I bought this car about 6 years ago with my dad's recommendation. He is a certified Mazda mechanic and he said the most reliable car on the road was the 626 4 cylinder with the manual transmission. Last week I had a timing belt tensioner spring break about 4-1/2 hours from home. So I ran it back at 80mph trying to blow it up. The motor sounded like a blender full of rocks, I just kept waiting for it to explode. But it kept going. Got it home replaced all the belts, plugs, wires, cap and rotor, water pump. And you can not believe how this car runs for a car approaching 200,000 miles. Quiet and smooth. That was the only maintenance I had ever done in 150,000 miles, besides oil and tires.
Rock solid reliability. Consistently 33 to 36 mpg. "Swing" feature on the motorized vents. Good handling, very fun to drive. If you find one of these cars that is not abused and had a manual transmission. IT will last forever. My last Mazda went 326,000 miles before getting hit by a semi.