The cars we loved.
The Mazda 626 was one of those perfectly dependable cars that blended in the background with all the other mainstream family sedans coming out of Japan and America. Mazda’s compact family sedan was not always so inconspicuous. During the cars third generation (1988-1992) the sleepy 626 took a turn toward the sporting with a GT model with a small turbo. The 626 was offered in three trim levels and two body styles. The two door coupe version of previous model years was now a separate car called the MX6 based on a the GD platform. It was built in Michigan along with the Ford Probe.
The best looking version was the Euro-like five door fastback design featuring a hatchback (or liftback). It’s sleek shape was enhanced by a swirly looking turbo styled 15 inch wheels and tasteful accent lines. This was a welcome change vs. the tendency of most Japanese cars at the time to splash decals proclaiming every technical feature under the hood.
All 626’s featured a 2.2 L inline 4 with dual overhead cams. In base form it had 115 hp. The GT model added turbocharging to that engine for 145 hp. Mazda stressed tourqe in the GT’s power plant over sheer horsepower numbers. By avoiding turbo lag that was typical in most Japanese cars, the Mazda stood out for its drivability and performance in a otherwise subdued compact sedan market. Other impressive technology that was available in the GT included an advanced four wheel steering system, similar to the one Honda used on the Prelude, but much more complicated.
by 1992. Many of the technological gadgetry had disappeared as the 626 was becoming a main stream car. By 1992, when the fourth generation car (Mark 4) rolled around, the 626 had reverted to its old boring self. As if stung by being too agressive, the new rounded and non discript looking 626 dispensed with the turbo for a larger normally aspirated V6 in the top version (now the LX). Unfortunatly, the five door fastback was still being produced, but not sold in America. There was even a wagon in Japan. All was not lost as the new engine was smoother and more powerful. Some sporting nature also survived in improvements made to the car’s transmission. Dispite all of that, it was still ugly and stayed so until replaced by the Mazda 6 in 2003.liftbackThe technical innovations did not go unnoticed by the public or the press, as customer demand was high initially and the car was often featured on 10 best lists. The four wheel steering was dropped after 88 and sadly the five door