Mazda's best-selling car was redesigned for '98, so '99 is the year for "refinement," meaning the addition of a seat lifter crank, remote keyless entry, power antenna and illuminated vanity mirrors.

The 626 is offered in four trim levels, LX, ES, LX V-6 and ES V-6.

We tested the LX with the 2.5-liter, 170-h.p. V-6 (a 2-liter, 125-h.p. 4 in the base model) with a 5-speed manual, the engine, but not the transmission, of choice for Chicagoland. The 4-speed is standard on the uplevel ES. Mazda sent a V-6 with 5-speed to promote the car as an "enthusiastic sedan."

The 5-speed is very smooth and easy to maneuver and the V-6 is fairly energetic yet still delivers 21 m.p.g. city/27 m.p.g. highway.

Good road manners without unnecessary bumping and bouncing or lots of road harshness filtering back into the cabin.

Base price is: $19,065. Speed-sensitive steering and four-wheel disc brakes are standard, ABS with traction control is a $700 option. Think twice about the $2,095 premium package because about the only essential is the power moonroof.