Nice car. Spacious. The 2.5-liter, 24-valve, 164-h.p., V-6 is peppy and the 5-speed manual is smooth shifting. The car is quiet overall, the 15-inch radials grip dry road well, the shoulder belts feature height adjustments in the pillars, and the fan offers a nifty feature whereby you can direct heat tothe feet but cooler air to the face so you don't feel as if you are being microwaved after several miles of driving.

While dual air bags are standard, ABS is an $800 option (standard in the ES). Stiff price, but don't order a 626 without ABS, especially in the Snow Belt. And when you do, let the Mazda folks know that $800 is a hefty price to pay when the rest of the industry is bringing ABS prices down.

Base price: $18,700. Add $70 for floor mats and $375 for freight.