A Closer Look At The Mazda 626 Through the Ages

Table of Contents

Are you a fan of old-school sedans that were more focused on performance instead of style? Have a look at the Mazda 626, which was an iconic mid-size vehicle of design and truly proved its commitment to providing value with every new model.

Overview of Mazda 626

The Mazda 626 was actually introduced with the name Mazda Capella. The name Capella was inspired by the third-brightest star in the night sky in the northern celestial hemisphere. This vehicle was known more commonly as 626 in Southeast Asia, North America, and Europe. It’s a midsize sedan that also came as a hatchback, coupe, and even station wagon in the later generations. The platform of Mazda 662 was also used by Ford (a partner of Mazda at that time) to manufacture vehicles like Ford Probe and Ford Telstar. 

Throughout its production until 2002, this vehicle received a lot of changes in its layout, styling, and technology. However, this vehicle was generally recognized for its ease of handling, straightforward design, and emphasis on a comfortable driving experience.

As we go through the features of the Mazda 626, let’s find out why this vehicle was so popular at its time.

History

Mazda Capella, aka Mazda 626, was manufactured by Mazda to compete against the Honda Accord and Toyota Corona. Its production started in 1970 and continued up until 2002 after which it was replaced by the Mazda6 (Atenza). As for the 626, it actually replaced the RX-2 and 616/ 618. Approximately 4,345,279 units of Ford Telstar and Capella were sold around the world.

In North America, the initial two generations of 626 were essentially compact cars. However, the later generations were sold as mid-size vehicles. The very first model of 626 made its way to the market in 1979. It was quite a good car featuring 80hp with a 2.0L SOHC straight-4 F/ MA engine and rear-wheel drive system. One of its innovative features was a split-folding rear seat that allowed it to expand cargo space.  Performance wise it worked so well that many experts compared it with BMW. It won’t be wrong to say that it actually increased Mazda’s sales to quite an extent.

A quick summary of the later generations, their performance, and other details are mentioned in the table below:

GenerationYearEngine OptionsPerformanceSpecial VersionsFacelift
1st1970-19781.5L I4, 78 hpMazda RX-2
2nd1978-19822.0L I4, 83 hpBetter performance and efficiency1974
3rd1982-19872.2L I4, 110 hpBetter performance626 GTFacelift with improved features
4th1987-19922.2L I4, 110 hp (Continued) GVUpdated on GD platform in 1988, facelift in 1990
5th1992-19972.5L V6, 164 hpIntroduction of V6 engineFacelift with changes in body style
6th1997-20022.0L I4, 130 hp (Continued)Introduction of Mazda 626 TurboMazda 626 GLX1997-1999 engine overhaul, Facelift with exterior and interior updates in 2000

This vehicle rolled out of the market in 2002, but its production continued until 2006 in Columbia.

Engine, Transmission, and Performance

Mazda 626’s engine evolution spans about six generations. It started off with a 1.5L I4 engine that could deliver 78 horses. However, as the model progressed, we saw better engine options like the 2.0L I4. We observed a significant step forward in the third generation as Mazda came with a 2.2L I4 engine. However, the V6 engine was introduced in the fifth generation, giving an extra boost in performance. The Mazda 626 Turbo was unveiled in 1998, coming up with a turbocharged engine that could deliver an impressive 190 horsepower.

Just as we observed iterations in the engine, the Mazda 626 offered a different range of transmission options, too. It started with a 4/5-speed manual and 3-speed automatic transmission in the first generation, and we saw a 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic in the later generations.

Since there were many changes in every generation of the Mazda 626, the performance narrative also evolved with each generation. While the earlier models were focused on reliability and fuel efficiency only, the later models offered a more dynamic driving experience. It was indeed the V6 engine and the Turbo model that boosted the Capella’s performance profile.

Exterior

The Mazda 626 was not the car that would stand out in the parking lot. It would blend swiftly with the rest due to its classical design that was typical of that era. You would only expect simplicity and practicality from the 626 models throughout its production.

The car comes with narrow headlights, while its windshield and windscreen had some angle making it look tilted towards the vehicle’s roof. Moreover, the four-door version of 626 didn’t come with a glass area behind the rear doors, contrary to what was common in Japan and the US.

As the mid-’90s arrived, the vehicle received a significant facelift, which introduced a rounded and aerodynamic profile. This facelift provided the vehicle with more of a modern appearance.

The year 2000 brought a significant facelift, both inside and out. The updated front fascia and interior improvements made it go wild as it got better aligned with the evolving design trends. This final facelift served as a fitting conclusion to the Mazda 626’s narrative.

Inside the Mazda 626

Early models of Mazda 626 didn’t have anything much appealing on the inside. However, the later generations had interiors made of more refined materials. Quality upholstery and soft-touch surfaces were prominent. Throughout its iterations, this vehicle accommodated five passengers, which was comfortable for drivers and passengers of any height.

In the sixth and last generation of the 626, you will find a leather or cloth-covered center armrest, a new center console, door handles that are chrome-plated, different seat patterns, and a couple of buttons and switches.

As for the cargo, the last generation models have a trunk volume of around 502 – 518 l, which could be expanded to 1,374 l. This proved quite practical for a lot of everyday needs.

Over the years, improvements were made to seating ergonomics that ensured a comfortable experience for the consumers. Features like power-adjustable seats, climate control, and available leather upholstery in later models also added a lot to comfort.

The infotainment system of the Mazda 626 was quite basic, featuring a basic audio system. However, its later generations came with more sophisticated setups.  In the final generation, particularly post the 2000 facelift, you could find features such as upgraded sound systems, CD players, and possibly even early iterations of in-dash navigation systems.

Driving Experience

The Mazda 626 has always been considered a good family car for the space and comfort it provides. Though driving experience, power, and design evolved through the generations, the space essentially remained the same. Even in the early models, you would experience a smooth ride on the city roads. For this reason, this vehicle was opted by a large number of consumers for daily commuting.

Its performance became top-notch with the introduction of the Mazda 626 Turbo in 1998. This has led to an even better driving experience and also catered to the diverse preferences of consumers.

Conclusion

The Mazda Capella, commonly known as the Mazda 626, truly stood the test of time and proved its commitment to producing reliable and high-performing mid-size sedans over the course of years. This vehicle truly had the journey of beginning with simplicity to going to a more sophisticated and modern look.

While the Mazda 626 remained quite successful throughout the world, its 1998 model year was quite different from the others.

Though this vehicle is no longer in production now, we are still in awe of how it evolved over time, coming up with features every time.

Pros

  • Offers sharp handling
  • Known for its reliability and longevity
  • Accommodates passengers comfortably
  • The Mazda 626 Turbo added a sportier edge

Cons

  • Earlier models lacked comfort
  • Limited cargo space compared to competitors

Automotive Journalist Verdict

Most experts commend the Mazda 626 for its reliability. The addition of the Turbo variant was one notable event that brought a sportier element to the lineup. While most of its early models lacked in terms of advanced features, its timeless design still keeps its spirit alive to this day.

FAQs

Why was the Mazda 626 discontinued?

The Mazda Capella, or Mazda 626, was discontinued in 2002 due to shifting consumer preference towards SUVs. This decision was made to keep up with the changing market trends and to introduce new technologies.

What notable changes were made in the final facelift?

The final facelift of the Mazda 626 was carried out in 2000, which led to changes in its headlight, front fascia, modernization of overall appearance and some other exterior changes.

What was the fuel efficiency of the Mazda 626?

Mazda 626 would consume 10.1 – 10.4 l/100km of fuel in the city and 6.2 – 6.6 l/100km on the highway. Its combined fuel consumption turned out to be 7.6 – 8 l/100km.

Written by: Motorcardata

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