Mazda 626 GD/GV Series 3
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2
The Series 3 Mazda 626 was an absolute legend of a car. Released in May 1987 it had big shoes to fill, considering the previous model was the recipient of so many awards, including the coveted Wheels “Car of the Year”. The much praised GD Front-Wheel-Drive platform was used – why change such a good thing – but the engines were made even better – while still favouring usable torque over outright power in a small rev band. This made driving the Series 3 626 an absolute pleasure – a truly brilliant car.
Most of the world received 1.6, 1.8, 2.0, and 2.2 (non-turbo) engines. The GT model had a 2.0-litre FE-DOHC engine that produced 148 (non-cat) or 140 PS (cat). Some models were available with a new 2.0 diesel RFT engine, notable for its use of a pressure wave supercharger (Comprex), that previously could be found in the Mazda Bongo commercial. Diesel models were also exported to Europe, usually with the naturally aspirated engine. By 1990, the 1.6 had been discontinued in most markets, although JDM models intended for commercial use still used the little B6 engine.
The Series III 626 (known as the Capella in Japans domestic market) was available globally as a sedan, station wagon, five-door hatchback, and as a coupe – better known as the MX-6 in North American and Australian where it received the unique model identification to set it apart from the bog-stock 626 range. In Japan, the five-door was sold as the "Capella CG" (for City Gear) and the coupe as the "Capella C2" (Composite Coupe). There was also a four-door hardtop sedan with unique bodywork, sold only in Japan, called the Mazda Persona.
The station wagon version, intended as a true load carrier, was introduced in the northern-hemisphere during the spring of 1988 on a slightly modified platform (called the GV). The station wagon also had a seven-seat option in some markets. Five-speed manuals and four-speed automatics were offered, with a few export markets also receiving a four-speed manual. Four-wheel drive was introduced in July 1987 for some versions, although it was never made available in the coupe nor in the North American market. Another new option was 4-wheel-steering – all the rage at the time – this being introduced in February 1988, with Mazda's system being electronic and more complex than the 4WS system introduced by Honda on their 1988 Prelude. The Mazda system was only available in the five-door and the coupe. ABS could be optioned across the entire range, and for the final facelift you could also option a driver's side airbag.
The Mid-Run Facelift
The 626 was facelifted for 1990, although mainstream Japanese production ended in 1991. Ford kept building a manual-only GD series sedan, called the Telstar Classic, aimed at fleet customers. The Capella station wagon was still available up until November 1997 (1996 in export markets). As part of a Japanese trend at the time, it was also developed into an "RV", a sporting model with off-road pretensions. The Capella Van version, for commercial use only, actually continued in production until April 1999. It was equipped with the 1.6-litre B6 engine or the naturally aspirated diesel. When the new CG Capella was introduced in August 1994, the "Capella Cargo" received a facelift with a bigger grille and headlights and its name was changed to "Capella Wagon". The last addition to the Japanese line-up was a two-wheel-drive version of the 2.0 GT engine which arrived in June 1996.
The 626 In The United Kingdom
UK trim levels were LX (1.8-litre 8v), GLX (1.8-litre 8v /2.0-litre 12v), GLX Executive (2.0-litre 12v) and GT (2.0-litre 16v) GLX Executive 4x4 (2.2-litre 12v) Some early 2.0GT models had four-wheel steering. There was also an estate model with either the 2.0-litre engine in GLX or GT trim, or the GLX Executive 4x4 2.2. The 2.0GT was also available in two-door coupe form. Most European markets received similar line-ups, albeit with diesel options in many countries.
MX-6 and 626 Global Production
The MX-6 was built in Michigan alongside its platform-mate, the Ford Probe at AutoAlliance International, while North American market 626s were still imported from Japan. 626 hatchbacks disappeared after 1991 from the US Mazda model range. The base model now used Mazda's 110 hp (82 kW), 2.2-litre 3-valve SOHC F2 producing just 10 hp (7.5 kW) shy of the old turbocharged engine, and the new turbo was up to 145 hp (108 kW). The 1988 introduction of four-wheel steering to the 626 Turbo lift back, along with Honda's Prelude 4WS, marked the first 4WS systems for the US market. It was later also made available to the MX-6. In 1990, the 626 gained motorized seat belts. Consumer response was strong, and Car and Driver magazine named the 626 and MX-6 in their Ten Best list for 1988.
As for the previous generation, Colombian-built versions were the L (sedan), LX (lift back), and GLX (coupe). They entered local production in the first half of 1988. The L used the 1.8 with 90 PS while the LX and GLX received the 102 PS two-litre - both engines still carburetted, with automatic chokes. This generation was known as "Asahi" in Colombia. The gearing was shorter than for the GC versions, to better suit the mountainous nature of the country.
Mazda New Zealand
Mazda New Zealand again assembled a range of four-door sedan and five-door hatchback models, supplemented by the newly available wagon, and imported the coupe and a top five-door version, both with electronically controlled rear-wheel steering. Ford New Zealand's Telstar line was similar, including the wagon and imported rear-wheel steering models, but without the coupe. The wagon's arrival enabled Ford to drop the UK-sourced Sierra wagon from local assembly, simplifying model sourcing. The NZ-specification cars, though imported CKD, shared much of their specifications with un-catalyzed European models including the modified tail lamp assemblies with the mandatory-for-Europe fog light lenses though the bulbs and wiring were not included. This and later generations were also imported used from Japan in later years, greatly widening the choice of models and specifications available in this market.
After the introduction of the next generation 626 (a rebadged Mazda Cronos), the station wagon continued to be assembled (alongside its slightly lower priced sister, the Telstar GL). Only a 2.0-litre GLX was offered, with the 81 kW (110 PS; 109 hp) uncatalyzed 12-valve engine.