By on June 13, 2022

1989 Mazda 626 in California junkyard, LH front view - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAfter selling a rear-wheel-drive 626 here starting in the 1978 model year, Mazda introduced a brand-new front-wheel-drive version for 1983. That was the same year the Camry first appeared on our shores, and the cheaper 626 lured many car shoppers away from Toyota showrooms with its impressive list of standard features. The Camry got a major update for 1987, and a new generation of 626 appeared the following year. Here’s one of those cars, photographed in a Northern California self-service yard last winter.

1989 Mazda 626 in California junkyard, decklid badge - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsBack in its homeland, this car was known as the Capella. Before getting 626 badges here, the North American Capella was sold as the Mazda RX-2 (with Wankel power) and the 616 (with piston power). After 2002, the 626 name got axed and the Mazda6 took over.

1989 Mazda 626 in California junkyard, interior - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis car is the El Cheapo-spec DX trim level, so it has hand-cranked windows and unpowered seats. The price tag started at $10,499, which comes to about $25,065 in 2022 dollars.

1989 Mazda 626 in California junkyard, HVAC controls - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe original purchaser decided that air conditioning was worth an additional $795 (about $1,900 today). Note the ECO button below the A/C switch.

1989 Mazda 626 in California junkyard, gearshift - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsManual transmissions were becoming increasingly shunned by American drivers of midsize sedans by the late 1980s, but this car has the base five-speed manual. The automatic transmission option cost nearly as much as the refrigerated air: 720 bucks.

1989 Mazda 626 in California junkyard, engine - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe engine is a 2.2-liter F-series four-cylinder, rated at 110 horsepower. A 145-horse turbocharged version of the 626 was available.

1989 Mazda 626 in California junkyard, RH rear view - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe coupe version of the 626 was known as the MX-6 here, while the sporty hatchback became the Ford Probe.

1989 Mazda 626 in California junkyard, odometer - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis one made it past the magical 200,000-mile mark, which is great for a 1980s machine not made by Mercedes-Benz, Honda, or Toyota.

1989 Mazda 626 in California junkyard, front view - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe paint has been nuked hard by the California sun, but the car appears to have been well-cared-for during its life.

1989 Mazda 626 in California junkyard, switches - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe block-off plates where switches might have lived tell us of the option roads not taken by the original buyer.

1989 Mazda 626 in California junkyard, RH rear view - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIt may have been a good (enough) runner at the end, but few buyers want a 32-year-old small sedan with the wrong number of pedals and ugly paint these days. Next stop: The Crusher.


Standard features! Big warranty! Cheaper than Accord!


In Japan, this generation of Capella got a drama-packed ad set in Europe. The Citroën DS at the end is a nice touch.

For links to more than 2,200 additional Junkyard Finds, visit the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

[Images by the author]

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8 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1989 Mazda 626 DX...”


  • avatar
    Imagefont

    My sister had one of these, also with a 5-speed. It was quick and fun to drive. I had an 88 Accord DX with a 5-speed, 98HP 2.0 and was not quick. That car would not die. My Accord had the last of the carbureted engines but the Mazda was fuel injected and that was a vast improvement.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      That carbureted engine in the Accord was an awful boat anchor. The difference in drivability between carbureted LX and fuel-injected LXi was much greater than you would think from the power ratings.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Really love the 83 model and came close to buying one with a 5 speed manual. More than enough pick up for a midsize car and very good handling.

  • avatar
    wjtinfwb

    My girlfriend at the time needed a new car but coudn’t afford the Prelude she really wanted. Looking at alternatives, we pulled into the Ford dealer in Tampa and looked a the Probe, which I knew was a 626 underneath and a car I highly regarded but she dismissed as too “boxy”. A silver Probe LX was brought around for the test drive and she loved it. If I recall the Probe had a sticker of about 13 grand but looked and drover like a more expensive car. We kept the Probe for 6 years and put over 100k miles on with zero issues. The 626/Probe and Accord were both great cars in the day, the Honda carried a price premium that made it more dear at purchase but came back to the owner in resale value.

  • avatar

    We had three of those, all 5-speeds. They were incredibly sweet driving, and tough to boot, but the Hiroshima built ones were a lot better than the US built ones. I’m not sure what year they switched over, but we stopped buying them after that.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    1989 Mazda 626:
    • Wheelbase (for road trips) – Acceptable
    • Curb Weight – Acceptable
    • Visibility – Acceptable
    • Fuel Economy – Poor
    • Seat Comfort – Not Rated
    • Underhood Serviceability – Good

    Now out of curiosity let’s roll over to mazdausa.com and see what’s on offer after 3 decades of progress. Wow. Ick. Ewww. Close page and clear browser history. Disinfect keyboard.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    The RX-2 and 616 (I remember those) were RWD cars. The piston-engined variant of the later RX-3 was the Mazda 808.

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