Today’s Nice Price or No Dice Mazda was originally planned to be part of an up-scale brand the company was going to call Amati. That’s long been forgotten, as have many of the cars themselves. Could that rarity make this Millenia an unforgettable deal?
The general reaction to yesterday’s 2004 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT was something along the lines of: “I don’t want to like it, but dammit, I can’t help but like it.” What brought about all that confusion was the combo of a hot mill and five-speed stick coupled to a modest $3,500 asking price. Not even being a PT Cruiser could overcome so dynamic a duo and the car took home a 68 percent Nice Price win as a result.
At around the same time that the PT Cruiser was looking back for its inspiration, Mazda was looking forward. What the small Japanese carmaker was seeing was a world in which its competitors all maintained upscale brands with crazy high-profit margins. Mazda wanted to get in on that game too, and laid down the groundwork for its own up-market nameplate, to be called Amati. Unfortunately for Mazda, the planned launch of this upscale brand tragically coincided with the collapse of the economic bubble that had been inflating the Japanese economy throughout the late 1980s and early ’90s. Cue sad Shakuhachi.
With a fancy-pants model already well down the development pipeline and no Amati nameplate under which to market it, Mazda made the only logical decision and released the new mid-sized near-luxury car under its own brand. The result was the Mazda Millenia — and no, it’s not named after Trump’s third wife.
Now, you may have forgotten that such a car ever even existed. With the size and styling being close enough to Mazda’s existing 626 sedan of the time, you could also be excused for mistaking it as one of those and never even being aware that it was a separate model. Separate, however, it was.
This 2002 Mazda Millenia S is probably the nicest one still on the road, and while it does present as a somewhat anonymous Japanese small luxury saloon — not all that much different from say, the contemporary Lexus ES300 — there are some very interesting things going on in this car.
The first of those is the engine. That’s a unique version of Mazda’s K-series DOHC V6. Here that gets a petite 2.3-liter displacement and a Roots-style supercharger to accommodate the Miller Cycle combustion process that gives it a remarkable mix of power and fuel economy. The Millenia was the first series-production car to carry the high-efficiency engine and got a good 210 horsepower out of it. Here that’s mated with the standard four-speed automatic which drives the front wheels. Independent suspension and disc brakes help the rest of the chassis keep up.
With just 79,777 miles under its belt, this Millenia is only lightly used and that shows in both the bodywork and interior. The paint is generally clean and the badging appears to be all intact. There are a couple of scuffs in the bumper caps, but those shouldn’t be too tough to have corrected. The tires have good tread but are cheap-seats Senturys so don’t expect any heroics out of them.
You’ll find the expected leather seating inside, along with better than average plastics. Remember this was a car that was intended to go up against Lexus, so it’s pretty much that sort of experience in the cabin. Heated seats and power everything help in that department. It all looks to be in terrific shape, although the close-up of the switchgear shows a pressing need for some light detailing. The title is apparently just as clean as the car.
Remarkably, the dealer selling the Mazda seems to know what it is and even that the car has a supercharged engine. That implies that the seller bothered to open the hood and that bodes well for the car being sorted at the very least. Speaking of the very least, let’s get to the price. That’s $5,450 which gets you a unique if slightly anonymous sedan that should be fairly reliable and reasonably comfortable. Sadly, it likely won’t get you into Radwood, being a few years too new.
What do you think about this Mazda for the new Millenia that’s been largely forgotten? Does it seem worth that $5,450 asking? Or, is this almost-an-Amati a has been that’s still asking star-turn money?
H/T to Josh Lieberthal on the Twitter for the hookup!
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