In value-for-money terms the 2.0-litre 115bhp model has a lot going for it, competing admirably with 1.8-litre specimens from the Mondeo, 406, Passat, Xantia and Vectra ranges on contract hire rate and on-the-road pricing.
It's one of the best equipped in its class, too, with climate control a standard fixture at LXi grade, along with all-round power windows and electric tilt or slide sunroof. Driver and passenger comfort are compromised only by that much maligned, detachable panel Clarion radio-cassette.
The car has performed well in its months with Fleet NewsNet, the only significant expense being its 9,000-mile service. A squeak was heard from the brakes after the Easter deluge, and that appears to have cured itself.
The 626's power steering is noticeably lighter than most of its mainstream rivals, the downside of which is a lack of surface feedback through the wheel at enthusiastic speeds. It's a feature I'm happy to live with now that advancing years and gravitational pull have overtaken my need for speed.
This Mazda is one which responds well to be being treated gently. Light pressure footwork delivers smooth progress to the motorway cruising limit through the 626's slick manual five-speed. Bury the boot, and you'll regret it. The four-cylinder just doesn't like to be pushed too hard. Similarly, the brakes need respect. Stamp on them, and they'll snatch you to a rapid halt.
With the exception of the Mazda nose and the subtle hatch-lid mound, the car's exterior looks allow it to blend in with the upper medium parking lot, almost to vanishing point. Presumably Mazda's designers decided anonymity was what sold fleet cars.
In fact, what has sold the 626 to me is its all-round ability. There's little to dislike about it, not much to rave about. But what it does, it does well.