Monday, February 4, 2013

Used Car Review - Mazda 3 (2004-2012)

Searching for great used car bargains is definitely fun, but finding a car that is fun to drive can be difficult. Myk Belmonte finds a great choice for you.

2004-2012 Mazda 3

There is one question that car manufacturers face, would you rather kill a popular nameplate or still use it for the next generation model? If they rather place the name 6 feet underground, and rename it with something new, there would be some mixed results. Using the old name is still a good decision but how about the case of Mazda? They did replace the Familia/323/Protege nameplate with the 3, and it was a success for the brand.

Introduced worldwide in 2004, the Mazda 3 (or Axela for those obsessed with badge reading) is based on Ford's C1 platform used globally. This platform is also utilized by the Ford Focus and the Volvo S40 of the same period. For the Mazda, Moray Callum led the designing of this vehicle, so thank him for not including any awkward lines that the current one has (a smiley that can scare off children). Available in both sedan and hatchback bodies in either natural or Mazdaspeed flavors, this generation was sold until 2009, with some countries having it a little longer.

If Mazda's return to the Philippines was a success, better thank the Mazda 3 especially this sold extremely well throughout its shelf life than the model that replaced it. It was locally manufactured during its time, the 3 found more homes and was a hit among the younger crowd. A minor model change occurred in 2007 and it was finally placed out of pasture in 2012. The sedan came in first in 2004 while the hatchback followed a year later. Available models include the value oriented S, V (both in sedan and hatchback), and the top tier R.

Value and Costs
There is a good reason why the Mazda 3 depreciates faster than other Japanese compacts, they are good buys for those seeking a sporty car with the practicality of a sedan. Thinking of buying one? Prices range from P350,000-P550,000 which encompasses all variants and year models. Avoid modified units since they can bring potential headaches to you.

Thanks to the numerous units plying the streets, as well as the online market, parts can be purchased from outside-the-casa shops from the genuine, replacement, to the third party ones. However, maintaining one can be somewhat higher in costs than main competitors due to one reason, fuel expenses. Having a sole automatic transmission option does not help but consume more fuel, so drive prudently or set aside some money for gasoline.

Exterior and Interior
Making a distant past of bland Mazda designs, the 3's exterior shouts "European". This vehicle (sedan or hatchback) exhibits chiseled lines and sporty proportions. This design would age very well, unlike the current one that is perfect for halloween (October is very far away).

Driver rules inside the cabin, especially that all controls are aimed towards the captain of the vehicle. Being sporty in theme, it does not have the dreaded fake wood trim and opts to use black materials. Leather seats and (surprise) a sunroof comes standard in the top end model, which is a steal for these prices. Although seat support for the front is ok, rear occupants may have some time to be comfortable due to the less ample room provided and sitting at the back is tight, which makes it more of a driver's car. The hatchback provides more space for your gear, as the rear seats fold down.

Two engines from the MZR family are available for PHDM Mazda 3's. The first one is a MZR 1,598cc that has 104hp at 6,000rpm and 145Nm at 4,000rpm, you'll encounter this engine more often since this is popular among consumers. But the engine to have is still from the MZR clan, a 1,999cc with 147hp at 6,500rpm and 187Nm at 4,500rpm. The 1.6 engine would be lively if you push it above 2,000rpm, this is useless if you are driving inside the city or trying to achieve fuel economy records. For sheer pleasure get the 2.0 model especially that it works well with the transmission to get you in the triple digit territory.

Driving Impressions
No road straight or curved the Mazda 3 will fear, it wants to have fun driving. Climbing up Kennon Road in Baguio or Bitukang Manok in Quezon is never a dull moment especially that it can keep up with the bends by offering a great steering feedback and a compliant suspension. You're in control, and what shall you do? Just shut up and drive.

Hatchback or sedan configuration but the requirement is something that is fun to drive then add the Mazda 3 to your list. It is entertaining to drive and you'll have that grin especially in the challenging roads that our country has to offer. Just keep in mind to drive prudently and don't find a clutch, but there is the manual drive option that is integrated in the automatic.

The Good: 
  • Great handling
  • Classic looks
  • Low prices means an excellent buy
The Bad: 
  • No manual transmission
  • 1.6 engine lacks low end grunt
  • Less room at the back
The Pick: Spoil yourself for a 2.0R version

Engines: 1,598cc MZR and 1,999cc MZR I4 gasoline
Power: 104hp @ 6,000rpm (1.6), 147hp @ 6,500rpm (2.0)
Torque: 145Nm @ 4,000rpm (1.6), 187Nm @ 4,500rpm (2.0)
Fuel Consumption: 6-9km/L (city), 8-11km/L (highway) (*estimated and varies)
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Suspension: Front independent McPherson strut, rear independent E-type multi-link

Price (New): P790,000-P1,039,000 (range from 2004-2012)
Price (Now): P350,000-P550,000
Rivals: Honda Civic, Mitsubishi Lancer, Nissan Sentra, Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus, Chevrolet Optra
On Sale: 2004-2012

Mazda Quezon Avenue - (02) 712-3355
Mazda Greenhills - (02) 722-1102
Mazda Alabang - (02) 772-3618

Photos by Myk Belmonte

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