Used 1996 Mazda Millenia Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1996

The Millenia S gets revised bright-finish alloy wheels.

Vehicle overview

By 1990, Honda, Toyota and Nissan all had luxury divisions that offered superbly engineered cars at prices that rivaled American and European brands. Mazda was a bit slow to react, but soon had its own luxury channel planned. To be called Amati, Mazda began developing two sedans to sell through the division when it debuted in the mid-nineties.

The rising yen and softening sales in the luxury car segment made it clear to Mazda that Amati would be nothing more than a money pit. The project was cancelled, but one of the sedans in development was nearly ready for production. Rather than consign that sedan to a future of write-ups in "Cars Japan Never Built" books, they decided to sell it as a Mazda. They named it Millenia, and priced it, in base trim, to compete with entry-level BMWs, the Nissan Maxima, and even top-of-the-line Toyota Camrys.

The Millenia is an interesting looking car, unless you're viewing it from the side or rear. The S version is powered by the only Miller-cycle engine in production, a 2.3-liter unit equipped with a supercharger and good for 210 horsepower. Millenia sports a distinctive look up front, but the rest is generic Japanese sedan, which is not a bad thing if you value quality and efficient design over individuality. In contrast to the dowdy sheetmetal, the interior is quite distinctive, in the Mazda tradition of providing excellent controls wrapped in interestingly flowing shapes.

Competition in the Millenia's price range is stout, but this car has what it takes to go up against the likes of the Volvo 850, Lexus ES300, and C-Class Mercedes, to name a few. If it only had something other than the Miller-cycle engine to distinguish it, like the personality most other Mazdas exhibit, we could wholeheartedly recommend it.

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.