Beauty with a price
I was looking for a long-distance highway cruiser, and discovered that instead of an ancient Lexus ES300, I could get a two-year old Mazda Millenia S for around the same money. I was living in the US and purchased the car in 2002 with 55,000 miles on it for US $14,000. It had sold for around $34,000 new. Herein is the catch: repair costs are always proportional to the original purchase cost, and not what you paid for it used.
When I bought the car, it needed brake work, and at around 62,000 miles I had the timing belt replaced. I consider these normal items.
What was not normal was the constant issue with the emissions control system. The check engine light came on regularly, and each time it did, it meant $800-1000 in work. The pre-catalytic converter failed, but luckily was still under warranty (barely) or that would have been $1200.
I believe that between 2002 and 2007, I probably spend $4500 in changing O2 sensors, but since then have only had to have a leaking valve replaced for $250 or so.
At around 95,000 miles, the left rear door lock actuator began to shriek and does not function properly. The driver's door actuator has subsequently been a problem, although not much of one: the doors can be opened manually and do lock with the remote. I have not bothered fixing them, as I understand it would be around $400 per door.
The chrome rims look nice, but after 100,000 miles I began to have consistent leakage problems. Chrome reacts poorly to other metals, and the result is some slight bubbling, not very visible, but enough to make the seal with the tires poor, causing slow leaks. I eventually changed the rims for a nice non-chrome aftermarket set from www.tirerack.com or similar vendor. I bought five for around $130 each, and replaced the space-saver tire with a real tire, since the car has a full-sized well for the spare.
The tires are rated for high speed. They are quite expensive to replace and no longer even easy to find, and I simply went for lower speed-rated ones.
At 110,000 miles, the Bose CD player stopped working. I sent it to an aftermarket specialist who fixed it, along with the cassette deck, for $400. It was easily to reinstall, but I used a radio shop to take it out.
I had a trailer hitch installed for a bike rack and this turned out to be complicated, involving various bits of cutting and welding, along with $450. It works very well, however, and the trunk is fairly spacious for your gear.
Except for the emission system problems, I think that the car has been remarkably good, and other maintenance (a new battery at 115,000 miles!) has been strictly routine. The car has, as intended, only been used for long-distance driving, and the gas mileage is acceptable for a heavy, luxurious car. It is quite poor in the city, not surprisingly.
The car is excellent for highway driving, although the seats could use some additional lumbar support. It is fast, comfortable and quiet. The luxury features, such as the heated seats and the premium sound system, work well. My car has the winter package, including heated mirrors and a limited-slip differential, and is fine for winter driving, although I would probably get snow tires too. The car is not a sports car, but handling, steering and braking are more than acceptable for this class of vehicle.
The build quality of the car is quite good, and except for the usual dings and scrapes with this kind of age, it still looks very good, with no signs of rusting anywhere, and the interior has held up well too. You don't see many of them around, so there is a novelty factor. And, to my mind, it is still one of the prettiest sedans ever built.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know
Review Date: 5th April, 2010