Used 1997 Mazda 626 Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1997

LX V6 and ES models gain power and torque, while the four-cylinder LX gets a Lexus-like trim package that includes two-tone paint, chrome wheel covers, leather interior, and other creature comforts. Audio systems are revised and two new colors debut.

Vehicle overview

Mazda has been bleeding red ink for many years now, mostly due to home market sales woes. However, the company hasn't been igniting sales charts in the U.S. in recent years either, and we have a hard time understanding why. Mazda builds some of the most innovative, unique and fun-to-drive cars money can buy, yet they sit on showroom floors unsold.

Take the 626, for example. In size and price, it competes with a wide range of cars in the U.S. market, but offers more solid engineering and sporting performance than most. It looks good but somewhat bland, with flowing organic lines and an interesting dash layout. The 626, built in Flat Rock, Mich., alongside the Ford Probe (with whom the 626 shares its available V6 engine) and the Mazda MX-6, was the first Japanese-branded sedan to be called a true domestic by government agencies, yet it remains as reliable as a Timex. But it sits, while Altima after Accord after Lumina roll out of neighboring dealerships.

We think things are about to change for Mazda, now that Ford owns a controlling interest in the company and has trimmed fat from the model mix. This year, 626 models equipped with the 2.5-liter V6 engine get more power and torque, while basic LX models can be decked out with a new LX Appearance Package. The package includes two-tone paint, power sunroof, leather seats, chrome wheel covers, an anti-theft system and remote keyless entry. Audi systems have been revised, and two new colors (Mojave beige Metallic and Slate Blue Metallic) replace one old one (Sahara Gold Metallic).

Dual airbags, height-adjustable seat belts, and side impact protection that meets 1997 requirements are all standard on the 626. Anti-lock brakes are optional on LX and LX V6 models; they come standard on the ES. The best value is offered by the LX V6, which barely tops $22,000 when equipped with ABS and an automatic transmission. Better yet, the Mazda's V6 can be mated to a five-speed manual shifter, unlike comparable models from Honda and Chevrolet.

We like the 626's flowing interior design. Seating is comfortable, and the rear bench is roomy and supportive -- more so than that found in the Nissan Altima. Controls are well placed and highly legible. We're still debating the exterior of the 626. Some like the chrome accents and more prominent hood that debuted in 1996, while others liked this Mazda just as it was when introduced in 1993; crisp, clean and uncluttered.

We already recommend the 626 to folks who want a reliable, fun-to-drive sedan. With Accord-beating performance, Altima-beating interior accommodations, and Lumina-beating sophistication, how can you go wrong with the 626?

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.