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1998 Mazda 626 Sedan

4dr Sdn ES Auto

Starting at | Starting at 20 MPG City - 26 MPG Highway

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  • $23,240 original MSRP
Printable Version

1998 Mazda 626 Sedan

Printable Version

1998 Mazda 626 Sedan


1998 Mazda 626

Source: New Car Test Drive

Not your neighbor's mid-size car.

by Paul A. Eisenstein

Base Price $23,445
As Tested $24,595

Completely redesigned and re-engineered for 1998, the Mazda 626 shows why it's a good idea to shop around.

Mazda's 626 is often overlooked. Though it is Mazda's top seller, the 626 is a perennial also-ran in the incredibly competitive midsize segment sweepstakes. It's a solid and reliable sedan that's fun to drive, but it just never seems to get the amount of attention it deserves.

There's an old rule of thumb that suggests new car buyers will only take a close look at the top three vehicles on their shopping list. So when it comes to family sedans, that means most people will test drive the nation's three best-selling passenger cars, the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Ford Taurus. But the fifth-generation Mazda 626 is a good reason to break that rule.

With some styling cues lifted from the luxurious Mazda Millenia, the all-new 626 presents a crisp and formal appearance. Its elegant exterior has been stretched more than two inches and houses a roomy, refined interior.

But the changes reach well beneath the surface. The new body is stiffer, and the suspension is more sure-footed in a way that's likely to encourage you to press down the accelerator pedal just a wee bit harder as you exit a tight corner. When you do, you'll appreciate the extra power Mazda engineers have coaxed out of both the 2.0-liter twin-cam four-cylinder engine, and the smooth 2.5-liter double overhead-cam V-6.

Those who bother to check the window sticker, will discover the 626 is American-made. It's assembled at the Flat Rock, Michigan, plant Mazda shares with Ford and uses enough locally sourced components to count under government rules as a domestic model.


There's something about this segment that convinces manufacturers it's best to play it safe on styling and the 626 is no exception. It's a handsome vehicle, stylish, but not showy, with a subtle wedge shape and clear hints of the elegant Mazda Millenia. That's most apparent from the frontal view, adorned with a new grille and tasteful brightwork. Elsewhere, Mazda has chosen to tone down the use of chrome.

Take out a tape measure and you'll discover that overall body length is up 2.4 inches, while the wheelbase has been stretched 2.3 inches. Its a smart move in an era when bigger is better, and gives the 626 a more solid, luxurious appearance. It seems that some of the extra length has been used for purely cosmetic purposes, but Mazda did boost interior room and trunk space.

There's a reason why cars like Camry and Accord dominate the market. They're dependable, solid and provide an assuring sense of stability. (They also have many more dealerships and much larger advertising budgets.)

Mazda has clearly taken aim at these benchmarks, and you can get a measure of its success when you learn that the body has 43 percent more torsional rigidity than the previous 626 generation. Along with other improvements made by Mazda engineers, that translates into improved ride and handling, as well as lower levels of noise, vibration and harshness.

Our 626 came with a respectable complement of standard equipment, including a power moonroof, dual power mirrors, leather trimmed interior and a six-way power driver's seat. Safety and security features added dual airbags, remote keyless entry and an anti-theft engine immobilizer to the list.

The Inside Story

We're always baffled by designers who forget the basic purpose of an automotive interior. The key words here are supposed to be quality, comfort and ergonomics. Mazda stylists apparently have that message emblazoned on the walls of their studios.

The 626 interior is attractive with a good choice of materials and an aesthetic sense of color balance. More important, you'll find that the layout of this year's model, with its all-new instrument panel has been markedly improved to make gauges easier to read and put controls and switches more comfortably within reach. You won't have to take your eyes off the road to find the remote mirror controls or to turn on the rear defroster.

Mazda's engineers made optimum use of interior space, by reducing the space devoted to mechanicals and increasing room for passengers and cargo. A full inch of shoulder space has been added to both the front and rear seats without increasing the width of the car. The rear seats are comfortable, but could still use a tad more knee room.

Mazda has found a few extra inches for in-cabin storage, so there's more space available for stashing everything from cassette tapes to handheld cellular telephones. And trunk space has grown from 13.8 cubic feet to 14.2.

Seating has been noticeably improved. The front bucket seats provide comfort for long-distance travel with superb lateral support for short jaunts down curvy roads. You'll discover just how useful that is when you put the car through its paces.

Along with the stiffer body, it appears Mazda engineers have paid a lot of attention to reducing noise levels, another benefit of benchmarking against the quiet-as-a-tomb Camry.

Ride and Drive

A bigger and better 626 means more than just length and roominess. When it comes to the drivetrain, Mazda has coaxed an extra 11 horsepower out of the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, boosting output to 125 horsepower. Torque, that force that propels you from intersections and up steep hills, rises from 124 to 127 pound-feet. This engine is inexpensive and fuel efficient.

Our Mazda 626 was equipped with the 2.5-liter V-6 engine. For 1998, the output was increased from 164 to 170 horsepower, with torque up slightly to 163 pound-feet. This little V-6 is extremely smooth and powerful and adds greatly to the enjoyment of driving the 626. It's capable of propelling the 626 from 0 to 60 mph in the mid-seven-second range, which is more than enough to keep up with the competition.

Adding further to the enjoyment of driving the 626 is a stiffer chassis. A rigid chassis allows engineers to more precisely tune the suspension for improved handling and ride quality. MacPherson struts up front and Mazda's twin-trapezoidal links in the rear add to the driving fun along with larger stabilizer bars at both ends to reduce body lean in corners. Steering is power-assisted rack-and-pinion. This setup absorbs highway ripples and bumps on the everyday commute route, yet it offers the sort of control that will lead some driver to wander down the back roads looking for some tight corners.

Completing the performance picture is Mazda's crisp-shifting five-speed manual transmission. In contrast to most other vehicles in this segment, Mazda makes the stick a standard feature on all 626 models; that's another tip-off that this car has some sporting tendencies.

Mazda has re-tuned its four-speed electronically controlled transmission to make it even smoother than before and to reduce hunting among gears on uneven terrain or stop-and-go driving.

Traction control comes standard on all V-6 models. It's a useful complement to a front-wheel-drive platform with a powerful engine as it reduces wheelspin under hard acceleration or on slippery surfaces.

Final Word

Inside and out, the 1998 Mazda 626 is a clear improvement when compared with the vehicle it replaces. It's handsome and roomy and it offers precise handling and quick acceleration performance. A high level of standard equipment along with a competitive price makes the 626 an excellent candidate for that shopping list.

Mazda is unlikely to ever challenge Honda, Toyota and Ford for the top of the sales charts, but a lot of folks don't want to look exactly like their neighbors.

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

©1998 New Car Test Drive, Inc.

Printable Version

1998 Mazda 626 Sedan

Safety Ratings help

What do the Safety Ratings mean?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) performs independent crash testing of new vehicles and then assigns them a score based on their performance. The overall crash test rating is based on how a vehicle performs in the following tests:

Driver Crash Grade:

Measures the chance of a serious injury to a crash test dummy that is placed in a driver's seat and driven into a fixed barrier at 35 MPH. A five-star rating means there is 10 percent or less chance of injury.

Passenger Crash Grade:

Similar to the driver crash grade, only now the focus is on the passenger.

Rollover Resistance:

Simulates an emergency lane change to measure the likelihood of a vehicle rolling over. A five-star rating means there is 10 percent or less risk of rollover.

Side Impact Crash Test - Front:

Focuses on the front side of a vehicle. It simulates crashes that can occur in intersections by striking a 3,015-pound weight against the side of a vehicle at 38.5 MPH. A five-star rating means there is 5 percent or less chance of injury.

Side Impact Crash Test - Rear:

Similar to the front side impact test only now the focus is on the rear passenger.

Driver Crash Grade

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Passenger Crash Grade

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Side Impact Crash Test - Front

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Side Impact Crash Test - Rear

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Safety Features & Equipment

Braking & Traction

4-Wheel ABS Std
Traction/Stability Control Std

Passenger Restraint

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

Road Visibility

Intermittent Wipers Std


Alarm Std
Anti-theft System Std
Printable Version

1998 Mazda 626 Sedan

Original Warranty  help
Original Warranty
An original warranty is the warranty associated with a vehicle when it is brand new. In addition to the original warranty, select items, like tires, are typically covered by respective manufacturers. Also, an act of Federal law sometimes provides protection for certain components, like emissions equipment.
The original warranty is often broken down into multiple sections, including:
Basic Warranty:
Typically covers everything except for parts that wear out through normal use of the vehicle. Examples of non-covered items are brake pads, wiper blades and filters.
Drivetrain Warranty:
This warranty covers items the basic warranty does not protect. Wear and tear items such as hoses will not be covered, but key items like the engine, transmission, drive axles and driveshaft often will be.
Roadside Assistance:
The level of service differs greatly with this warranty, but many manufacturers offer a toll-free number that helps provide assistance in case you run out of gas, get a flat tire or lock your keys in the car.
Corrosion Warranty:
This warranty focuses on protecting you from holes caused by rust or corrosion in your vehicle's sheet metal.
Please check the owner's manual, visit a local dealership or look at the manufacturer's website to learn more about the specifics of the warranties that apply to a vehicle.

Basic 3 Years/50,000 Miles

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

1998 Mazda 626 Sedan

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