A rustbucket with low-quality suspension and braking components
Replaced under warranty/recall:
- Rear brakes (or just rotors? Don't remember) replaced due to excessive dust accumulation.
- Engine mount.
- Door locks (no problem with them, but apparently too easy to open for thieves, so they were redesigned).
Many of the things listed in various TSB's have gone wrong with the car, and the dealer refused to fix them, saying that the TSB's applied to American models, not Canadian ones(!!!). This is a load of s**t, because the specs are virtually identical. I didn't pursue it too far, because most of them are annoying but not life-threatening.
- Snapping sound when rolling up the front windows.
- Carpet separation in passenger footwell (common problem). Carpet has also ripped on that side due to poor design, where the carpet is elevated, but there is nothing underneath to support it.
- Makes an awful shrilly squeak once you hit about 2000 RPM on really cold days, that makes you think you've run over a small animal. Only does it once per drive, but it's unsettling until you remember it's going to happen every time you drive.
- Left front brake began to seize, and would not release the caliper until driven for several miles (eventually, not at all). Required replacement of pads, caliper, and rotor (about $450, and occurred somewhere around 90-95K km).
- Left rear shock mount broke at approximately 100K km.
- Right front wheel bearing began to make a noise around the same time.
- The left front wheel bearing started the same noise about 2 weeks after other bearing was replaced.
- A/C clutch bearing began making noise at about 105-110K km (see below). Decided to cut the belt rather than replace it (for now).
- Seems to burn through headlights rather easily and they have tended to die at almost exactly the same time (one burned out 15 minutes after the other leaving me with none one evening!).
- Stabilizer bars went very early, but I put off replacing them until 120K. Honestly, the difference in handling appears to be so small that I don't think it was worth it.
- An UNBELIEVABLE amount of rust. Much of it is in the rear quarter panel at the front of the rear wheel well, as well as the seam where the panel meets the rear bumper. However, there is also plenty of rust on the black strips on the upper parts of the doors as well as on the inside of the doors along the welds. Of all the things listed, the rust is by far and away the most disappointing aspect of the car.
- Occasionally seems to "gasp" when accelerating, although my fuel pump has not gone on me -- yet (this is a common problem).
- The original tires are crap, so seek out far better replacements as I did (e.g., Hankook Ventus V12's).
I had a review up here a year or two ago, but unfortunately it appears to have disappeared and I don't understand why. As such, I may have forgotten some things that have gone wrong with the car since I don't have the service history in front of me.
From the standpoint of driving enjoyment, I still believe this was probably the best small car available in 2004 (with the possible exception of the Golf). The engine is powerful and it has great handling, although steering feel isn't the greatest. The ride is perhaps somewhat sporty (i.e., stiff), but it feels like a Lexus compared to, say, an Acura RSX Type-S. Fuel economy is pretty good considering the size and power of the engine.
That said, I can't recommend the car. In addition to the problems listed above, the heating/cooling system in the car is just garbage. It takes forever to warm up in the winter (and there were no heated seats available) and in the summer the A/C struggles to cool the cabin. I live in Canada; I can't imagine what it would be like in a southern state.
A commenter here pointed out in my previous review that the rattling sound I was getting was due to the A/C clutch bearing WITHIN the A/C clutch. This should be a minor fix, but Mazda won't sell you the bearing alone, and I couldn't find the size for the longest time. By the time I did, the clutch had started to melt so there was no way of saving it. I could change the A/C clutch, but my mechanic said this is not a good idea as it would cause the whole unit to fail not long after, and his recommendation was to get an entirely new compressor with the clutch attached(!). It's an annoying rattling sound that will stop and start when the compressor turns on/off. The bearing size you need is 32 mm X 47 mm X 18 mm. Don't put it off too long, as I did!
That, and the other problems are all bad enough, but the rust is the real deal killer. My old VW, which I had for 16 years, did not have rust as bad as this (not even close) by the time I sold it. I am simply floored that a manufacturer building cars today has such poor fit and finish. My parents' cars are 2002 and 2003 models (Acura and Subaru), with double the mileage of my car, and they have virtually nothing in comparison. A few years ago I had pointed out some rust beginning to develop to the dealer and they did nothing. I regret not following up on it because now I am going to have a fight on my hands. They did extend the warranty to 6 years, but my understanding is that that implies a factory defect if one wants to take them to small claims court. The dealer, incidentally, was never particularly friendly, and also seemed to overcharge for routine maintenance by a very large amount.
Incidentally, I highly recommend buying parts online if you can, as dealers and garages gouge mercilessly. I was quoted $222 for a wheel bearing hub (not including labour) while I can find hubs for about $30-60 online, including shipping.
When I had bought this, I was flirting with an Acura 1.7 EL (basically a fully loaded Civic, for American readers). Needless to say, given my parents' positive experience with the RSX, I very much regret not getting that instead.
Don't waste your money unless you feel like re-living the 1970's with its biodegradable Japanese cars.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No
Review Date: 2nd September, 2012