2004 Mazda 6 2.3 from Saudi Arabia

Summary:

Room, Zoom, but not much Vroom!

Faults:

17" wheels. 45-profile tires offer very little protection from ruts and potholes. Rims were damaged within two months of owning the car. I switched to older-model 16" rims with beefier tires, and no more headaches.

Battery gone dead at around 49,000 kms. Replaced with new one.

Stalled at cold starts at around 20,000 kms. Injector cleaner solved the problem.

A-pillar liner about to come off.

Lower ball joints worn out by 30,000 kms. Replaced under warranty.

Other than that, a very reliable car.

General Comments:

This thing handles great. Absolutely no understeer, and steering response is agile and crisp, even better with 225/50R16 summer tires.

Reasonably comfortable, despite suspension on the firm side. Drove it straight to Jordan on a 1,400km trip for 18 hours, had no issues, was ready for more driving once I got there.

Frugal for what it is. Gas is dirt cheap over here, but then again, fill-ups are reasonably few and far between. I wish the engine was slightly bigger and more powerful.

Very convenient. Controls are intuitive and well laid out, trunk seems to swallow anything I ever threw into it.

Oh, and it looks great while doing it all.

Auto transmission is is lazy to downshift sometimes, and could use a "tighter" torque converter. Saps too much power compared to a 5-speed manual. But then again, the clutch on the manual isn't exactly a masterpiece of engineering.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 30th June, 2006

2004 Mazda 6 i 2.3L from Saudi Arabia

Summary:

A bright spot in the dull landscape of midsize sedans

Faults:

The original 17-inch wheels simply couldn't handle the bad roads of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. Had to throw them away after a few months, replaced with 16-inchers. To my chagrin, they've started a campaign to resurface the roads!

After using aftermarket 17-inch wheels with the wrong offset for a while, the lower main ball joints went bad. Control arms were replaced under warranty. NEVER use wheels with the wrong offset on this car. Anything below 50mm (ET50) will affect handling (slower steering response and feel, and straying on bumps and ruts), shorten the life of suspension components, and damage the inner edges of the rear wheel wells due to the tires rubbing on the body when the suspension bottoms out. Fender rolling may remedy that last bit, but I still wouldn’t recommend it.

The car drifted to the right for a while. Took it to the dealer three times, and they said alignment was fine. It turned out the tires I got on the 16-inchers (Dunlop SP Sport 9000) weren't perfect. A friend of mine has the same tires on his BMW and complains about the same problem.

Air conditioner needed recharging at about 35,000km and a year. Considering it has to work overtime in 40+ temperatures, I'm not surprised. Air blowing became weak due to clogged cabin filter, which is behind the clove box and very easy to replace.

The air plate behind the right-hand front brake rotor came loose and made a lot of noise due to it coming in contact with the rotor. The dealer fixed it in place at no charge.

Paint seems to scratch and chip too easily.

The trim on the right-hand A-pillar is slightly off. I keep forgetting to point that out to the dealer every time I take it in for maintenance.

Because of the bulbous contours of the car, it's difficult to gauge where the front end is exactly. Parking lot stops have damaged the front bumper, and now it looks nasty.

The silver trim on the lower center console (around the shifter) is badly worn, and looks bad.

General Comments:

With the Mazda 6, I can say I bought the exact car I wanted, a car that agrees with my every sense. Before I decided on it, I looked at virtually all other cars in the group, and then some. The Toyota Camry would’ve been very easy to live with, because it is – by far – the most popular car in Saudi Arabia, but I wasn’t buying a washing machine. The Honda accord was too expensive: Even the base Accord was pricier than the loaded Mazda. The same applies to the VW Passat, in addition to the fact that European cars generally don’t lend themselves to the harsh climate. I would’ve been behind the wheel of a Subaru Legacy, but at the time of the purchase, the dealer had shut down completely. Even with a new Subaru dealer having just opened, I have no regrets. The 6, however, has something all the others lack: Character.

Sure, like every car, it has its shortcomings, but the 6 gave me what I wanted (mainly capable handling) and suited me better than anything else. And to top it off, it has character, an intense flavor to it, unlike the plain vanilla of, say, a Toyota Camry.

Speaking of shortcomings, the major one is the lack of low-end grunt from the 2.3-L four-pot. This engine needs to rev beyond 3000rpm to really start pulling. Being an automatic further blunts its performance, making it mandatory to resort to the manual shift gate most of the time, mainly because the transmission is either too sluggish to respond at times, or because it shifts down too aggressively at others. A minor redeeming factor is that you pull back at the shifter to shift up and push forward to shift down, which is the way it should be, in my humble opinion.

The car can be very noisy at times, which is a known problem with pre-2006 cars. I have to turn up the volume on the sound system (which is excellent) to drown out the noise from the engine and tires.

One other thing that irks me about the 2005 model is that the steering doesn't telescope. If I adjust the seat to my liking in relation to the pedals and my back, the wheel ends up too far for comfort. I have to keep the seat back slightly forward to be able to grip the wheel securely.

But those are minor issues in what is essentially and excellent product. This is a well-engineered, well built vehicle that really satisfies a driver who sees driving as an art rather than an act. Handling (with the 17-inch wheels and tires) is sublime for a family sedan, with delightful steering response and turn-in. straight-line tracking is tack sharp - which was a major problem with my previous W124 Benz 300E (for some reason, it was uncontrollable in gusty side winds.) Body lean is minimal in fast corners, and it always feels stable and secure. The brakes are strong and straight, and the pedal feel reassuring and easy to modulate. Handling was a little compromised with the switch to 16-inchers, but that’s partly my fault: The original tire size was 215/45R17, and the correct size on 16s should be 205/55R16, but I made the mistake of fitting 215/55R16. Although I got a softer, quieter ride, these wheels are simply too big. They don’t hold their composure as well in fast corners, and they dulled acceleration even more. I’m buying a new set of 17-inchers to use for traveling in my vacation, and I’m going to try out 225/50R16 for my daily driving.

Build quality is variable, but generally excellent. There seems to have been a lot of thought going into some things, but a few things seem to have been mere afterthoughts. One example is the rear headlights. I can't think of a good reason why the inner taillights (the ones on the trunk) don't even have bulbs in them. The dealer would charge me money to modify them so they would light up with the outer ones. Another example is the way the carpet is cut around the ventilation tubes under the front seat. A third example is the key for the hazard warning flasher. It's too small and doesn’t light up when using the flasher. Illumination for the sunroof keys would've been nice, too.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 8th May, 2006

20th Jan 2007, 11:17

"One example is the rear headlights. I can't think of a good reason why the inner taillights (the ones on the trunk) don't even have bulbs in them."

That's odd. The dealer should put bulbs in them for free, or you should be able to put bulbs in them yourself. I have a 2004 Mazda 6 and all the lights light up. The ones that are on the trunk stay lit when the headlights are on, and the ones on the outside double as brake lights and tail lights.

28th Apr 2008, 18:00

I bought a 2004 mazda 6 with 30 miles on it. After 4 yrs and 81,000 miles on it the transmission goes. I never expected a brand new car to give this kind of problem. I had a saturn for 7 years with over 151,000 miles with no transmission problems before. This is the last time I deal with a Mazda vehicle.