The Car Connection Mazda Millenia Overview
The Mazda Millenia was a premium mid-size sedan sold from 1995 through 2002, and quite different from any other car Mazda offered at the time. Originally intended to form part of a new luxury brand called Amati--which would have competed with Toyota's Lexus and Nissan's Infiniti--the Millennia was hastily dropped into the Mazda lineup when financial problems axed the launch.
The Millennia effectively replaced the Mazda 929 large sedan when it was launched for the 1995 model year. It was engineered to a higher quality than other Mazdas, with thicker paint, tighter panel gaps, and more expensive plastic materials used for the interior. It was built on its own production line, and shared relatively little with any other Mazda model at the time. When it was withdrawn, it was not replaced by a new model.
The Mazda Millenia was offered in two versions: a base trim level, with or without leather upholstery, and a top-level Millenia S. The engine in the base model was a 170-horsepower 2.5-liter V-6, driving the front wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission. The S, on the other hand, featured a more powerful 210-hp supercharged 2.3-liter V-6, the same four-speed automatic, and larger wheels and tires. That latter engine operated on the Miller Cycle, which leaves the intake valve open during the initial part of the compression cycle to improve efficiency by reducing compression effort, and compensates for the potential loss of power by using a supercharger to compress the charge. This unique feature made the Millenia the only car in the world to offer such an engine at the time.
Reviews at the time called the Millenia smooth and refined, though not all that powerful by the standards of the day. Front seats were comfortable, but the rear compartment was slightly cramped. Handling was generally good, but it was criticized for excessive body motion on rougher surfaces. For the 1997 model year, Mazda upgraded a few features and redesigned the center console. In 1999, the styling was mildly refreshed, and two-tone paint was offered for the first time. A special "Millennium Millenia" trim package in 2000 included suede upholstery, an in-dash changer for six CDs, and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Styling was again updated in 2001, along with structural improvements to the body shell and stabilizer bars for better handling, plus larger brakes. The interior was further upgraded, including standard side airbags for the first time. Throughout its eight years, however, the Millenia suffered from a disconnect between its price tag--which neared $30,000 for the top-of-the-line Millenia S--and its home in Mazda dealerships, not to mention a level of entry luxury not well-enough executed to make a big impression against either Lexus or the German contenders.