Fairly reliable, but in major need of engineering improvements
During the summer of 2006, at around 105,000 miles on the ODO, the overdrive indicator light started flashing. This was the same time the radiator was over-heating. Purchased a brand new radiator, but the over-drive indicator would still flash, but not as often with the bad radiator.
Two weeks later, my car would no longer go in reverse, and it would always skip first gear, and sometimes second gear. Researched the problem on the Internet and took my car into the transmission shop for a transmission rebuild. Main problem with the tranny was that the drive chain inside had started to grind down the teeth of the planetary rings that spin around and provide the gears for driving the car.
Worst idea ever for Mazda to put a drive chain inside the transmission. Total cost for the rebuild was over $2400 dollars. Ouch!!!
The 626 sedans made during 1994 thru 2002 are notorious for having this transmission problem. If you haven't had this happen to you yet... you will. It was a bad mistake to combine Ford's Probe and Mazda's engineering into one car. Toyota and Honda wouldn't even do that!!!
The best fix to prolong the tranny is to install a transmission oil cooler. These coolers are fairly simple to install and cost less than $100 dollars.
I wish I would have known this before my tranny went out.
Twice, had transmission fluid leaking from the seals at the drive shaft. Usually goes out when you're driving and coats the entire engine compartment in oil. Huge mess to clean up after the seals have been replaced.
Three times in four years, the automatic door locks on the passenger side have seized up, and now there is an embarrassing yet annoying sound when pressing the unlock button on the driver side door. The passenger door locks have to be manually opened in order to open the doors. Thankfully, the driver side door has not had that problem. Had the automatic lock mechanisms replaced 3 times. I think they are prone to rust contamination during car washes. I will need to remove the door panels to see exactly why the locks don't manipulate when the master unlock button is depressed. Hopefully, a little WD-40 will do the trick.
Having the infamous jerking idle problem now when the engine is warmed up. Sits at about 650-800 RPMs then drops to almost 50 RPMs, sometimes stalls, but other times, will recover. Heard it may be a leaking intake manifold gasket.
The chair headrests are the cheapest I've ever seen among all the cars I've owned or have ridden in. There seems to be styrofoam inside and what feels like a small 2x4 piece of wood in there also. When I lay my head back, I can feel the edge of the wood poking into my neck. I hope I don't get rear-ended because I just may get a concussion from slamming my head into that piece of wood. The headrests broke about 3 years after owning the car brand new. All it takes, is a small child in the back seat to pull on the headrest and before you know it, the styrofoam snaps and the head rest is broken.
The driver side sun visor has a tendency to loosen up and falls down when you don't want to use it. Found a new replacement on eBay for $15 bucks.
The emergency brake cable snapped. That's going to be a pain to replace, since it runs along the underside of the car and into the passenger rear wheel hub/brake assembly where it's very hard to get at.
Air conditioning unit blows warm air, even though the freon tank is full. Sometimes it works, but only when the car is traveling about 70 MPH for over an hour.
If it does work, you get cold air for about 3 minutes, then its back to warm air again.
Within the past year (my car is only 10 years old now) the interior over head fabric is starting to sag down and it's already un-peeling itself above the rear deck behind the back seat, and also above the windshield.
Performance? What performance. I have the 4-CYL engine. This car has never had the "get-up-and-go" even after I drove it off the dealer's lot. Know why? Bad engineering on Mazda's behalf. This car has a curb weight of 3741 pounds. The four cylinder engine is way too small to power a car this heavy. Mazda should have never put that 2.0 Liter engine in there. Should have bought the 2.5 liter 6-Cyl car instead.
Gas mileage is great. I can drive 358 miles on a full tank of gas.
Rear seats are very comfy. Sleeping is easy during a long drive.
Back seat leg room fairly decent.
The windshield is too narrow. Reminds me of a narrow windshield in a commercial jet. The rear view mirror takes up 40% of the total view of the driver. Another Mazda design flaw. Pull the sun visor down and you've just blocked an additional 30% of your view. Very dangerous.
Installing an aftermarket car stereo is a snap. Except, removing the separate cassette deck, you are stuck with an empty hole. You can probably use it for storing your sun glasses or maps or better yet, put an equalizer in there or subwoofer controller or 2-way radio.
The door lock remote control is a joke. The plastic hole where you slide your key ring through always breaks off. Mazda should have made that hole out of metal instead.
I like the horn. Sounds nice and beefy like a large full-size car or pick-up. Great attention getter during the rush hour traffic. Not like those wimpy beep-beep horns on the smaller cars that people just ignore anyway.
The ABS brakes have good stopping power in emergency situations.
Takes about a minute but when its up to 80 MPH, it cruises just really nice. Doesn't even shudder at 100 MPH for that little four banger engine.
Trunk space is great.
Costs for parts can be expensive. It has two catalytic converters. The Mazda dealer price for the pre-cat located at the exhaust manifold is $840 dollars. The rear converter is $420 dollars. With two converters, there are two O2 sensors (one each at the converters). They are about $80 dollars each from the local auto parts store.
A rebuilt alternator is $130 dollars from the parts store.
Mass Air Flow Sensor (MAF) - $295.
EGR valve - $140.
Timing belt kit - $300.
Just to name a few.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 29th December, 2009