We recently carried news of the revised Mazda 323 range and that has now been completed by the addition of a fuel-injected 1.6-litre hatchback. Despite some discreet aerodynamic aids, a five-speed gearbox with closer ratios than on other 323s, and an engine which gives 105 bhp at 6,000 rpm and 98 lb ft torque at 4,200 rpm, this car has no pretensions at being a “hot hatch”. Rather it is a well-equipped small car, competitively priced at £6,799, which will still do around 112 mph and accelerate from 0-60 mph in just over nine seconds (maker’s estimates).
On the road, it’s a competent little car in terms of performance, handling and brakes but it does lack a sporting feel, the steering does not communicate with the driver, for example, and the car feels much less taut than the average hot hatch. Though it is a refined package so far as equipment is concerned, neither the engine nor transmission is particularly quiet and when one reaches 70 mph, the airstream begins to suck the doors out from their seals producing a great deal of wind noise above 90 mph.
New 626 models which are now available, follow a similar pattern. With fuel injection, the 2-litre engine gives 120 bhp at 5,400 rpm and 121 lb ft torque at 4,000 rpm, which translates into a claimed maximum speed of 120 mph and 0-60 mph acceleration in nine seconds. The 626 2.0i is a quiet, well-appointed and competitively priced car (prices start at £8,299) which is too softly sprung for my taste but which, n a test track, showed itself to have remarkable levels of adhesion.
Like the 323 1.6i, the 626 2.0i returns impressive performance figures but does not have a sporting feel, being instead a comfortable, long-legged, saloon. — M.L.