Fleet News

Mazda 626 Sport - 3,035 miles

Mazda

Review

##mzd626.jpg --Right##AT a recent international automotive conference, speaker after speaker emphasised the importance of brand as the key element of success for future new car sales.

These experts claimed how product innovation is short-lived in mainstream sectors, because as soon as one manufacturer offers side airbags or satellite navigation, its rivals follow suit within a couple of months. And they said the only solution is to create a brand that buyers want to drive because of its image and reputation, rather than an emotionless measure of boot space, fuel consumption or rear legroom.

So where does Mazda sit in the brand stakes? On the one hand, its brilliant-selling MX5 delivers great performance and boundless fun in an unbeatable value-for-money package.

On the other hand, the 626 focuses on its sensible attributes, underlined by its huge boot, and reassuring three-year/60,000-mile warranty. Our long term test 626 Sport 2.0 has tried to inject some sparkle into this worthy recipe, but genuine 'Sport' buyers can now buy a new Alfa Romeo 156 for less than this Mazda.

So perhaps the real intention of the Mazda's 'Sport' badge is to reassure buyers who really want a 626 for its practicality and reliability that they're not making a dull choice.

This functionality has impressed me, after six weeks in a wonderful Nissan 200SX. The Mazda may represent a sober package after the zealous sportiness of the Nissan, but the Mazda still offers the comfort of a fine air conditioning system, excellent shoulder and legroom, and a bike-swallowing boot.

It also feels rather well screwed together after the rattles of the Nissan, although the 626's 'death by light grey' colour scheme does not lend the cabin the sense of permanence prevalent in, for example, Volkswagens.

Nor do white dials, alloy wheels or a boot-spoiler make a 'Sport' any more than a swallow makes a summer. Sport needs an aluminium gear lever and pedals, wrap-around seats, and a sense of urgency lacking in this 626's 0-60mph in 9.6 seconds.

Yet 'sport' would be a highly inappropriate description for the bulk of my driving, the traditional mix of commuter traffic and motorway treks. For this type of journey the Mazda is a pleasant companion, although I still don't feel as if I'm sharing the MX5 brand experience.

Jonathan Manning

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

Mazda MX-30 long-term test | making us think differently about journeys

Journeys of more than 100 miles in the Mazda MX-30 are likely to require a charging stop.

First drive: Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TDI SE Business car review

A pair of ‘upper-medium’ segment cars from two of the biggest manufacturers in fleet will be launched within weeks of each other signalling an escalation in the battle for sales.

Search Car Reviews