At the same time, Mazda will increase the price of the new 626 when it goes on sale in January to cover specification enhancements and increase the spread of its upper and lower medium sector model ranges. Emma Hill, Mazda's head of corporate sales, said the manufacturer had suffered in the corporate sector from having too many vehicles bunched in the same fleet choice band and that the new pricing policy would make Mazda product available to more company car drivers.
Mazda has designed the new 626 to appeal to company car drivers, giving it a more sharply designed bonnet and the marque's five-pointed grille for more road presence, as well as a new rear light cluster. But the firm promises better ride and handling, a more refined drive, and improved performance from the engines, particularly the enhanced 1.8-litre petrol unit. Twin front and side airbags, electronic brake-force distribution and ABS are standard across the new 626 (apart from the 1.8LXi), as is a 'fold-flat' front passenger seat to create a desk for company car drivers on the road.
At the top of the 626 and 323 ranges Mazda has introduced new flagship Sport models, with 16-in alloy wheels and tail spoilers, and black-on-white dials. The Sport trim will replace the SE variant in the 626, and becomes a fixed feature of the 323 range, rather than a special edition. New 323 prices: 1.3 LXi £11,450, 1.5LXi £13,000, 1.5LXi (auto) £13,800, 1.5 GXi £13,750, 1.8 Sport £16,350, 1.8SE £16,350, 1.8 GSi (auto) £16,000, 2.0 DiT £13,750.