My first blonde!

Well, technically, she's "Mojave Beige Mica", but I've been to the Mojave more than once, and whatever else I was thinking, it wasn't beige.

Sandy, for those of you who are sensible enough not to read my daily logs, is my new ride, a 2000 Mazda 626 LX, replacing her older sister Molly, who had apparently grown weary of me after a couple of years — though as relationships go, this is actually one of my longer ones.

Some might consider Sandy a, um, stripper. Only three options on this car: floor mats ($85), cassette deck ($250 — CD is standard, but I wanted both), and the infamous Ford CD4E automatic transmission ($800). Of course, Mazda throws in a lot of stuff for the $18,245 base price, including items both useful (the famous 626 oscillating center vents, coyly labeled "SWING") and inexplicable (the ceiling-mounted holder for one's sunglasses). Unlike Molly, she doesn't have a moonroof; I drove another 2000 626 which had one, and when the road turned into great-grandma's washboard, I banged my head more than once on the sunshade, so this particular feature had to go.

So far, the results are mostly positive. Sandy is a very mannerly sort of vehicle. Her on-the-road demeanor is crisp, businesslike, and free of slop. In fact, she may be too polite; at the stoplight, she's all too willing to let everyone else go first. The engine, Mazda's trusty old two-liter FSD, has grown to 130 hp — Molly's mill had 118 — which still isn't enough to motivate a mid-size sedan with any degree of verve unless you really push down on the loud pedal. Fortunately, like all Mazda powerplants, the FSD is rev-happy. So Sandy will growl if you push her, but she'll still move out with authority. Zero to sixty is pretty mediocre — my off-the-cuff guesstimate at this point is around 12 seconds flat — but once up to speed, she'll run all day and most of the night without complaint.

First tank of gas produced 24 mpg, consonant with the 22/28 EPA ratings, and about what Molly used to get. In many ways, the 626 hasn't changed much in seven years: it's still a medium-sized car with medium-sized ambitions and road manners a couple of notches above its niche. The next generation is due out in 2003, and no one seems to know for certain where it will come from, but I'm quite sure I'll be around to check its papers when it gets here.

The Vent

#219
1 November 2000

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