Car reviews - Mazda - 626 - range
Looks, cabin space, build quality, handling and ride finesse, eager engines
Room for improvement
Some road noise
18 Jun 2003
THE fourth generation Mazda 626 was launched onto the Australian market in December, 1991.
It was longer and wider than previous models with conservative, rounded, jelly-mould styling.
There were two body styles - four-door sedan and five-door hatchback - with four-cylinder or 2.5-litre V6 engines.
The Ford/Mazda successful model-sharing arrangement continued and the 626 was also sold as the Ford Telstar. Front and rear-end styling differences were used to differentiate each make but they were both manufactured in Japan by Mazda.
The automotive press at the time thought highly enough of the 626/Telstar twins to award them the 1992 car of the year title.
But they were not on the pedestal for long. The new Bluebird from Nissan and an updated Honda Accord gave buyers plenty of choice in this sector.
The 626 2.0-litre sedan was well equipped by the standards of the day. Air-conditioning, central locking, cruise control, electric windows and remote adjustable mirrors were standard while the security-coded AM/FM radio/cassette has six speakers and an electric antenna with automatic retraction when the ignition is switched off.
The Mazda's package of equipment, looks and high quality was attractive to mid-size car buyers and it was quite successful.
The increasing awareness of occupant safety prompted Mazda to make a driver's side airbag standard equipment for the 626 in late 1994.
The engine size was smaller than the previous model 626 but the more efficient twin cam, 16-valve cylinder head resulted in an identical power output of 85kW at 5500rpm with only a small drop in torque to 170Nm at 4500rpm.
Good fuel economy, helped by the slippery body shape and light weight of the 626, is one of the engine's strong points.
Transmissions are either a five-speed manual or an optional four- speed automatic with electronic control, but no power or economy modes.
The Mazda's steering, ride and handling were a significant improvement over the previous model.
The handling is well balanced with moderate understeer and the ride is generally good although some road noise is transmitted to the cabin.
Mazda's reputation means used car prices are strong so it is worth comparing the equivalent Ford, the Telstar GLX.
They are usually slightly cheaper even though there is little difference in the equipment and they were assembled in the same factory. The quality and finish are equally good.
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