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What Car? says

3 out of 5 stars

For The 626 is a hard-wearing reliable family motor with a no-nonsense cabin

Against It's pretty dull to drive

Verdict It puts dependability above everything else – it's all competence and no sparkle

Go for… 114bhp 2.0-litre petrol

Avoid… The 2.0 turbodiesel

Mazda 626 Saloon
  • 1. Choose only the smartest, well-cared for examples and you should be looking at trouble-free ownership
  • 2. Watch out for dents, signs of over-spray and bodged repairs. Body parts can be expensive
  • 3. Suspension, axles, brakes and electrics are where potential trouble may lie, so inspect these closely
  • 4. The boot is a good size but the saloon isn't as practical as the hatchback
  • 5. We'd choose the lower-powered 113bhp motor - it's more than good enough for this car
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Mazda 626 Saloon full review with expert trade views

There is nothing exciting or inspiring about a 626, but it will give years of dependable, efficient and inexpensive service.

It’s certainly not a looker, inside or out. However, that cabin is efficient, durable and reasonably well equipped, and space is average for the class. The luggage area, too, is perfectly adequate; although, naturally, this saloon isn't quite as practical as its hatchback sister.

The engines aren’t bad, either – and they’re positively good if your doctor recommends a steady-state-pulse kind of life. He or she won’t approve of the stress caused on your spine by the firm ride, though.

And, ultimately, that's the real trouble with the 626 - after all its other qualities, the drive is a real let-down. The gearshift is inaccurate, the clutch hair-trigger and the throttle very sensitive. There’s plenty of wind and road noise at speed, too.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Good value and specs with 1.8 petrol and 2.0 TD being the pick

James Ruppert
Used car guru

There are three body styles in the 626 range - hatchback, saloon and estate - but this saloon is arguably the least practical of the bunch.

If this is just your cup of tea, though, for the perfect combination, we recommend you go for the less powerful (and cheaper) of the two 2.0-litre petrol engines. The 113bhp motor is just as refined as the 136bhp version and does a decent enough job of hauling the 626 around.

By comparison, the 90bhp 1.8 petrol just hasn't got enough grunt, and even the 99bhp 2.0 turbodiesel isn't up to the job. Mind you, even if it was, we wouldn't be able to put up with its rattling.

There was a face-lift in early 2000, but you’d struggle to notice it, so don't worry about desperately trying find the newer car. However, for the record, it brought in a new grille, redesigned tail-lights and a two-tone interior, while the Sport model gained black wood inserts, two-tone leather wheel and white dials.

All models do well for kit and most have air-con, four airbags, anti-lock brakes and traction control.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Low failure rates and low bills mean it's an excellent used car buy

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

If you’re sold on the idea of anonymous but practical, trustworthy family transport, the low sticker price on the 626’s windscreen will scream out at you from the forecourt.

It’s also likely to be cheap to run. Even if you end up with a (rare as hen's teeth) rogue one, you should be okay. Mazdas are among the very cheapest cars to fix, according to Warranty Direct. And, when the routine services come around every 9000 miles/12 months, they're reasonably priced, even at franchised dealers.

All models will be wallet-friendly at the pumps, too. The three petrol engines should average mid-30s to the gallon with sensible, everyday use and the turbodiesel is capable of nudging 50mpg.

Insurance renewal won’t drain your bank account, either. The 1.8 is cheapest at group 8, and the turbodiesel is in group 9, one below our favoured 113bhp 2.0 petrol. The more powerful 2.0 sits in group 13.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Good value and specs with 1.8 petrol and 2.0 TD being the pick

James Ruppert
Used car guru

It may not be the most common car around, but there are enough 626s around for you to be picky over condition. Choose only the smartest, well-cared examples and you should be looking at trouble-free motoring.

Be especially vigilant over the bodywork. The odd parking scrape on the bumper of an older model is to be expected, but watch out for dents, signs of over-spray and bodged repairs. Body parts can work out expensive.

The mechanical parts are all generally robust with regular servicing, so insist on evidence of a service at least once a year; when cars get older and less valuable, it’s not uncommon for some owners to skimp on maintenance.

Claims made by Warranty Direct customers suggest that the suspension, axles, brakes and electrics are where potential trouble may lie, so inspect these closely.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Low failure rates and low bills mean it's an excellent used car buy

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct
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