My no-longer-mine, 2008 Mazda3. Where do I start? My mom and I went car shopping as a gift for my graduating college with a 4 year degree. Of course our budget was on the lower end, and that left me to look at things like the Kia Rio, Nissan Sentra, Ford Focus, etc. I wound up deciding that for my lifestyle, a hatch would be the most practical. I was then between the Honda Fit and the Mazda3 hatch. There was no comparison. As soon as I started gently accelerating to pull out of the dealership for the test drive, I said, “This is my car.” We went to Honda afterward to do our due diligence with the Fit. The salesman saw I wasn’t impressed with the driving experience and did his darnedest to convince my mom I should buy a Honda because everything else was a deathtrap - the Fit had a timing chain, Honda safety ratings, the lot. My mom was really buying into it and was doing her best to convince me she didn’t want me to die a fiery death and buy a car that would need a bunch of maintenance. I stuck to my guns and told my mom why the Mazda was safer than the Fit for me and for where I lived at the time in NY - I wouldn’t need to worry about crash ratings if I didn’t have to crash because the Mazda actually accelerated enough to pull out into busy traffic. I didn’t know the Mazda also had a timing chain at that moment (or perfectly fine safety ratings) but it didn’t matter. I made up my mind and we went straight back to purchase the Mazda. I negotiated a great deal somewhat by luck, but also by sticking by what I wanted and knowing the dealer had a bunch of cars they needed to get off the lot from the previous year. And that was the beginning of a 12 year stint with my Mazda3.
I particularly was drawn to the small details. Build quality was excellent, especially for its class. It had leather shifter and steering wheel, as well as nice plastics all around, especially for the dome lights. It made the car aesthetically a really nice place to be. The seats were, and, still are the most comfortable road tripping seats I’ve experienced - and I’ve been in a fair number of cars. I particularly loved the purplish accents in the fabric seats (fun fact: I hate leather - it’s either freezing or scalding). The interior space was huge for a car so small. I carried more things in this car than most people carry in their pickups - 40 foot ladder on the roof, large paving stones for my patio, various construction tools and equipment, a 220lb mastiff, mattresses, and more. It never complained. We couldn’t even fit a lot of the stuff we hauled in Jeff’s much larger Audi A6 wagon because of the dimensions of the hatch opening. What a practical car the Mazda was.
I went from times where I was making 500 mile round trips every weekend, making cross country trips, to having a regular Boston area commute (1.5 - 3+ hours per day), to just using it around town. I put 141,000 miles on this car over the years, and it never complained or left me stranded.
Other than routine maintenance, the following are the only things it ever asked me for (worth noting, mostly within the last 5 years I owned it): a gas cap, serpentine belt, shocks, AC compressor, couple of tie rods, and a brake light switch. The only thing I really needed for maintenance was a bottle of WD-40 and carb cleaner (no, really).
Needless to say, I was really excited that we were getting the new Mazda3 Turbo in the US. With modern features, an attractive price, and that Mazda driving experience, I was sure to love it. You can see our blog about it here. Overall, while it’s not a GTI or a true hot hatch, it’s still a stellar car in its class for what you pay. I really wanted to buy one because I still love how it drives (with one gripe that I was potentially willing to look past). In the end, I left the dealer feeling super frustrated that I’m just a hair too tall to feel comfortable and safe driving it, let alone my taller family and friends. What a huge let down. I still feel the next car for me is like finding a needle in a haystack. This made letting my Mazda go incredibly hard.
I sold this car just a month ago because no matter what parts I replace, it doesn’t have that feeling it did for the majority of its life. At the end of the day, it was a tired economy car, and I finally decided it was time to move on. But it still stings. I still love that car, partly because it was a constant in my always changing life and never gave me a hard time throughout my biggest struggles. It gave me the best gift - freedom. It is going to be a great car for its new owner, still mechanically sound and nearly as pristine inside as the day I drove it home. I know it was time, but the day I sold my car I feel I also sold a piece of myself.