The new estate renews Mazda's association with estate cars that ended in the early nineties with the last but one generation of 626. Conventionally styled it may be, but the estate uses a new and unique body structure with wheelbase extended by 60mm over the saloon/hatch and overall length increased by 85mm. The result is a package providing a versatile loadspace that's neatly integrated into a smart if conservative-looking car.
Unashamedly aimed at the load-lugger end of the market, rather than the so-called lifestyle sector, it offers a maximum of 843 litres of space with the rear seats folded, 537 litres with them up -competitive with estate rivals such as the Vauxhall Vectra, Volkswagen Passat and Audi A4 Avant.
Two models are available, both powered by 2.0-litre petrol engines: the 2.0 GXi uses an eight-valve 115bhp unit and costs ú16,650 on-the-road, while the more upmarket 2.0 GSi comes with a 136bhp 16-valve engine at ú18,220.
For 1998, sales estimates are conservative, with a target of just 1,200 cars to the year end. Of those, some 70% will go to the corporate sector, indicating Mazda's work car intentions with the 626. Tested here is the 2.0 GXi estate at ú16,650, the model that is expected to take the bulk of sales.