The Mazda Capella is a midsize family car manufactured by Mazda Motor Corporation from 1970 to 2002. Sold in the Japanese Domestic Market under the Capella name, the vehicle was also commonly known in other major markets as the 626. Mazda's partner at the time, Ford Motor Company would also use the Capella platform to create the Ford Telstar and Ford Probe.
Designed to compete against Japanese midsize stalwarts such as the Honda Accord and Nissan Bluebird, the Capella would be succeeded by the Mazda Atenza in 2002.
The first Capella was introduced in 1970 and lasted until 1974. It was powered by a 4-cylinder SOHC valve engine displacing 1.6 L (1586cc). Bore was 78 mm and stroke was 83 mm. Output was 104 hp (77 kW) and 106 ft·lbf (144 Nm).
This generation was sold in export markets as the Mazda 616 in sedan and, for some markets, coupe configurations.
An optional Mazda Wankel engine was offered and known as the Mazda RX-2 outside Japan.
The RX-2 was assembled under contract in New Zealand from 1972 for Mazda New Zealand by Motor Industries International in Otahuhu, South Auckland. It was the first and only rotary-engined car ever to be assembled in the country and was made as both a sedan, with manual or automatic transmission and a manual-only coupe. The 616 was also built but was much less popular.
The Capella received a minor facelift in 1974.
The 616 was a major component of Mazda's United States expansion in 1971, having been preceded by its rotary brother, the RX-2, the previous year. It featured the 1.6 L (1586 cc) engine, which was later used in the 808. The American Capella was updated and renamed the next year. The 1972 618 had a larger 1.8 L (1796 cc) engine. Lasting just one year, the 618 nameplate was not used again in the United States and the only Capella for 1973 was the RX-2.
The second generation rear-wheel drive Capella was available between 1978 and 1982, in both sedan and coupe forms. It was known on export markets as the Mazda 626, with the exception of the United Kingdom, where it was called the Mazda Montrose, the name was changed to honour the local Mazda dealership in Montrose. Early models had two slightly different frontal treatments, one with a more pronounced sloping grille to denote some models, particularly on the Japanese domestic market. A bolder front and rear facelift, though similar in appearance, was done for 1981 but this model was not sold in the UK. It was, however offered in Europe and this and later generations were particularly popular in Germany.
This generation was assembled in New Zealand in three versions - four-speed manual base, three-speed automatic mid range and five-speed manual Limited. Facelift models were much the same but some had velour upholstery and tinted glass.
In 1982, Mazda NZ offered a locally assembled limited edition model called the Anniversary to mark 10 years of local build. Based on the Limited, this model had larger US-style bumpers, additional driving lights in the grille, a standard AM radio (this was a year before FM stereo radio was introduced in NZ) plus alloy wheels and unique velour upholstery. This was also the first NZ-built Mazda to have a laminated windscreen as standard.
In September 1982 the third generation Capella was released using the new front-wheel-drive GC platform. As before, the international version was named the Mazda 626 (see that article for more information). Sedan and Coupé bodystyles were offered as before, with - due to demand - a five-door hatchback variant added.
Ford Asia Pacific (FASPAC) also sold the 626 as the Ford Telstar (complete with slightly different styling and dashboard) in place of the UK-sourced Cortina but did not offer coupe versions.
Mazda New Zealand initially assembled 626 'short nose' 1.8-litre four-door sedan and a 'long nose' two-litre five-door model with a higher trim level including a digital instrument panel. A small number of two-door coupés were imported built-up from Japan. Laminated windscreens were now standard. A mid-life facelift for the 1985 model year brought a completely new dashboard with orange digital LCD electronic displays in top models (in place of the earlier luminescent green) and the sedan now had the long nose and two-litre engine.
Ford's Telstar received similar changes.
The fourth-generation Capella was released in 1987. It used the updated GD platform and some versions remained in production in Japan until 1996. 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.
A station wagon version was introduced on a slightly modified platform (called the GV).
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 steer 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 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 would also be imported used from Japan in later years, greatly widening the choice of models and specifications available in this market.