, respectively. Millenia was introduced for the 1995 season and retains the same basic styling as the first-year model.
Interior Millenia is a five-passenger sedan, though four will be much more comfortable because the rear seat isn't wide enough to hold three adults. All models come with a long list of standard amenities, but if you want leather you have to skip the base version and step up to the S model.
Under the Hood The base model uses the same 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter V-6 as the 626 sedan, and it won't win many drag races in the larger, heavier Millenia. The S model and Limited Edition come with a supercharged 2.3-liter V-6 (Mazda calls it a Miller-cycle engine) that, despite its smaller displacement, packs 200 horsepower and delivers impressive acceleration.
All models come with a four-speed automatic transmission and anti-lock brakes. Traction control is optional on the base model, standard on the other two.
Performance With a base list price of $29,995, the Millenia S stands up pretty well in side-by-side comparisons to near-luxury sedans such as the Lexus ES300 and Acura 3.2TL. However, the Mazda brand holds little cache with buyers looking for a luxury model, so Millenia has less box-office appeal. Lackluster sales have resulted in deep discounting by dealers, which takes a big bite out of resale value.