2002 626 New Car Test Drive
Mazda's 626 is a sporty alternative to the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Think of it as an opportunity to break from the herd, to put a little personality in your drive. Mazda will put you into a V6 version about $2000 sooner than Accord, Camry, or the Nissan Altima. Compared to Nissan's Maxima, the 626 looks like a serious bargain. Four-cylinder 626s are priced comparably to their competition.
The current-generation 626 is due for replacement at the end of the season, and that may give dealers an incentive to deal.
But don't think for a minute that the 626 is obsolete. The current model dates from 1998, but received major engineering revisions for model-year 2000, when both its interior and exterior appearance was freshened. For 2001, the 626 was re-tuned for an NLEV emission rating. It returns with minimal change for 2002.
The 626's stiff chassis and well-tuned suspension give it a sure-footed feel, encouraging you to press down the accelerator as you exit a tight corner. And when you do, you'll appreciate the power Mazda engineers have coaxed out of the optional V6 engine. Even in its twilight year, the 626 is more fun to drive than most of its mid-size competition.
Like all Mazda products, the 626 comes with three years of free roadside assistance and slightly longer warranty coverage (to 50,000 miles); Mazda says its dealers will provide a free loaner if your 626 should require warranty repairs.
Two trim levels are available: LX and leather-upholstered ES.
LX buyers can choose either a 2.0-liter inline-four rated at 125 horsepower ($18,735), or a 2.5-liter V6 rated at 165 horsepower ($21,635). Both engines feature dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. Both are offered with either a five-speed manual transmission or four-speed automatic ($800).
For 2002, ES ($21,635) is only available with the V6 engine. It comes with a choice of manual or automatic transmission. This is just one more example of Mazda's more enthusiast-friendly approach. Honda does not build a stick-shift V6 Accord, nor will Toyota install a manual transmission in a Camry V6.
In addition to its leather interior, the Mazda 626 ES-V6 comes with an eight-way power driver's seat, aluminum wheels with locks, heated mirrors and a theft-deterrent system.
A power glass moonroof is included in two different option packages, and can be added to either LX or ES models.
Dual airbags, remote keyless entry, cruise control, and tinted glass are standard on all 626 variants. Only automatic 626s can be ordered with anti-lock brakes (ABS), with ($950) or without ($800) traction control. In either case, dual side-impact airbags are included with the ABS package.