Mazda Millenia Review

Mazda Millenia Review

Upscale Japanese luxury sedans began to proliferate across the landscape in the early 1990s, with newly hatched premium brands like Toyota's Lexus and Nissan's Infiniti born to do battle against more established European and American rivals. In such a thriving marketplace, Mazda planned to get in on the aspirational act with a proposed premium division called Amati. This idea proved a little too rich for the company's pocketbook, however, and was subsequently scrapped. But all was not lost, for the junior of two planned Amati sedans came to life as the midsize entry-luxury Mazda Millenia, which was introduced in 1995 as the company's flagship replacement for the outgoing 929.

The Millenia was plagued throughout its 8-year run by a lack of upscale presence and a mild case of schizophrenia. While its styling and higher content level qualified it for the entry-luxury market, the Millenia's execution and cachet just didn't measure up -- especially considering the $30,000-plus price tag on the top-drawer Millenia S model.

Midsize sedan shoppers looking for a dash of luxury and something different might find a later-model Mazda Millenia an intriguing choice, especially the supercharged S. Other worthwhile luxury-branded used vehicles from this era include the Acura TL and Lexus ES.

Most Recent Mazda Millenia

The Mazda Millenia was produced from 1995-2002. As it was originally intended to be a luxury-branded car rather than a typical Mazda, it featured upscale leather, wood and chrome appointments inside, along with higher-quality paint and better overall fit and finish. Two trim levels were available: base (with or without leather) and S. Base models came standard with a rather pedestrian 170-horsepower 2.5-liter V6, while those who followed Mazda's suggestion to "get in, be moved" could choose the more powerful Millenia S with its larger tires, standard traction control and 210-hp 2.3-liter "Miller Cycle" supercharged V6 engine. A four-speed automatic was the only available transmission.

The Miller Cycle V6 was a unique power plant that featured a belt-driven supercharger to boost power and torque. It was refined and smooth, but not particularly powerful by luxury-car standards. Handling was also a mixed bag, with well-controlled body roll through smooth curves, but inadequate damping over rough surfaces. Seating up front was comfortable and well-contoured, but rear passengers suffered from a lack of thigh support and foot space.

Numerous changes were made during the Mazda Millenia's eight years on the market. Equipment was upgraded for 1997 and a revised center console design arrived. Two-tone color schemes and a styling refresh showed up for 1999. The following year, the Millenia celebrated the millennium by cutting prices and offering a special-edition model. Available in two eye-catching colors, the Millennium Millenia featured 17-inch wheels, an in-dash six-CD changer and suede upholstery.

The most significant changes occurred for 2001 when Mazda strengthened the Millenia's body structure to improve torsional rigidity while adding new stabilizer bars (for better handling) and bigger brakes. That year also saw exterior styling tweaked and upgrades to the interior. Side airbags were also made standard. Because of these improvements, the 2001 and '02 Mazda Millenias (the final model years) are clearly the best choices for used-car shoppers.