2000 Mazda Millenia
2000 Mazda Millenia. Click image to enlarge

By Chris Chase

As is the case with people, some cars are better suited to a long-term commitment than others. They’re generally the ones that are best described as dependable and trustworthy, maybe with a fun-loving side for good measure. Oh, and physical attraction always helps too.

Right from its introduction in 1995, the Mazda Millenia had the fun-loving and attractive parts nailed down but it wasn’t long before many buyers began to question whether the Millenia was cut out for a long-term relationship.

The infatuation started in 1995 when the Millenia replaced the 929 Serenia as Mazda’s entry-level luxury model. It shared a family resemblance with the 626 Cronos as well as the V6 engine from that car, which served as the Millenia’s base powerplant. That was all they shared, though – the Millenia was in a totally different class.

In fact, the Millenia was probably meant to be produced under a totally different name. It was to be the first car sold by Mazda’s stillborn luxury division, Amati, which was to compete with Lexus, Acura and Infiniti. The Amati nameplate never made it out of the design studio, but rather than scrap an all-new design, Mazda made the car its new top-end model.

As mentioned above, the base model Millenia’s engine was the same 170-hp, 2.5 litre V6 used in the 626 sedan. For the more expensive Millenia S, Mazda indulged its affinity for unique engine technologies, equipping this model with a 2.3 litre Miller Cycle V6 engine that despite its smaller displacement, produced 210 horsepower.

Miller Cycle Engine
Miller Cycle Engine. Click image to enlarge

Patented by Ralph Miller in the 1940s, the Miller Cycle engine differs little from a conventional Otto-cycle engine except for two key things. The Miller Cycle relies on a supercharger and uses unconventional valve timing that keeps the intake valve open during the compression stroke so that the piston is pushing against the pressure from the supercharger instead of the cylinder walls. The result is an engine that’s more efficient than a traditional Otto cycle powerplant. Both engines were mated to a four-speed automatic transmission.

That efficiency shows through in the Millenia’s fuel economy numbers. Despite the difference in power output, both engines returned the same figures throughout the Millenia’s model run. Natural Resources Canada rated the car’s fuel consumption at 12.2 L/100 km in city driving, and 8.3 L/100 km on the highway.

For the 2000 model year, the 2.5 litre engine was dropped, as was the base model Millenia, leaving only the Millenia S.

2000 Mazda Millenia
2000 Mazda Millenia. Click image to enlarge

The Millenia’s standard features list was long and included ABS, dual airbags and traction control from the start, while side airbags were added to later models. A sunroof was optional on base cars and a standard feature on S models.

Perhaps partly due to the car being an afterthought in Mazda’s line-up, Millenia resale values are low. A 2002 model (remember that all Millenias were “S” models from 2000 on) is worth $19,225 according to Canadian Red Book, less than half its $42,150 M.S.R.P. when new.

The Millenia’s afterthought status is also reflected in how little attention Mazda seemed to give the car during the eight years it was in production. Aside from a minor facelift in 2001, the Millenia received no significant updates during its time.

2000 Mazda Millenia
2000 Mazda Millenia. Click image to enlarge

The Millenia got about as much attention from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which never did a complete battery of crash tests on the car. In 1995 through 1997, it scored four and five stars respectively for driver and front passenger protection in front impact tests and in 2001 and 2002, it earned four and three stars respectively for front and rear seat occupant protection in side impacts.

So why is an attractive, inexpensive and reasonably safe luxury sedan like the Millenia not a car to bring home to meet mom and dad? Suffice it to say that owning one will certainly improve your relationship with the mechanics at your local Mazda dealer or independent garage. A perusal of the Millenia forum at www.mazdaworld.org reveals a litany of problems that tend to afflict these cars as they age. In fact, the forum has a discussion dedicated to what specific problems Millenia owners have faced as the kilometres have accumulated.

1999 Mazda Millenia
1999 Mazda Millenia. Click image to enlarge

Common issues range from minor – factory CD players that won’t play CDs and electric tilt steering motor failures – to major problems like transmissions and engines requiring expensive rebuilds and replacements, and bad oxygen sensors and catalytic converters that cause serious driveability problems.

Yet despite all of these reported problems, many owners claim to love their Millenias all the same thanks to the car’s excellent on-road comportment and good looks. Others swear they’ll never buy another Mazda again. Yikes.

The Millenia’s poor reliability is a surprise given Mazda’s generally strong track record for building solid cars. Maybe it’s a side effect of the car being an orphan of Mazda’s failed Amati project, but whatever the case, the Millenia is better suited to a short-term fling than a long-term relationship.

On-line resources:

www.mazdaworld.org – This site features a very busy discussion forum that covers the entire Mazda model line-up, past and present. Ironically, the Millenia (commonly referred to as the “Milly” here) section is the busiest here – odd considering it was never a bread-and-butter car for Mazda like the Protege or even the 626. Of course, all of those reliability problems may have brought together all those “Milly” owners looking for answers to their cars’ reliability problems. Mazdaworld.org has a number of pages other than the forums, but all are “under construction.” Membership is free.

www.mazdaforum.com – The url gives this site away. However, the forums here are nowhere near as busy as those at MazdaWorld, which will likely be a better bet overall for a source of information. Membership here is free too, however, so signing up won’t hurt.


One recall notice (#2000176) listed in Transport Canada’s safety recall database, an incorrect sticker, “does not present a risk to vehicle safety.”

Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

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