So I've been to the Mazda dealership and now I'm driving... A Dodge Neon, actually. I think they specifically give really odd loaner cars of other brands to make Mazdas look better. The Neon has a lot of resistance before it begins turn-signaling, accelerating or braking, giving the whole thing a weirdly "crunchy" feel. That's okay, though. This is a car I got for two specific trips -- one from the dealership back home (done) and one more back there when my truck is ready.
It's decent. It's a 1999 model, though the mileage is comparable to my current (former -- *sigh*) beastie. It's got six cylinders and seems to handle its size and weight better, which isn't shocking for a largish truck. I can't for the life of me recall the model number -- a bit like Ford and the F150, Mazda just seems to label its trucks with numbers, not really names or letters.
We'll see how things go. I got very good value out of my 626 over the time I owned it, which isn't bad given that I was an idiot with no negotiating skills. I don't feel like I could have done much worse this time and with this vehicle, which doesn't necessarily say much.
Still, I'll shortly have a vehicle with tolerable handling (though it's a bit big for my normal tastes), good braking and without the transmission problems I've had up to this point.
And I also learned: never assume that a pleasant-sounding car salesman (woman, actually) with nothing to gain by lying to you is therefore telling the truth. Good to know.