Mazda's 626 is a sporty alternative to the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Think of it as an opportunity to break from the herd, to put a little personality in your drive. Mazda will put you into a V6 version about $2000 sooner than Accord, Camry, or the Nissan Altima. Compared to Nissan's Maxima, the 626 looks like a serious bargain. Four-cylinder 626s are priced comparably to their competition. The current-generation 626 is due for replacement at the end of the season, and that may give dealers an incentive to deal. But don't think for a minute that the 626 is obsolete. The current model dates from 1998, but received major engineering revisions for model-year 2000, when both its interior and exterior appearance was freshened. For 2001, the 626 was re-tuned for an NLEV emission rating. It returns with minimal change for 2002. The 626's stiff chassis and well-tuned suspension give it a sure-footed feel, encouraging you to press down the accelerator as you exit a tight corner. And when you do, you'll appreciate the power Mazda engineers have coaxed out of the optional V6 engine. Even in its twilight year, the 626 is more fun to drive than most of its mid-size competition. Like all Mazda products, the 626 comes with three years of free roadside assistance and slightly longer warranty coverage (to 50,000 miles); Mazda says its dealers will provide a free loaner if your 626 should require warranty repairs.