1 Jul 1997
Sadly for Mazda, its hopelessly over-ambitious extension plans resulted in near bankruptcy, so major shareholder Ford took control, savagely cut costs and banished emotive design.
The first fruit of this was the achingly conservative GF 626, a taller, narrower model available as a four-door sedan, four-door hatchback and – from Jan ’98 – an all-new GW Estate wagon, to replace the ancient GV Estate.
There was no MX-6 two-door model, no V6 engine and no four-wheel steering offered, while a revised 93kW 2.0L four-cylinder engine drove through a four-speed auto or five-speed manual transmission.
Still, a stronger structure brought benefits in refinement.
Model designations were now base Limited sedan, mid-level Classic sedan, hatch and wagon, and Luxury hatch and sedan.
All models featured dual airbags, air-conditioning, central locking and power steering.
In May ’99 Mazda introduced the value-added Classic “Extra” hatch and wagon, and a 40th Anniversary limited edition loaded with features such as anti-lock brakes, cruise control, alloy wheels and a CD player, from early ’99.