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1996 Mazda 626 Sedan

4dr Sdn LX V6 Manual

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  • $20,695 original MSRP

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1996 Mazda 626 Sedan

Printable Version

1996 Mazda 626 Sedan

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1996 Mazda 626

Source: New Car Test Drive

Plainly one of the most potent in its class.

by Tony Swan

Every time we drive a V-6-powered Mazda 626 we emerge pleased and bewildered. The pleasure comes from the driving. The bewilderment concerns this car's relatively modest performance on the sales charts.

Though it's neither the roomiest nor the most distinctive member of the vast mid-size class, the 626 is one of the most gratifying to drive.

It has the reflexes of a gunfighter, and Mazda's 160-hp 2.5-liter V-6 engine -- the same engine used in the Ford Probe GT sport coupe -- lends real zeal to forward progress, especially when it's allied with the precise five-speed manual transmission.

But as hot as it is on the street, the 626's showroom performance qualifies as lukewarm. So what's the problem? Subdued styling? Sticker shock?

To renew our acquaintance with this nifty middleweight contender, we selected an LX model, which falls in the middle of the 626 model range, with the V-6 engine and standard five-speed transmission.

Walkaround

As noted, the 626 has been spruced up a little for 1996. The front end treatment now bears a close family resemblance to the more expensive Mazda Millenia -- no bad thing -- while the rear has been given a couple of small detail changes. The overall design is tidy, smooth and nicely proportioned, but it still shades toward the anonymous, and the shape has the additional drawback of familiarity. It's been with us since the 1993 model year.

On the other hand, a no-chances exterior design doesn't seem to hurt the Toyota Camry, a mainstream middie that's more expensive and not as entertaining to drive.

There's also an ongoing perception that the 626 is a little pricey, something that was true when it was launched. But Mazda has addressed this problem by holding back on annual price hikes. At $15,495, a basic 626 DX sedan costs a tad more than a Honda Accord DX ($15,100) but considerably less than a Camry DX ($16,758).

Stir V-6 power into the mix, and Mazda's competitive position improves considerably.

A Camry LE V-6 starts at $22,448, an Accord LX V-6 at $22,500, both with automatic transmissions as standard equipment.

Our 626 LX V-6 test car stickered out at $19,895, almost squarely on the average price for a new car these days in this country, and a whole bunch less than its prime competitors from Toyota and Honda.

True, an automatic transmission would have bumped the price $800 closer to the Camry and Accord. But you'd still drive home with a lot more money in your pocket. And anyway, the combination of the V-6 and five-speed transmission is a natural in a car with this kind of sporting spirit. It's also a combination that's simply not available in Camry and Accord V-6 models.

Power talk: Mazda's 2.5-liter dual overhead cam 24-valve V-6 is one of the absolute best in the business, overshadowed only slightly by Ford's new 2.5-liter Duratec V-6.

At 160 horsepower, it doesn't have quite as much absolute output as the bigger Camry and Accord V-6 engines, but it doesn't have as much mass to drag around, either.

A V-6-powered 626 weighs in at 2899 pounds, compared to 3241 pounds. for the Camry and 3219 for the Accord.

Less is invariably better when it comes to vehicle curb weights. It adds up to better handling -- less mass to shift back and forth in quick maneuvers -- as well as better straight ahead performance and shorter stopping distances.

Stamp on the gas pedal and the 626 hustles to 60 mph in a smidge over seven seconds, emitting a refined snarl in the process.

Why all the emphasis on power?

Well, for one thing, besides enhancing the fun-to-drive quotient, power can legitimately be viewed as a safety feature.

It's always nice to have a little extra when you pull out to pass on a country back road and a 10-ton truck suddenly materializes in the oncoming lane. But in the case of the 626, the car doesn't really show to good advantage without the V-6.

The standard 114-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is strictly ho-hum compared to the basic four-cylinder powerplants in the Accord and Camry, as well as the Ford Contour, Nissan Altima and a good many others.

It seems clear that tepid base-engine performance is one of the key elements holding the 626 back in the sales department.

The Inside Story

The 626's modest makeover carries into the cabin with a better grade of upholstery. Although it's functional and elegantly simple, the 626 interior -- like the exterior -- is a little low on pizzazz. The color scheme in our test car was a bit drab, although the quality of the materials and assembly was as good as the best.

There are, however, a couple of elements that could stand improvement. The audio and climate controls, for example, are set a trifle low in the center of the dashboard and the various pushbuttons involved in both could be a little bigger.

Adjustment controls for the power-operated side mirrors are combined in a single switch that's set low in the dashboard to the left of the steering wheel. The function of the switch is fine, but it's eclipsed by the wheel and it's not easy to use when the car is moving.

Although the major instruments -- speedo, tach, fuel and temp gauges -- are easy to see through the wheel, they could be a tad larger. And rear-seat leg room isn't what you'd call plentiful, although there's a little more of it here than there is in an Accord. Call it average for a car in the smaller end of the mid-size class.

The seats, however, are very good, particularly up front. These are nicely bolstered, well-padded buckets designed to keep the driver and front seat passenger firmly anchored during hard cornering.

Ride & Drive

Hard cornering is something this car does very well -- better, in fact, than most in its class.

The 626 chassis is shared by Mazda's MX-6 sport coupe as well as the Ford Probe and it's got the kind of rigidity that makes it easy for the suspension engineers to create the "right" kind of ride and handling traits.

For the 626 sedan, this translates as slightly softer than the coupes, but still firm and responsive. If your priority is cushy ride quality, this probably isn't the car for you. Camry intenders need not apply.

But if you like exceptionally quick, precise steering combined with minimal body roll and right-now responses to your commands, the 626 LX V-6 has few equals in its competitive realm. About the only one that comes readily to mind at this end of the size spectrum is the Ford Contour SE.

If you've got more money to spend -- say $2500 or so -- the slightly larger and substantially more potent Nissan Maxima SE is a good bet. But $2500 is a pretty good-sized jump.

Final Word

At its price, the 626 LX V-6 stacks up as a lively sport sedan that's very tough to beat. So let's dissect that price a little bit.

The basic 626 DX is indeed basic -- any frills like a radio or air conditioning cost extra.

Our LX V-6, which was devoid of options, included air conditioning, an AM/FM/cassette sound system, power windows, power locks, power mirrors, cruise control, dual vanity mirrors and racy-looking 15-inch alloy wheels -- not exactly rolling hedonism, but all the basic amenities.

Missing, however, was an antilock brake system. The LX V-6 does have disc brakes on all four wheels, and braking performance on dry pavement is distinctly above average. But we think ABS is an important safety feature in real four-season climates, and the 626 value story would be enhanced if it were standard equipment, rather than an $800 extra.

Nevertheless, thanks to Mazda's efforts in the pricing realm the 626 LX V-6 does represent a good value in a delightful small sport sedan.

Its performance makes it a joy to drive, long hauls or short, back roads or mere commuting. The quality of its assembly and finish, handled right here in the USA, measure up well against benchmark cars like the Accord and Camry.

And if it's not exactly a head-turner in the looks department, a test drive will reveal something that's already endeared a good many owners. It's a joy to drive. And if fun-to-drive is high on your list of priorities, we'll bet you'll want to take this one home with you.

Order our 200+ page magazine of reviews. Send $8.00 (S&H included) to New Car Test Drive, 2145 Crooks Rd. Suite 200, Troy, MI 48084

© 1996 New Car Test Drive, Inc.

Printable Version

1996 Mazda 626 Sedan

Safety Features & Equipment

Braking & Traction

4-Wheel ABS Opt

Passenger Restraint

Driver Air Bag Std
Passenger Air Bag Std
Child Safety Locks Std

Road Visibility

Intermittent Wipers Std
Variable Inter. Wipers Std
Printable Version

1996 Mazda 626 Sedan

Mazda Certified Pre-Owned Warranty  help
Certified Pre-Owned Warranty
To be eligible for Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) status, vehicles generally must be recent models with relatively low mileage. CPO vehicles must also pass a detailed inspection, outlined by the manufacturer, which is measured by the number of inspected points.
Warranty coverage can vary from one manufacturer to the next. While most certified pre-owned programs transfer and extend the existing new car warranty terms, others offer a warranty that simply represents an additional year and mileage value. Always check with the manufacturer for the specific warranties they offer.
Common features and benefits of Certified Pre-Owned warranties include:
Age/Mileage Eligibility
To even be considered for certification, a car must be a recent model year and have limited mileage. The exact requirements are established by individual manufacturers.
Lease Term Certified
Some manufacturers offer certified pre-owned cars for lease. The length of the lease is often shorter than a new car lease, but it will cost you less.
Point Inspection
These inspections entail a comprehensive vehicle test to ensure that all parts are in excellent working order. The point inspection list is simply a numbered list of exactly what parts of the car are examined. While many inspections range from a 70- to 150-point checklist, most are very similar and are performed using strict guidelines. Ask your local dealer about specific details.
Return/Exchange Program
Some manufacturers offer a very limited return or exchange period. Find out if you will get the sales tax and licensing/registration fees back should you return or exchange the car.
Roadside Assistance
Most certified pre-owned programs offer free roadside service in case your car breaks down while still under warranty.
Special Financing
Reduced-rate loans are available through many certified pre-owned programs. Manufacturer-backed inspections and warranties help eliminate the risks involved with buying pre-owned, so buyers who qualify can take advantage of the great offers.
Transferable Warranty
When a new car warranty transfers with the certification of the car and remains eligible for the next owner, it is known as a transferable warranty. Once the original transferable warranty expires, an extended warranty takes effect.
Warranty Deductible
This is the amount for which you are responsible when repair work is performed under the warranty. Some manufacturers require a deductible while others don't, so always ask.

Each Mazda Certified Pre-Owned vehicle comes with a 12-Month / 12,000 Mile Vehicle Limited Warranty with no deductible on covered components, which begins when the factory warranty ends. If it's out of warranty, the 12-month/12,000 miles warranty begins on the certified retail date.

Coverage begins on the limited powertrain warranty from the original retail sales date and covers 7-Years /100,000 miles, whichever comes first.
Age/Mileage Eligibility 2008-2014 model years and less than 80,000 miles
Lease Term Certified No
Point Inspection 150-Point Detailed Inspection

Autocheck® Vehicle History Report with 3-year buyback protection from Experian, subject to all Experian & Experian Automotive buyback terms and conditions.

Return/Exchange Program No
Roadside Assistance 24hr Roadside Assistance for the life of the Powertrain Limited Warranty offers confidence on the road around the clock.
Special Financing Yes, see your Mazda dealer for details.
Transferrable Warranty Yes
Warranty Deductible $0

Learn more about certified pre-owned vehicles

Printable Version

1996 Mazda 626 Sedan

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