Zoom zoom zoom.... But which one?
September 14, 2017 5:02 PM   Subscribe

I am in the market for a new to me car. I would like something a little fun and sporty. I think I've narrowed it down to a 2006 Mazda3 with 56,000 miles and one owner, or a 2006 Mazdaspeed 6 with 101,000 miles and two previous owners. I like that the mazdaspeed is AWD. But maybe it would be more expensive to maintain in the long run and I could get by with snow tires on the 3? Help me decide which best fits my needs!

Currently I have a 2001 Toyota Highlander with 250,000 miles. I love the heated seats, Awd and leather interior. Its been very reliable, but I'm bored of driving it and it is bigger than I need most of the time and I hate paying for gas in it. So I'm looking for something a little smaller and fun but still practical to replace it. Four doors, decent handling in the snow.

Is there a big difference between cost to own a mazda3 versus a mazdaspeed6? The AWD is very appealing to me in the mazdaspeed but I would like something with decent maintenance costs as well. I'm wondering if the turbo and whatnot are a little more than I actually need in the long run and would cost significantly more for routine maintenance?

I live in Reno, Nevada so we do get snow. Would I be just as well off with snow tires on the mazda3?

I am open to general anecdotes, opinions, experiences, information about the 3 vs the speed6 that might be helpful in trying to make my decision. Trying to find the right mix of fun and sporty with economical and practical.

I believe I would like a Mazda based on my research thus far, but I am also open to other car suggestions! I have owned a manual Honda Accord in the past which was a tiny bit more fun than my SUV but ultimately bored me as well. am looking for a manual vehicle ideally. I have looked at subarus but ultimately the inside feels a little plasticky and lacking to me.

Something that might be helpful: I'm really a truck girl at heart, my dream vehicle would be a lifted ford or dodge 4x4 diesel, but no way can I justify the fuel costs for the terrible mpg at the moment.
posted by Malleable to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total)
You will want to know whether a Mazdaspeed car was fucked up by an idiot racer, and 100K miles is enough time to pull some pretty stupid tricks. With luck, time spent over-revved and other relevant info might be on the obd2 system or otherwise evident in a mechanic's check.

If you are looking at Mazda 3s you should also look at Ford Focuses. Foci? Same platform.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:35 PM on September 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Check for rust in the usual Mazda places.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 5:51 PM on September 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'd avoid the speed3 only because the kids who drive them usually drive them hard. I'd take the lower mileage/one owner vehicle for sure. I actually owned a 2007 Mazda3 in a manual transmission and lived the hell out of that car- it was tons of fun.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 6:00 PM on September 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

You could try to test drive a Subaru Impreza, similar body style as a 3, fun to drive, but better suited to your climate. My friends in Reno love theirs.
posted by quince at 6:09 PM on September 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I own a manual 2011 Mazda 2 (with a little over 100,000 miles). I'd go for a Mazda 3 in a heartbeat.

The tires on the Mazda 2 are a weird size and even in Chicago I can never get them same day. We just ended up buying a full sized spare .

Mine has handled great in the snow with regular tires, and even though I have the tiny engine I'm very happy with it. Having front wheel drive only has never been a problem.

The maitence costs have been pretty good, though mine is starting to show some quirks with the audio system.

On edit (rule breaking sorry!): I also drive the hell out of my car. It's fun.
posted by AlexiaSky at 6:34 PM on September 14, 2017

My fiancé was in the same dilemma as you last August. He ended up picking the Mazda 3 because for reasons that other users have already mentioned, he didn't want to deal with a turbo'd car that other owners have almost certainly abused heavily. You have to replace turbos every 20-75k miles, depending on how it's treated, so expect that as part of the cost of maintenance.

If you don't have the full Carfax report, you might not know how the car was treated, so I would scrutinize the shit out of the maintenance history. And you would be filling the Mazdaspeed 6 up with premium gas (it is a performance car, after all). This is a non-trivial amount of added expenses.

As far as winter driving and snow tires goes, Mr. Snacks bought studded snow tires for the Mazda 3 and drove it on a 2 month long winter road trip to several different ski resorts this past winter. It drove like a champ! Mazda 3 with the snow tires is more or less the equivalent in handling of a Subaru AWD vehicle.

Anyway, while we're making suggestions, I just bought a VW GTI which I consider the happy medium between the Mazda 3 (no turbo, less HP) and the WRX (too expensive, notorious for getting ridden hard and treated poorly). I love love LOVE driving this car. I highly recommend looking at a used GTI if you're ok with the turbo/gas costs in exchange for better performance (and more fun to drive!), but you don't want to pay significantly more just for an AWD Subaru. The interiors of the GTIs are better too, imo, bucket seats and leather steering wheels etc etc (drool).

The GTI is a FWD car, but same winter driving situation applies: snow tires on the GTI and you're golden. A few small caveats with the GTIs: the most common issues are intake manifold and water pump failure. Look at the Carfax for each one to catch the problem ones, and make sure to factor that in to your maintenance costs.
posted by Snacks at 6:49 PM on September 14, 2017

Here's my similar previous ask. tl,dr: a used MazdaSpeed is a baaad idea. I went with a new Mazda3 and have been quite happy with it.
posted by bendy at 8:23 PM on September 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'd go with the one-owner Mazda 3, which is plenty zippy and will almost certainly be fine with snow tires. I'm another VW GTI owner (I love it so much) and agree with Snacks--with snow tires I felt perfectly comfortable driving around town in the snow, although I probably wouldn't off-road or anything.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 8:25 PM on September 14, 2017

Oh--you may want to check what those 2 cars would cost to insure. My guess is that the Mazdaspeed would be considerably more.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 8:26 PM on September 14, 2017

My Mazda 2 I've driven from. Chicago to West Yellowstone in dead of winter no snow tires. Handled the mountains, ice and snow like a champ . There was one out two places that required chains, handled that fine too. Mine Isn't super fond of very very cold weather (think -25F OR MORE below) but we replaced the battery before the trip for this reason and it made it through.

For this reason I wouldn't really recommend snow tires unless you are just generally uncomfortable in the snow and ice or are planning offroading or something.
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:31 PM on September 14, 2017

I bought a used 2005 Mazda3 last year. The Carfax was a must, and it helped alleviate my concerns about buying used. Don't skip it.

Overall, the car has been great. It runs well for a 12-year old. It's a manual, and the clutch still feels tight. I drive it in good (sunny summer) and bad (snow-covered) roads on all-season tires. They work well. The car feels stable at highway speeds and on icy back roads.

I have the smaller engine version (2.0 liter, 140hp), so if that's also what you're considering, you might not get as much pep from the engine as you would from a Mazdaspeed (2.3 liter, 270hp), but you'll also be wrestling a much heavier car (~2700 lb for the 3, ~3,500 lb for the 6). My small engine gives me everything I need. It's all about how you drive it.

Your mileage will also drop a lot with the Mazdaspeed6. It will probably get 23 combined. I get about 30 combined.

I'd be happy to answer any questions through Memail.
posted by mr_bovis at 10:41 PM on September 14, 2017

We have a (newer) Mazda 3, live in Vermont, and it does just fine in the snow with snow tires. I wouldn't want to drive it without snow tires, but it snows a lot more here than in Reno.
posted by papayaninja at 5:41 AM on September 15, 2017

My current car is a 2012 Mazda 3, and I recently sold my late husband's 2006 Mazdaspeed 6. The speed 6 is an attractive and powerful car, but I agree 100% about being wary of how the car has been treated. People don't buy that car to drive sensibly and gently. It requires premium fuel, so it can be expensive to drive. He bought it new, and it wasn't super expensive to maintain, but definitely more expensive than my Mazda 3 (which is a different generation than the one you're looking at).

He modded the crap out of that car, and it got so powerful that I found it uncomfortable to drive. But stock it was a lot more fun to drive than my 3.

When we lived in Colorado my husband put snow tires on the speed 6 and it was basically unstoppable.
posted by jeoc at 6:38 PM on September 15, 2017

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