Mazda 626

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Mazda 626 CB Series 1

1979 - 1982
4 cyl.
2000 cc
75 bhp
5 spd. man / 3 spd. auto
Top Speed:
160 + km/h
Number Built:
0 star
Mazda 626 CB Series 1
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1


The Mazda 626 CB proved to be a durable and reliable car, and was influential in developing Mazda's enviable reputation for quality. Its greatest strength was unquestionably the body, strong and well built setting a standard rarely matched at this price point.

There were three basic levels of equipment. The "Special" was the original bargain basement model with just a few niceties, but obviously orientated towards fleet buyers. The Deluxe was what Mazda considered to be their real volume seller, while the Super Deluxe catered for those wanting a longer list of toys to play with. At the top of the tree the Hardtop satisfied those with a penchant for sporting image without necessarily entering into hassles with insurance companies.

Australian prices, for early 1981, were A$6980 for the "Special" sedan, to A$8450 for the Hardtop. In the showroom, the Mazda 626’s competitors were the Mitsubishi Sigma, Toyota Corona, Datsun 200B, Commodore Four and TF Cortina – so it was competing in a somewhat over-supplied market. It needed to be very good if it were to gain any sizable market share. To that end, it sure had a lot of things going for it. The dash looked great with a European-style main instrument binnacle. Everything fell easily to hand.

Externally there was a lack of bright work, something we would take for granted today, but back in the early 1980s it did give the car an air of austerity. But it was that very simplicity of line and the vehicle's overall functionality that was to win over those who diid not judge a car by the amount of chrome applied. The "noughts and crosses" wheel covers that come with the Super Deluxe were a bit cringe worthy, but the rest of the 626 range was pretty neat.

That “less fussy” treatment was visible the moment you looked at the front. Smoothing in the headlights with the plane of the grille was a nice touch, and while we have no proof it looked like it would provide better aerodynamics. If you selected the automatic option the 626 was fitted with a JatCo made three speed automatic gearbox. The lineup was fitted with grippy Bridgestone RD 116 steel radials, 70 series covers. In 1981 there was a small revision made to the series 1, or “CB”. The interior design remained unchanged save for revised instrument layout within the same binnacle. This now featured larger matching speedometer and tachometer with the warning light cluster along the base of the binnacle. Water temperature and fuel gauges were moved from between the main instruments to either side of the warning light cluster at the bottom.

Gone was the electric remote boot release. This was replaced by a cable operation, with the lever on the floor to the right of the driver's seat alongside the remote control fuel filler flap release. Corded velour trim in the DL covered the complete facing of the seats rather than being just an insert. The Deluxe features were well worth the money too, providing a good quality AM/FM radio, quartz analogue clock (a digital model came with the Super Deluxe), tilt adjustable steering column, a centre console and map reading lights. The driver's seat was adjustable for squab rake and there was a lever to alter lumbar support. Reclining backrests were standard throughout.

Other things, such as steel belted radial tyres, also came with the Deluxe, the standard (or in Mazda speak, the "Special") was still fitted with cross plies – which even by then were considered dangerous and it is surprising that Mazda had not ensured there were radials across the range. Cabin storage space was quite generous. There was a lockable glove box and a roll down cubby to the right of the steering column. In addition there was a slot in the centre console at the facia as well as a lidded box in the centre console itself, between the front seats. Boot space was good too, and the remote release provided easy access without the necessity to remove the ignition key.

The 626 was powered by Mazda’s well developed 1970cc four cylinder engine with all its exhaust gas recirculation and low 8.6:1 compression ratio. Despite the necessities of compliance with ADRs however, it remained a lusty performer. The cast iron block was topped by an alloy cylinder head with a single overhead camshaft valve operation. At the time automatic versions of Mazda anything were considered pretty average, but on the 626 it was at least satisfactory. But the manual was still far and away the better option. The front suspension was by MacPherson struts, and with the 1981 update came the addition of a new light sway bar.

The live rear axle was coil sprung and featured gas filed dampers in deference to the variable rate properties of the rear coils. Even the base model was fitted with the rear sway bar – so it was a double pity to find the thing shod with cross-plies. The sway bar helped to balance out the front and enhancing the overall dynamics of the vehicle considerably. The back axle was located by four radius rods at various strategic angles, and sideways control was by a transverse Panhard rod, so the back was certainly well located. A redesigned master cylinder was fitted in the braking system to improve the operation of the disc front, drum rear arrangement.

While Mazda's 626 had most of the same design features as the rest, the final effect seemed so much better. Nobody was a fan of recirculating ball steering, but somehow Mazda seemed to have the best version, with its variable ratio being acceptable to a degree. But, no matter how well designed this system was, it would never equal a rack and pinion set-up. But if one good thing can be said of the setup, it was that on the Mazda it provided steering so light that it almost felt like power steering, even on wider locks at low speeds.

On the Road

Slight revisions to geometry and the front and rear sway bars of the CB 626 gave the car exceptional feel for a Japanese product. There was always a good input from the road surface, but you would never describe the ride as harsh, or even firm. On some cross ridge the odd jolt could be felt, but there never seemed to be any question of the back end jumping around even on the roughest roads. Balance front to rear had been well thought out, resulting in very easy cornering without the necessity to use a great deal of steering lock. Roll was well controlled too. Hard pressed the Mazda would understeer slightly, but a vague lift off the throttle would see the nose tucking in once more onto the correct line, following which, full power could be applied. On gravel this would produce a gentle transition to precise oversteer that was easily corrected.

Stability under heavy braking was yet another attribute that came from the fine balance of the car. You could stomp the pedal all you liked and the 626 would not deviate very far from the straight and narrow. Under less rigorous conditions there was plenty of feel through the brake pedal so stops could be judged with great finesse and for the best comfort of passengers. Unfortunately, with no great excess of power, the engine always had to work fairly hard, and even more so if you had optioned the automatic. This not only restricted ultimate performance, but it also dragged down fuel economy figures to a marked extent, especially under city and suburban driving conditions. Even so, it was pretty easy to get figures around the 12.0 litres/100 kms, and this figure could be much improved upon if you were to use a light foot.

The 626 never pretended to be a performance vehicle, so the standing quarter times were irrelevant for most buyers. But, for the record, it took just over 14 seconds for zero to 100 km/h – which was not is not a bad time for a two litre. Things dropped off pretty quickly after that, taking a whopping 21.5 seconds to 120 km/h. The standing 400 metres took 19.5 seconds.

It is unfortunate then that the internal plastics did not prove quite as enduring, many fading, cracking and disintergrating quickly under the Australian sun. Handling was never a strong point, with the series one using a coil-sprung live rear axle - this setup thankfully being replaced by fully independant suspension on subsequent models. Still, many lamented the passing of this model in 1983 as the last of the rear-wheel drive 626's to be manufactured. The subsequent front wheel drive model went on to win the "Car of the Year" title in 1984. Rarely seen on the roads today, the series one can best be remembered for setting the benchmark in affordable quality at the mid-sized family car market.

Mazda 626 Quick Specifications:

Manufacturer & Type: Toyo Kogyo, Four Door Sedan, Four/Five seat capacity. Prices from A$6980 for the "Special" sedan, to A$8450. Metallic paint optional A$80.
Engine: Location - Front, Cylinders - Four, Cubic capacity -1970cc, Bore and stroke - 80 x 98mm, Block material - Cast Iron, Head material - Aluminium, Valve gear - Single overhead camshaft, Induction - Twin Choke carburettor, Compression ratio - 8.6:1, Max power (kW/bhp) 64/85.8 at 4800 rpm Max torque (Nm/ft lbs) 159.8/118 at 2500 rpm.
Transmission: Driving wheels - Rear, Gearbox type - Five Speed Manual, Three speed automatic. Shift location - Centre console "T" bar. Gear ratios in automatic - First / 2.458, Second / 1.458, Third / 1.000, Final drive / 3.63.
Body/Chassis: Construction - Unitary, Material - Steel.
Suspension: Front - Independent, Spring type Coi! spring, Macpherson strut, sway bar. Rear - Live Axle, Spring type Coil spring, four links, Panhard Rod, sway bar.
Steering: Recirculating ball
Brakes: Hydraulic Servo assisted, Front type - Disc, Rear type - Drum.
Wheels and Tyres:
Wheels: Steel, Diameter - 13", Rim width - 5.5". Tyres - Bridgestone, Type RD 116 Steel radial, Dimensions - 185/70 SR 13
Dimensions: Kerb weight - 1080kg, length - 4305mm, width - 1660mm, Height - 1370mm, Wheelbase - 2510mm, Track Front - 1370mm, Track Rear - 1380mm, Turning circle - 9.6 metres. Fuel tank capacity - 55 litres.
Mazda 626

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Also see:

Mazda 626 Coupe
Mazda Car Commercials
Mazda Production 1960 - 1979
Mazda History
Reader Reviews page 1 of 1
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Posted Recently
I've got a 1981 Mazda 626. Had it for 2 years . Good car. Reat wheel drive. Only problem is that it doesn't have much power. Other than the power it is a good car!!!
Posted Recently
I have a 4 door 1982 model. She runs fantastic considering the stress I had put on her from driving too and from Newcastle to the Sunshine Coast (890ks each way!). Although she struggles up steep inclines, she somehow springs back. Interior is great and as well as exterior – especially considering I live close to the beach.
Posted Recently
I got mt licence and learn't to drive in a 626
Posted Recently
I am fortunate enough to own one of the last mint condition 1981 626's around Adelaide (possibly Australia). Owning for 7 years, and driving it over 30,000kms (puchased it at 180k) - I have never once had any serious mechanical issues, its more dependable than imaginable, it runs like a dream and while it is 'Maya Gold' with a tan/brown interior (no cracks from sun damage), there are very few cars that get my heart racing and brings a smile to my face, like my 'old girl' does. Long live the 80's.
G Carson
Posted Recently
One of the most underated cars ever built. Many are unaware of the fact that the Series 1 & Series 2 Mazda 626's provided the floor pan and were the platform for the RX7. Which as many will know was considered class beating in its hey day. In addition to this the 626 two door coupe of which very few still exist today displays the crossover from the 626 sedan into the RX7. The 626 sedan was also very well engineered displaying a 50:50 weight distribution very uncommon for a front engined rear wheel drive vehicle. This feature alone more than compensates for the underpowered engine in stock form as has been displayed in many rallys which I have entered such a machine. The even break away at both ends of the car allows it to be driven on the edge allowing one given the courage to out pace much faster and more powerful machines. My rally car only mildly worked retains total reliability and has covered 690,000km. It was also used daily as my means of transport throughout its life. Under rally conditions I would average 10L/100km making it one of the most economical cars on the track. Top recorded speed in SA on a rally on sealed tarmac was 205km/h average for a two way run. On out back dirt roads we have topped 180km/hr but this is driving it on the edge in timed sections of the rallys. If I can manage it sometime I will send a picture of this most unlikely car airbourne over a cattle grate in out back OZ.
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