Mazda 626

Introduced in 1979, the Mazda 626 marks the brand’s fourth attempt at an economical family sedan for the American market place. Mazda had short production runs for cars like the 616, 618, and RX-2 before finally finding the right vehicle to be its flagship family sedan for export production.

More on the Mazda 626
Mazda 626 Origins

It would take quite a bit of space to cover the various changes through five generations of an award-winning family compact car’s production life. To wit: the 626 arrived as a reliable four-cylinder alternative to bigger, less efficient, and costlier American family cars. Over time, the 626 grew into a trusted and bestselling six-cylinder family ride with a respectable amount of sportiness and handling. It offers features and options at better prices than the competition.

Eventually, the 626 was over-taken by the competition as it became bland, lost many of its options, and thus ended its run on an unbefitting note for such a successful and well-loved vehicle. Examples from the first half of production will be better than competing used cars, but buyers may want to avoid the last couple of generations.

About the Mazda 626

The first generation lasted for a few years. These models have rear drive and an inline four-cylinder engine in the front. Both the coupe and the sedan are mechanically identical. This first generation helped establish Mazda as an Asian producer of economical and reliable cars, which prove to be more fun to drive than the average vehicle.

The second generation 626 vehicles have front-wheel drive and a slight engine upgrade. This version puts the 626 on the map. It debuted in 1982 and lasted until 1987. A turbo model dubbed the 626 GT joined the line. Winner of ""Car of the Year"" awards as well as other acclaim from the automobile press, the 626 also helped make Japanese-produced cars an acceptable item on American roads.

During the third generation, model years 1988 through 1992, the 626 line expanded further. The Michigan-produced coupe receives the name MX-6 and shares a platform with the Ford Probe. Additions to the 626 family include a station wagon called the Estate and a five-door hatchback. The 626 family of models continue to sell well and receive praise from the auto press. While the Estate station wagon continued to be made until 1997, the hatchback model concluded its run in 1991.

Mazda produced the next generation from 1993 to 1997, adding major changes. This model uses a different platform and boasts body and powertrain redesigns. The new transmission adds a sports car-like handling package. Safety updates include airbags, and a larger V-6 engine propels the 626. Initially, this generation fared well, and early examples won more awards including a second ""Car of the Year"" citation. But the sporty new transmission tends to overheat due to a design flaw, causing the first ever bit of damage to the vaunted 626’s reputation.

The fifth and final generation of 626 began in 1998 and lasted until August 2002 when the last one rolled off the assembly line in Michigan. This final version is somewhat boring, with fewer features than the previous generation, and slumping sales forced Mazda to replace its stalwart family car that had carved a place in the American market. The Mazda6 became the new compact and economical family car, forcing the 626 into automotive history as one the vehicles that established the reputation of Asian produced and designed vehicles.

Mazda 626 Evolution

The 626 has quite the reputation from its many awards, and it sold well through most of its production run, continually receiving customer satisfaction acclaim. Such a reputation stems from being produced for more than 20 years with very few missteps or problems. Aside from the transmission issues that mar the fourth generation examples, the 626 performs well and reliably even when facing redesigns and changing consumer tastes.

The 626 manages to meet the basic needs of a family car. Yet the economical compact uses less gas than its rivals and offers a sporty design and a fun drive. The 626 has nearly legendary in class competition from the Accord, Camry, and Altima. While some of this competition continues on, the 626 holds its own in a competitive market, which further enhances its already prominent reputation. The 626 also offers a great value. Mazda offers features and options that rival the competition for less cost. An example is its V-6 in the 626 at a few thousand dollars less than any of its much lauded classmates.

Select a Mazda 626 Year

2002 Mazda 626

Midsize, Sedan

The 2002 Mazda 626 marked a top seller in the coupe category in 1998, during its introduction.

2001 Mazda 626

Midsize, Sedan

The 2001 Mazda 626 is a mid-size sedan that could perhaps be regarded as something of an also-ran in its segment of the market.

2000 Mazda 626

Midsize, Sedan

The 2000 Mazda 626 needs some pizzazz.

1999 Mazda 626

Midsize, Sedan

Not every driver cares about getting the highest performance or most luxurious vehicle available on the market.

1998 Mazda 626

Midsize, Sedan

With Ford's investment in the Mazda line, its models received a lot of attention in 1998, including sturdier construction, more standard features, and better engine options.

1997 Mazda 626

Midsize, Sedan

The 1997 Mazda 626 offers solid engineering with a sporty performance.

1996 Mazda 626

Midsize, Sedan

While many vehicles offer high-performance and luxurious interiors, the price often soars too high to easily fit in the budgets of many drivers.

1995 Mazda 626

Midsize, Sedan

The 1995 Mazda 626 offers everything from basic, bare bones transportation to a fully-loaded option that is almost a luxury sedan.