Mazda 626 CB Series 1
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1
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.
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.
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.
Construction - Unitary, Material - Steel.
Front - Independent, Spring type Coi! spring, Macpherson strut, sway bar. Rear - Live Axle, Spring type Coil spring, four links, Panhard Rod, sway bar.
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
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.