Fleet News

Mazda 626 Sport - 5,068 miles

Mazda

Review

##maz626.jpg --Right##IT'S difficult to reconcile the term 'Sport' with the Mazda 626. The upper medium contender has always seemed to be a sensible but slightly dull means of transport, and the company has its work cut out if it is to convince anyone that the car has sporty pretensions in the flagship 626 Sport model.

Powered by the same 136bhp 2.0-litre engine as the 2.0 GXi, the 626 Sport distinguishes itself externally with a boot spoiler and a set of dodgy-looking 10-spoke alloy wheels which are an inch too small to be taken seriously.

Inside there is a two-tone grey leather-covered steering wheel, which is far too big for enthusiastic driving and offers too little feedback, and sporty black-on-white instruments. Look past the Sport badge, though, and there is a decent car underneath.

The 626 is roomy, with more than enough space to carry five in comfort, and has a huge boot. It is also well equipped, with electric windows and mirrors, and electric sunroof, air conditioning, remote central locking, twin front and side airbags and a CD/radio. Drivers also have the benefit of a three-year/60,000-mile warranty, plus three years' European roadside assistance.

When the new company car tax regime begins in 2002, 21% of the car's price will be taxed based on carbon dioxide emissions of 195g/km, rising to 25% by 2004, which compares well with other mainstream rivals.

People expecting the 626 Sport to offer an involving drive, as its name might suggest, will be disappointed, but it provides high comfort levels for driver and passengers. Steering is light while the gearshift, although not slick, requires little effort.

The engine pulls smoothly and strongly right up to the 6,500rpm red line, and is well behaved at cruising speeds with a distant background hum. Wind noise only becomes noticeable at motorway speeds and tyre noise is also kept to a minimum.

Although the 626 Sport is in no danger of breaking any speed records, with a 0-60mph sprint time of just over nine seconds and a top speed just short of 130mph, performance is more than adequate for most situations and it never feels short of power.

Suspension is set for ride comfort rather than handling, with the 626 happy to lean from side to side in fast, sweeping bends. But it partly makes up for its fun-free cornering ability with fine ride quality, and making no fuss about poor road surfaces or bumps.

Despite lacking a sporty image, the 626 Sport is proving to be a competent companion, providing comfortable, hassle-free motoring.

Simon Harris

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.

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