Mazda's compact, and later mid-size, offering started with the Mazda Capella in the Japanese market. Production began in 1970 and lasted for six generations up to 2002 where it was eventually replaced by the Mazda 6. Mazda developed it to be a roomier alternative to the 323 whilst being less expensive than a full-sized sedan like the Mazda Luce.
First Generation, 1970-1978
Although not yet officially named as the Mazda 626, the first-generation Capella was Mazda's offering for the mid-size class. Presented as a bigger alternative to the Mazda Familia, the Capella was 305mm longer and 100mm wider. It had a longitudinal front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout, which it would retain through the second generation.
Mazda released this series as the Mazda 616 in the export market and a 1.8L-powered version in the US badged as the Mazda 618. The engine options available were a 1.5L petrol (68 kW) and a 1.6L (74 kW). Mazda also offered a rotary-engine version known as the Capella Rotary in Japan but badged as the Mazda RX-2 for the export market.
The piston-powered and rotary versions from this generation were easily distinguishable since the RX-2 had quad round headlights while the Capella retained the dual square headlight used in its initial release. This generation of the Mazda 626 family were the only 626 models built with a rotary engine. Mazda New Zealand assembled the RX-2 and was available as a 4-door sedan or 2-door coupe.
Second Generation (CB), 1978-1982
This series replaced the 616 in the export market wearing the Mazda 626 badge and selling either as a 4-door sedan or 2-door coupe. Both versions had identical mechanical systems and body panels except for the doors and pillars. This series was also the first 626 to sell in Australia, entering the market as a 4-door sedan in Standard, Deluxe, or Super Deluxe trim, all powered by a 2.0L Mazda MA petrol engine producing 64 kW of power and torque of 160 N⋅m. In 1979, the Super Deluxe coupe was added to the lineup and also sported the 2.0L engine.
To mark 626's 10th year of production, Mazda released a Limited Edition from its plant in New Zealand. This edition featured extended bumpers and additional lights mounted on the grille.
Elsewhere in the world, the Mazda 626 came with either the 1.6L Mazda NA (55 kW / 120 N⋅m) or the 2.0L MA. In Japan, a 1.8L VC (74 kW / 149 N⋅m) also became available. The 2.0L MA powered the North American versions, which had a downrated output of 60 kW and 142 N⋅m.
Third Generation (GC), 1982-1987
The first generation to have a transverse front-engine, front-wheel-drive layout, the GC series, also now had an independent rear suspension. They came as sedans, hatchbacks and coupes. Another offering was a short-nosed variant with a shorter bonnet, smaller headlamps, and a larger grille. Ford also produced and marketed the Mazda 626 as the Telstar with a slightly-modified exterior and a redesigned dashboard.
Mazda marketed the 626 in Australia as a Super Deluxe two-door coupe, assembled in Japan and imported directly, albeit in small numbers. Commonly available were the five-door sedans in Deluxe, Special and Super Deluxe trim levels. A 2.0L FE (64 kW / 160 N⋅m) engine powered the initial release of these models. The engine teamed up with either 3-speed auto transmission or 4-speed or 5-speed manual gearbox. The import from Japan also included twenty units of the non-turbo diesel version.
In 1983, Mazda added to the lineup a five-door hatchback in Deluxe, SE and Super Deluxe. A SE trim also became available for the coupe and sedan variants at this time. The 2.0L engine received a slight bump in power and produced 70 kW this time.
The same 2.0L FE powered the North American versions, further supplemented in 1986 by a turbocharged 2.0L FET (89 kW / 203 N⋅m) sold as the GT in the US and Turbo in Canada. The North American cars had extended bumpers and sealed beam headlights.
In other parts of the world, the 626 powertrain included the following - 1.6L F6 (60 kW / 120 N⋅m), 1.8L F8 (68 kW / 137 N⋅m), 2.0L FE (66-88 kW / 137-171 N⋅m depending on trim levels and emissions systems), and a diesel option with 2.0L RF (47 kW / 120 N⋅m).
In 1986, updates incorporated new taillights, and the hatchback and coupe versions received bumpers similar to the North American variants.
Fourth Generation (GD and GV), 1987-1992
The fourth-generation Mazda 626 saw the introduction of a station wagon version, globally adding to the sedan, coupe and hatchbacks. The exterior design change was not dramatic from the previous generation, but it received a facelift in 1990. This generation retained the previous layout but made available the four-wheel drivetrain all through the sixth generation.
The Australian marketplace started selling the fourth generation as the 1988 model year. Model options included the wagon, hatchback, and sedan body styles. All versions came with a 2.2L engine (84 kW / 179 N⋅m) with transmissions choice being 4-speed auto or 5-speed manual gearbox. Hatchbacks were available as Base and Super Deluxe, sedans in Base and Super Deluxe, and the wagons in either 5-seat or 7-seat versions. In 1989, the hatchback featured a 4-wheel steering option but which Mazda discontinued the following year. 1990 welcomed an Eclipse trim level for all body versions.
Other parts of the world received different engine versions depending on location, emissions restrictions, and market needs. Available options were the 1.6L F6, 1.6L B6, 1.8L F8 in either the 8-valve or 16-valve DOHC, 2.0L FE in 8-valve, 12-valve or 16-valve DOHC, 2.2L F2 12 valve, 2.2L F2T 12 valve turbo. The diesel options were the 2.0L RF diesel and the 2.0L RF-CX Comprex supercharged diesel.
Fifth Generation (GE), 1991-1997
The fifth version was a completely redesigned car inside and out. The station wagon and 2-door coupe versions were not available in this generation. The series was only available in 4-door versions for the sedan and hatchback. Following design trends of the era, Mazda gave the 626 rounder, softer edges and a sleek front fascia.
In Australia, the fifth generation was sold as the model year 1992. Hatchbacks and sedans were only available in the base trim version, while the 5-seat and 7-seat configurations were available for the station wagons. The sedan and hatchback models sported either the 2.0L FS-DE (88 kW / 172 N⋅m) or 2.5L KL-DE V6 (165 kW / 217 N⋅m), and the wagon used the 2.2L (84 kW / 179 N⋅m). Mazda offered several trim versions since 1994. For the hatchbacks, the model choices included the Base, Luxury V6, SDX and the SDX V6 trims. The sedans, on the other hand, were available as Base, Deluxe, SDX and SDX V6. In 1995, the Deluxe became the base model as Mazda launched a higher trim variant called the Eclipse.
With the increase in weight, length and width from the previous generations, the engine options in the export market were powered by a choice of the 1.8L FP (77 kW / 154 N⋅m), 2.0L FS-DE (88 kW / 172 N⋅m), 2.0L KF-ZE V6 ( 119 kW / 179 N⋅m), 2.5L KL-DE V6 ( 165 kW / 217 N⋅m), 2.5L KL-ZE V6 ( 164 kW / 217 N⋅m) and 2.0L RFT Comprex supercharged diesel( kW / N⋅m).
The European (E-spec) and Asian (JDM) models were different in appearance from the USA-spec models with light placements, additional fog light and projector headlights and also used different interior materials. This version was also called the Cronos and MS-6 in other countries.
Sixth Generation (GF and GW), 1997-2002
The sixth-generation 626 was the last generation of the mid-sized Mazda offering and eventually used the name Mazda 6. A wagon version was once again available with the sedan and hatchback. All variants were only available as having four doors, with Mazda rebranding their sports 2-door series under another marque. The Mazda 626 for the North American market was built again in Michigan and had a different styling from those offered elsewhere.
The sixth-generation 626 was marketed in Australia for the 1998 model year with the hatchback and wagon receiving trim models named Classic, Classic Extra and Luxury. The sedans were available in Classic, Limited and Luxury trims. All versions used the same 4-cylinder 2.0L FS-DE engine (93 kW / 178 N⋅m). A 40th Anniversary edition was available in 1999 for the hatchback and sedan versions.
The power plants available worldwide were the 1.8L FP-DE (66 kW / 145 N⋅m), 2.0L FS (85 kW / N⋅m), 2.0L FS-DE (93 kW / 178 N⋅m), 2.5L KL-ZE V6 (149 kW / 224 N⋅m) and the 2.0TD RF-T turbocharged diesel (74 kW / 220 N⋅m).
The Mazda 626 for the North American market was built in Michigan and had a different styling from those offered elsewhere and looked more like the previous generation. It was large, heavy, and underpowered, and it lacked changes enough to be seen as a newer model. Mazda updated its engines and fitted it with front side airbags, larger wheels, and 4-wheel disc brakes, yet these modifications did not help increase sales.
Sales of the Mazda 626 ended in 2002 for North America and other parts of the world with the introduction of the Mazda 6. In some countries, the last generation of the 626 still existed in the market until 2005.
626 Moving Forward
The Mazda 626 series has a good following with numerous clubs and organizations devoted to tuning and maintaining them. Due to Mazda 626's reliability, durability and ease of maintenance, a lot of these cars are still in good condition. Aftermarket and OEM parts for it are widely available, too, and sellers and buyers converge here at Carpart.com.au to find the best deals on auto parts. Get in touch with us at email@example.com if you are looking to buy or sell any of these cars or their components, and we will help you connect to the right buyer or seller.