A fast, great handling, OK-reliable, Japanese version of Alfa Romeo
The paint is terrible. "Chicken feet" cover the whole car (small cracks), the clear coat is coming off, and rust started relatively early. It also is the thinnest OEM paint I've ever seen on a car, a small fraction of a millimeter (my guess 1/10 - 2/10 of a millimeter) thick.
Both rear calipers needed to be replaced. This is a very common problem on these cars, and a redesigned part has been used after 95. Mazda paid for the part for customers in the UK, but refused to do the same in Canada. The part SHOULD have been recalled.
CV Boots ripped, CV joints needed replacing. Still withing extended warranty period thank god. It looks like they will rip again within a year or two.
The Distributor went south. Also common on these cars, and it has been redesigned on later models. Expensive to fix.
The plug wires needed changing. But that is a normal wear item, and you will have to do it every 5 years or so, depending on the quality of the wires. The bad part is they are expensive for these Mazdas.
The water pump went bad. That too is a normal wear item. May need to change to a second water pump soon though. The rebuild one I got seems to be not that great. These parts too were redesigned after 95 I believe. When changing, try to get the newer design as it's designed to be tougher.
Another annoying problem I had, is that I was NEVER able to balance the wheels correctly. There was always some vibration left. Well, after changing the clutch at 165000km, the vibration reduced significantly. Something in the clutch must have been a big part of it.
One of the struts went bad after 10 years. Normal wear. Replaced all of them.
Some bulbs in the dash died. Also to be expected after xx years. Replaced all of them. Takes a day.
Even with all these problems, I really like the car. With a 5spd and a V6 it is really fun to drive. For a 11 year old car, it is still one fast puppy. Handles great. I am a bit tough on tires, need a new set every 2 years it seems... probably my own fault though.
The interior shows no wear. The seats look like new. There is slight warping of the dashboard where the seams meet. If I had a passenger air bag, there would be some MAJOR warping right there. I've seen it on many newer 626's, so I'm glad I don't have that air bag.
The exterior looks crappy because of the super thin paint and will need repainting very soon.
The engine generally is thought to be very very tough and of high quality. With good maintenance, that is true. My 207000km engine burns NO oil whatsoever.
Very smooth revving too.
Styling is OK. The 4 cylinder one looks terrible, but the v6 with the lower suspension, wider/lower profile wheels, fog lamps + lower spoiler looks pretty good. Add some tint, aftermarket wheels, and maybe lower it a bit and it'll look real sweet.
Another plus is that these cars are relatively rare. It's not just "another Honda".
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 7th February, 2004