I bought this car when we were meant to be going to war with Iraq in 2003 and I was scared petrol prices would rise, or else I probably would have bought a 6 cylinder. I'm glad I didn't. I needed a well priced and reliable car and I knew a Mazda 626 would be just the thing as my parents have one in NZ (1988 NZ built with 2.0L carby engine, also a wagon, but auto) which has proven itself to be bullet-proof over 270,000k's. Although it's slower & noisier than mine which is built in Japan. They were the most popular reps car in NZ, but in Australia they were aimed only at the private car market which prefers mainly Fords & Holdens for company vehicles, which they do very well size-wise.
Mine had to be a wagon, manual, with air-con. Not white as they rust quicker. Found a dark stormy grey metallic one. Looks great with tinted windows. No rust and no sign of any coming up.
I was (and still am) fed-up to the back teeth with the build quality & design of most locally built/designed cars in Australia. Good for leasing, but not for owning. So I looked to Japan.
The Mazda had 193,000 k's when I bought it, but so far has proven to be the best second-hand car I have ever owned.
It does not leak any fluids, uses only minimal oil and can take 2500k trips with ease. The 2.2i engine with manual transmission performs very well on the open road and around town considering it's roots stem back to 1987. Previous owner put a low-restriction exhaust system on it so it sounds quite throaty, but not too much. Hasn't shown any sign of being thrashed by the previous owner. Engine starts first time and doesn't rattle or knock.
It's not the biggest wagon around town, but it's much easier to park than the local offerings.
I can see it lasting at least another 200,000 k's so I'm going to keep it till it falls apart. Which won't happen for a while. Thanks Japan.
Good reliable car.