While it's no longer being produced, the Mazda 626 remains as one of the more common Mazda vehicles on American roads. That's not surprising, though, since the 626 was manufactured for more than two decades (from 1979 to 2002), after all. And in that span of time, the model had spawned several generations of vehicles, with each improving over the previous one. However, the many changes also came with various mechanical and structural issues. Some of these are detailed below:
This issue is unique to the 1990 Mazda 626. The air-conditioning refrigerant can leak because of corrosion. The steel clamp that's holding the aluminum pipe of the A/C receiver is prone to rust, which can spread to the said pipe. Of course, the pipe can be replaced to stop the leaks. Just make sure that the pipe is wrapped in vinyl tape, though, before reattaching it to the steel clamp to prevent corrosion (and ultimately, leaks) from happening again.
There are times when third-generation Mazda 626s would generate knocking noises that come from the suspension. The noises can usually be heard while driving over a speed bump or taking a sharp turn. Needless to say, this problem can be quite annoying. Fortunately, it can be easily solved by installing a rubber spring seat.
One of the biggest issues of a fourth-generation Mazda 626 is its engine. It's because the engine mounts are rather fragile, to put it bluntly. And when they break, the mass-airflow snorkel tube can become damaged, which could result to engine stalling. Many owners were affected by this issue in the past, thus Mazda offered engine mount replacements that are far sturdier than their stock counterparts.
The fourth-generation 626 is also notorious for its engine noise problem. The reason behind the issue is either carbon buildup in the combustion chamber or slippage between the friction gear and the exhaust-camshaft driven gear.
A common problem of fifth-generation Mazda 626s is brake squealing. Much like the issue discussed above, many owners were reportedly plagued by this in the past. For that reason, Mazda was compelled to come out with a new version of the model's rear brake shoes. This featured a redesigned lining material, which eradicated the squealing problem.
The Mazda 626 wasn't always available as a midsize vehicle. Before the arrival of its third generation in 1988, the 626 was exclusively a compact automobile. The change from compact to midsize was a good move, though, as it elicited strong and positive consumer response. In fact, Car and Driver Magazine even included the 1988 626 in its list of ten best cars for the year.
Before Mazda started the U.S. production of the 626 in its Flat Rock, Michigan plant in 1992, the model was only imported from Japan. That's why the Mazda 626 received awards such as "Import Car of the Year" of 1983 from Motor Trend Magazine in the past.
The GT version of the Mazda 626 (a.k.a. Mazda 626 Turbo) was first offered in 1986. This featured a 120 hp FET engine, a fuel injection system, dual headlights (instead of the usual quad design), and a restyled interior, among others. There wasn't a turbo version of the car every model year, thus it's quite limited in number nowadays.
The Mazda 626 was the first official Japanese-branded vehicle to be certified as a U.S. domestic automobile. This happened after Mazda ceased importing the 626 from Japan and started the production of the model in the U.S. Approximately 75% of the 626's components were sourced locally, thus the model became considered as a domestic automobile according to Federal standards.
The Mazda 626 is a certified movie and television star. It made appearances in the following movies and television shows: Magnum P.I., Internal Affairs, Baywatch, Fast Five, NYPD Blue, The A-Team, Law and Order, and Burn Notice.
While Mazda stopped the U.S. production of the 626 in 2002, the model continued to be produced elsewhere. In Columbia, the Mazda 626 continued to be manufactured until 2006.
2002 wouldn't have been the final year of the Mazda 626 had the plans for the Mazda Performance Series (MPS) pushed through. The MPS looked very much like the 626 as it boasted of the model's trademark exterior and interior features. The grille, headlights, the gauges, and the air-conditioning vents were all reminiscent of the old 626. Basically, it was a sleeker and more stylish version of the model. Unfortunately, the MPS didn't take off as plans for it were eventually laid to rest.