Mazda Millenia S (1999)

  Mazda Millenia (1999)

The Mazda Millenia S is Mazda's top-of-the-line car. It's a good-looking car and is very comfortable, with room for four, plenty of power and decent handling.

We liked the Millenia when it first came out about four years ago. At thetime, we thought it was an extremely good looking car. We still think so. The Millenia is very slightly aggressive looking...but in kind of a cool way. It's not dumpy, like most Japanese luxo-sedans. In our humble opinion, it looks cool, particularly from the three-quarter angle at the back.

Driving Experience

To no one's surprise, the Millenia drives like, what? A high-end Japanese car. The engine is very smooth, there's no shortage of power and the ride is comfy--though on the soft side, unlike German luxury cars. In other words, the Millenia is engineered more for comfort than handling. As a result, it has a tendency to lean a bit while going around a curve.

Interior

We found the seats to be comfortable, though a little low, i.e., close to the floor. Unfortunately, because of the roof line the seats can't go up very high, which can make for a somewhat awkward sitting position for tall driver. In our list of picayune complaints, we wish the seats went a tad higher off the floor.

Ergonomics

Ergonomics are very good in the Millenia. We like the climate controls, which feature a very large, easy-to-operate dial in the middle of the dash that can be set to a specific degree reading. (However, the temperature-control system on the car we test-drove appeared not to be operating properly. It cooked our Producer, Doug Berman, until it was set below 66...at which point it sent him into a profound hypothermic coma. Fortunately, Sonja was able to use active rewarming therapy to bring him around.)

Reliability

The Millenia S also features something called a "Miller Cycle" engine. (Tommy was convinced that this unique design allowed the Millenia to run off of cheap American beer--but one engine rebuild quickly taught him otherwise.) The Miller Cycle engine is essentially a supercharger design, which enables Mazda to get 210 horsepower out of a comparatively small engine...and still get great fuel efficiency. We don't have a lot of experience with this engine, but we've heard plenty of good comments, and certainly hope it receives better acceptance than Mazda's early attempts at creative engineering. (Anyone remember the word "Wankel"?)

Maintenance

By the way, the Millenia is most definitely not a car for the do-it-yourselfer. There's simply no extra room in the engine compartment; with the engine shoehorned into a tiny space, the Millenia is going to be a very frustrating car to work on. So wave the white flag before you even think about bashing your knuckles, cutting your fingers and letting fly with the expletives, and bring this car in for service instead.

Overall comments

The Millenia is a car for people in their thirties or forties who want something a little more deluxe than a Toyota Avalon or Nissan Maxima. We'd put the Millenia in the same class as the Lexus ES300, the Infiniti I30, the BMW 323 and the Audi A4--though it's much closer to the Lexus and Infiniti, in terms of look and feel, than to the German cars. When it first came out, the Mazda Millenia was an exceptional car. Now, as other cars have gotten better, it's simply pretty good. But we like it.

View cars.com model report on this vehicle.


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