1998 Mazda 626

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Change year or car

$15,550

starting MSRP

1998 Mazda 626

Key specs

Base trim shown

Overview

4 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 1998 Mazda 626 trim comparison will help you decide.

1998 Mazda 626 review: Our expert's take

By

The verdict:

Versus the competiton:

Mazda’s familiar 626 underwent a complete redesign last fall, but it takes a close eye to recognize the difference.

Whip out the tape measure, however, and you will find that it is bigger in nearly every dimension. The wheelbase is 105.1 inches, and overall length is 186.8, 2.4 inches more than the old car. Most importantly, there is more than enough room inside for four, even five should the need arise. The trunk is larger, too.

The front is nearly a mirror image of the Millenia, Mazda’s luxury sport sedan that starts at $28,995 and ranges up to $36,595. The understated styling is successful, but some might think it needs a bit more pizzazz. What counts is the fact that this car is a substantial improvement over the previous 626, not only in size but all-around performance, and it comes to market at a very competitive price.

The base DX, with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder and a 5-speed manual transmission, starts at $15,695. If you want a V6 the LX begins at $20,795. Atop the model lineup is the sporty ES, which is the model Mazda sent for me to drive. It is $23,995, fully loaded and with 5-speed manual gearbox. The ES is targeted at buyers who want room for the family without sacrificing driving fun.

Built exclusively in the Flat Rock, Mich., AutoAlliance International

plant that is a joint venture between Mazda and Ford, the 626 sits squarely in contention with competitors such as the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.

The 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter engine is carried over from previous years, but with a higher compression ratio and a new air-flow sensor that provides quicker throttle response. This engine is delightfully smooth, although not overly powerful given the size of the car. Driven sedately, it performs with the same effortlessness of its V6-engined competitors. Wring it out, on the other hand, and use manual transmission vigorously, and the ES scoots along smartly. The shift linkage doesn’t feel as smooth as it does in the MX-6 coupe that uses the same powertrain. The tall fifth gear allows the engine to relax and settle into an easy pace on the highway, where it keeps up with the ever-more-speedy flow of freeway traffic.

By using computer-aided design, Mazda has been able to make the new body

stronger and less likely to flex. Not only does that help reduce squeaks, it

enables the suspension to be tuned to keep noise and vibration out of the

interior. A fully independent rear suspension improves cornering ability and

enables the ride to be compliant on uneven surfaces. While the ride is not

harsh, it is firm enough to give sporty handling and moderate lean in turns.

Electronic traction control and anti-lock brakes are standard on all V6 models. The traction control system adjusts the engine’s fuel delivery and spark timing for less power when wheel sensors detect unwanted wheelspin.

The cabin is typical of the cars in this segment: two bucket seats in front and a split-folding bench in back. There was plenty of knee room for me in back, and the fronts are reasonably generous. The leather upholstery in the ES was most appealing.

The interior layout is much the same as the old 626, which is to say nicely

styled and easy to use. The woodgrain trim around the center console was a nice touch.

The ES comes with a long list of standard equipment, including air

conditioning, 6-way power driver’s seat, keyless remote entry, power windows,

power mirrors, cruise control, tilt wheel, power moonroof, 15-inch aluminum

wheels and an AM/FM/CD stereo.

With this redesign, Mazda moves the 626 closer to its Millenia in everything

but price. While that may hurt the luxury model, it can’t help but stimulate

sales for the 626.

Price

The base price of our test car was $23,995. Freight brought the sticker

price to $24,445.

Warranty

The basic warranty is for three years or 50,000 miles.

> Vehicles for The Star’s week-long test drives are supplied by the auto manufacturers.

Point: Mazda’s redesign of the 626 shows it can offer luxury-car looks at family-sedan prices. The top-line ES is both sporty and luxurious.

Counterpoint: While the 5-speed transmission adds some excitement to the

driving experience, an automatic would make the ES quieter and smoother.

SPECIFICATIONS:

ENGINE: 2.5-liter, V6

TRANSMISSION: 5-speed

WHEELBASE: 105.1 inches

CURB WEIGHT: n

BASE PRICE: $23,995

PRICE AS DRIVEN: $24,445

MPG RATING: 21 city, 27 hwy.

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.9
  • Interior design 4.5
  • Performance 4.5
  • Value for the money 4.6
  • Exterior styling 4.7
  • Reliability 4.7

Most recent consumer reviews

5.0

Very reliable car, can be driven across country

I really love this vehicle. I will not be selling it as my family and I have not hit hard times. Many great trips have been taken in his van and even though the band is older as still runs like new.

5.0

Meet my needs

Was a good car for the 4 years I had it. No issues not the best car out there but the beast I've owned.

4.9

Best car ever

I wrote a review for this car in 2010 with the name of "Mazdas are cool" or something like that. Four years later it was still the best car that I could've ever owned. I crashed it into a tree going about 30-40 mph but still managed to walk away fine, the car was totaled but I was totally fine. I thank Mazda for making such a nice car that probably saved my life. After 16 years and 224,000 miles, I had only two problems with it: the fuel pump went out and the horn quit working (cost about $337 to fix). Ironically, the day after I repaired the car, I totaled it. Undoubtedly, the best car anyone could own. The seats were comfortable too, and it was a thrill to drive.

See all 11 consumer reviews

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