A Swing and a Miss
August 8, 2018
I traded in a 2015 Ford Focus SE hatchback for the 2017 Mazda 3 4 door sedan. I decided on the Touring model with the 2.0L 4 cylinder and the 6 speed manual. I also optioned the popular package which included a moonroof and BOSE sound system.
Initially, the vehicle started out pretty well. It was fun to drive, had decent amenities, and looked pretty nice. The one thing that started the downfall was a rough idle that developed at about 6,000 miles. I brought it in for that, as well a creaking/popping headliner that made noise over bumps. The dealer claimed that the engine being overfilled with oil is what caused a misfire at idle (never had a check engine light, mind you). They charged me $275 to fix it since I do my own oil changes. I filled the crankcase with 4.5 quarts of oil. The capacity is 4.4 quarts. The dealer told me that having the .1 extra quart caused oil to spill into the intake and caused a rough running condition. They recommended I buy a beaker to measure the exact amount of oil to put in, or bring it to them for an oil change because they can "measure the exact amount of oil it needs". I have owned many cars, and I have worked on them professionally for 15 years, I have NEVER heard of this condition before. After this was done, the idle quality improved, but it was never stellar.
The headliner was a fiasco. The dealer originally told me they could not hear the noise, and to bring it back when I could duplicate it. The headliner literally made a creak/crackling noise whenever you pushed on it, but whatever. So I took the vehicle back and brought it in a few days later to show them the noise. They ordered a new headliner, and had the car for almost 2 weeks to fix this condition (they claimed they had to pull the windshield to replace it, which according to the Mazda service manual is incorrect. They only needed to lower the front seats and tilt it to get it out of the front door). The new headliner did the EXACT same thing. I bought the car back n a few months later, and the dealer told me that "all the '17-'18 Mazda 3s are like this, and there is nothing they can do to fix it". If you are like me and noises drive you crazy, I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND you drive this car in cool conditions and make sure the headliner does not make noise. I also found that by pushing on the headliner behind the moonroof, I could get the noise to reproduce. Something to keep in mind when test driving.
The other big issue I had was 2nd gear grinding under spirited acceleration. If I would rev the car in first hear to about 4,000 RPM and go to shift to 2nd, it would grind at times, as if you hadn't pressed the clutch pedal down and you were trying to shift against the synchronizers. I did not get the chance to bring the car in for that concern, because I ended up trading it in before that. I can only imagine what the excuses not to fix it under warranty would have been. (I also want to point out that I thought it may have been driver error (even though this was the 13th manual car I owned, none of which did this) , but I had a friend drive it and it did the same thing for him.
Other minor annoyances I had included:
- Both rear door lock actuators would make a squealing noise when locking when the temps outside were hot.
- The front end would make a strange clunk when turning over bumps.
- The fuel economy was never great. Even when I babied it, I would get at best 34 MPG on the highway. For a car rated at 37 MPG, I don't find that very impressive.
- The depreciation was pretty heavy on it. I had about 32,000 miles on it when I traded it in, and I took a $9,000 loss from sticker to trade-in value on it.
It wasn't ALL bad though. The car was a lot of fun to drive. It did handle impeccably well for being an economy compact car. You could throw it around in turns and it would just stick like glue. I did like the BOSE stereo in it. It wasn't the most crazy powerful system out there, but it was really well balanced for my music tastes (I am a bass heavy person, and the bass was always just right for my ears). I also still think it is a great looking car. I really love the lines it had, it gave it a chunky, muscular look.
All in all, for a Japanese car, I came away disappointed in the quality of it. I think it is packaged well, and I liked the features the Touring had, but I was not won over on how it would be long term. I would be cautiously optimistic when buying this car, and take a good serious test drive to make sure you can handle the annoyance it has.