I bought the car for my daughter in 1998 for her to finish high school and go off to college in. The car has never left her stranded, but the automatic transmission has greatly increased the cost of a higher education. I've had the transmission replaced twice, once at 55K miles, and again at 120K. The clutch packs appear to be the weak link in the transmission. I had to change the heater coil in 2000. I made the repairs myself one week end. I'll never do that again.
New 1998 Mazda 626 replaced a 626 that was totaled. Been nothing but problems. I'm an engineer, change oil religiously, chk tires etc. Auto transmission failure at 66K miles. Seems there was a design flaw in the tranny Mazda never fixed. After discovering this I didn't want Mazda parts used so I went to guaranteed for life tranny shop. Rebuilt transmission still running strong. Mazda refused to help with the costs as I used non-Mazda parts. Nothing but electrical problems. Factory car alarm goes off without any reason, windshield wipers slow. Turn sig. blinkers are fast then slow. Engine runs good but rest of car is a mess. After owning 4 Mazdas I've not bought another and will not.
Very easy to access oil plug and filter for oil changes. Engine still performs well on the highway. However car transmits a lot of road noise now that it's got some miles on it. Trunk is large for moving my kids to/from college or long family trips.
Transmission redesign across Mazda product lines. More attention to quality lasting more than 3 yrs. Has gone down hill since.
I fount this car to be an excellent choice for my first one. I had to put a new engine in it when I received it. Drove it for approximately three months, then got into an accident and the car was totaled. All in all it was an extremely fun car to drive. It handled exceptionally well. When we received it, it had over 140,000 miles on it but we put an engine in it with only 50,000 miles on it. It ran perfectly flawless with the exception of a squeaky belt. I give mazda credit for building an excellent gas miser. I got close to 30 mpg. That is excellent considering how hard it was used and it was close to 10 years old. It isn't a real head turner, but if you are looking for an every day driver, it is a steal.
I liked the 4 cyl engine. It was great on gas. The 5 speed transmission was extremely fun to drive. The suspension and handling of the car was excellent. It is surprisingly roomy for a small 4 door sedan. It would be nice if it had a little more pep, but is still a quick ride none the less.
Better interior selections for interior colors. Beige and gray are the only colors offered. Better front bumper. I got hit in the front passenger corner of my bumper support and it totaled my car and it was only at 25 mph. Everyone in the car was perfectly safe and unharmed but the front end was totaled.
I have rated this car with extreme leniency. I bought it at 70,000 miles. Transmission went out at around 86,000 miles. I spent $2500 on it and couldn't believe that it happened to me. Mazda is a Japanese car and everything in the engine is supposed to be top notch. That assumption went down the hole when the mechanic told me, "Yeah it's got a Ford Transmission in it and it's out of stock." These type of Ford transmissions were being used so much at that time that they were out of stock. I don't need to say anything else about the Ford company and its transmission. I can see how someone a little short can have problem looking back. The way the car's back side is, it's hard to get a complete back view.
AC/heater treated me fine. The exterior body style is good.
Well, the car is not made anymore thank goodness. After this experience I am not buying a Mazda anymore so I really don't care, sorry. But I would suggest a better engine over all. Specially the transmission and gasket, those were the two things that went out in my car below 90,000 miles.
This was my second 626. The engine has
been mostly fine, blew a head gasket
at 85,000 but that feels like a fluke.
The door seals, mentioned by many
others, are annoying but no big deal.
The trouble, as you've guessed, is the
automatic transmission, made by Ford,
which completely fell apart at 90,000
miles, took $2500 to fix, and has been
back in the shop 3 more times in the
next 12,000 miles. Some apparently
break as early as 60,000. It's sad,
because I really liked the car up
until the fateful day it was towed to
the shop. Look for a manual, which is
what I'll be in the market for as soon
as this one breaks again.
Handles nicely, lots of cabin room,
huge trunk, smooth 4-cyl, big gas
tank, comfortable seating.
Figure out how to make a reliable
automatic transmission, do a better
job with the glue on the door gaskets.