Mazda 626 / Capella

Mazda went into financial crisis between 1994 and 1998, during which it recorded loss every year. That resulted in receivership by Ford and then a radical cost-cutting program carried out. Core of the program was to kill loss-making models and increase platform / component sharing among new models. The current 626 (calls "Capella" in Japan) was born under such background. 

The last two generations of 626 were somewhat regarded as high-tech sedans, with 4-wheel-steering, turbocharged engine and one of the earliest 24-valve V6 for the class. Even the visual build quality was remarkable enough to amaze contemporary BMWs. However, the breakage of bubble economy resulted in a completely different technique for survival - make things as straightforward as possible, hence pushing the price as low as possible. At the same time, build quality and reliability should be maintained in Japanese level thus avoid throat-cutting competition from Korean cars or American cars. 

That's why the current 626 is so conservative. You need a family car with sufficient comfort, decent dynamic, reliable and cheap to run ? Here's the car. You need driver appeal ? sorry, this car is not related to MX-5 in any sense, although they park in the same showroom. 

Basically, the 626 platform is shared with 323 and Premacy. The suspensions are the same - front MacPherson strut, rear strut plus twin-trapezoidal links (or what Mazda calls "TTL") - but the dimensions of the platform is very flexible. The Japanese and European 626, no matter sedan or hatchback, sit on the same wheelbase and roughly the same width as the 323 (believe or not !), although the extra rear overhang enables much bigger boot volume. The estate version gains 60 mm more wheelbase, that is, same as the Premacy MPV. American 626 is built in USA at a joint venture with Ford and uses a lot of locally produced components. Wheelbase equals to European 626 Estate but it is 65 mm wider and 170 mm longer than the Japanese 626. 

Admittedly, all 626s are short of wheelbase compare with rivals, but the packaging is efficient enough to hide that. There's sufficient, if not remarkable, room for 4 adults plus a child. Like 323, the dashboard is anything but stylish, nor there is any sense of classy, but the logical layout of controls just work well and you know it is hard to fault. Seats are supportive. The trunk is big. 

Similarly, there's no complaint against the 136 hp 2.0 four-pot, which provides decent balance between performance and economy. American 626 is topped by a 2.5-litre V6 good for 170 hp, with both auto and manual transmission offer.  

Handling and ride are not bad, really not bad, but neither can it be described as remarkable. The conservative styling has already told you this is not a fireball. Most important, conservative change means competitive price. 

The above report was last updated on 20 Mar 2000. All Rights Reserved.


626 2.0 GSi
626 V6 (US)
Front-engined, Fwd
Front-engined, Fwd.
L / W / H / WB:
4590 / 1695 / 1440 / 2610 mm
L / W / H / WB:
4760 / 1760 / 1400 / 2670 mm
Inline-4, dohc, 4v/cyl.
V6, dohc, 4v/cyl.
1991 c.c.
2497 c.c.
134 hp
170 hp
131 lbft
160 lbft
5M / 4A
F: strut / R: strut + TTL (twin trapezoidal link)
195/60 R15
1258 kg
Top speed
124 mph*
0-60 mph
9.4 sec*
0-100 mph
28.0 sec*
* Tested by Autocar

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