It was like 5 years 7 months back since I own my Mazda 3 BM model but it wasn’t my first choice. At the end of 2014, I was thinking to get myself a newer car, as my Hyundai Accent that time was already close to 10 years old. I know I am a pretty OCD person and driving a new car on busy roads in Penang is pretty stressful for me so a whole new car is never in my mind.
I was looking for a used Mazda 3 BL, as I personally like the design of the car and I was looking into handling of Mazda but can’t find one I like. My parents also object in getting a second-handed unit because of maintenance costs. Therefore, I went for a test drive for a new Honda Civic FB and it was good enough compared to my old car. Comfort ride, good handling and spacious rear passenger seats but I do not make the decision on the spot.
Then suddenly I thought about checking out the new Mazda 3 BM. So I check one out at a Mazda showroom. Simple interior design and material used is different level compares to its rivals. Despite the less spacious rear seat, the steering feedback, stability, and drivetrain response really impressed me. Mazda also offered 3 years or 60k km free maintenance and 100k km warranty.
After some waiting, I finally got my car in early 2015. Wanted soul red but it was already out of stock, Bermaz was making way for CKD units later that year. I decided on Titanium Flash Mica colour, as I guess it would be special. Next day, I made a long-distance drive from Johor to Penang directly as I am working in Penang but I purchase the car from a known salesman at my hometown, Johor.
How is the drive?
The Skyactiv-G engine with Skyactiv Drive 6 speeds automatic transmission combination are really one of its kind. The power delivery from the drivetrain is smooth and linear. Although the transmission tends to hog to highest ratio as soon as possible for fuel economy purpose, but the Mazda 3 doesn’t too resistant to downshift either. A little bit more input on the throttle, the transmission will happily drop one gear for you to unleash a bit more power for you to do mild acceleration. If cruising with overdrive ratio and wish to have more power for overtaking purpose, a deeper depress on the throttle and the transmission will not hesitate to drop two gears directly. Being a torque converter base automatic transmission, the gear shift is not as fast as cars equipped with a dual-clutch transmission that I have driven before. However, it delivers pretty class leading responses compare to its Japanese rivals.
Don’t wish to wait for the transmission to do the job? No worry, there is paddle shifter behind the steering wheel, allowing the driver to downshift or upshift himself. It has a safety measure for not allowing further downshift if the downshifting will make the engine and transmission rev over the limit. Therefore, the owner does not need to worry about damaging the drivetrain. There is also a full manual mode on gear selector if owner wishes to fully control the shifting by himself. Restricting the transmission from getting into overdrive ratio, and push the car to 4000rpm to summon the full torque on an open road, is something enjoyable as owner.
The handling of the car is always putting a smile on my face. The steering feedback is direct and responsive, although the Mazda 3 is equipped with an electronic power steering system. Factory fitted with Dunlop Sport Maxx TT 215/34 R18 rubber, the car cornering performance is amazing, as it grips well to the tarmac. The ride of the Mazda 3 is slightly on the firm side for being a family car, partly due to the original fitted UHP tires with thin sidewalls. The suspension tuning. It is acceptable to me and in fact the chassis and suspension are one of the reasons I bought a Mazda. Cruising on highway speed limit on PLUS highway, the Mazda 3 is stable and allows me to handle some mild corners on confidently. On the downside, noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) are on the louder side, partly due to the performance tires and insufficient undercarriage insulation.
Issues that I encountered throughout ownership
Thinking of a new car will be hassle-free? Nope, it seems like it does not go that way. However, I guess I am pretty lucky compares to some other owners that I encounter, after joining Mazda 3 Skyactiv (Malaysia) Club. Firstly, the infamous knocking noise at front suspension when going through uneven road or speed bump. Upon inspection by the service centre, it was due to premature wear of front lower control arm rubber bush. A replacement was done and my Mazda 3 is back to its healthy state. Sadly, the issues come back again after some time, and I have sent in for a total three times of replacement only the issue is solved totally. Luckily, all replacements are done under warranty claims. However, the knocking noise comes back recently, after three years plus since the last claim. I guess it's time for me to send for wear and tear repairing of the suspension system. In addition, the knocking noise when going through uneven road can also be caused by brake caliper guide pins. I manage to solve mine when I replace them to custom made aftermarket caliper pins.
The second issue I encountered is battery gotten weak within 1 year 10 months of ownership. The car is equipped with Q85 Enhanced Flooded Battery (EFB) for its i-Stop system, not normal valve regulated lead acid (VRLA) battery. As the battery was not well known in the market that time, the replacement is expensive compare to a normal battery. I was lucky enough to able to claim a whole new battery, as that time Bermaz was yet changing to 1 year or 20k km battery warranty policy.
There is also some mild rattling near A-pillars and rear panel behind the rear passenger seats, when going through uneven. It didn’t happen when the car was new, but it occurred since 3 years back. However, I choose to live with it as I believe when plastic gets old, it may get harden. Simply dismantling it and find out the root cause may cause more harms than good, if unfortunately broken some clips as they are plastic parts. In addition, it will not cause any catastrophic failure that may affect my driving safety.
As part of the Skyactiv umbrella, fuel economy is something Mazda is targeting for. Frankly speaking, the fuel economy of this car is decent in real-world driving. I am travelling between Bukit Mertajam – Georgetown – Bukit Mertajam during working days. The heavy traffic jam is something unavoidable especially during my return trip from work. However, I manage to get average fuel consumption around 6.9-7.3L/100km, which to me is pretty fuel saving for a 2.0 naturally aspirated C-segment sedan.
Besides that, I have done before driving all the way from Kota Tinggi, Johor to Bukit Mertajam, Penang, without refuelling in between. When reached Bukit Mertajam and refuel, there is roughly 10L of fuel left in the fuel tank, as I manage to pump in around 41.047L of fuel. With a total distance of 680km clocked in 7 hours 10 minutes, it translates to fuel consumption of 6.04L/100km. The car is fully loaded with luggage and my personal belongings until the suspension is being compressed from clearance of 4 fingers down to 3 fingers.
When I purchased the Mazda 3, it comes together with free maintenance package for 3 years or 60k km, either one comes first. The free maintenance included parts and labour charge, thus, the owner only need to make an appointment with the service centre and drive the car there on the appointed day. It is a bonus for the owner as it helps to save partial cost of ownership, at least for the first 3 years, compares to the competitors at that time. The only downside is the free engine oil given was semi-synthetic engine oil, and the owner needs to top-up for the price difference if wishes to upgrade to full synthetic oil.
My warranty ends together with the free maintenance, which is 3 years period. Following with the end of the warranty, I choose to maintain my car at workshop outside instead of Mazda service centre. Thanks to joining Mazda 3 Skyactiv (Malaysia) Club, I manage to get know a Mazda specialist workshop, Endurance Power Centre, located at Bukit Jalil. The workshop owner is also a Mazda 3 BM owner. He is willing to share his knowledge on car preventive maintenance to his clients, and patiently explain to the owner on what is going to be done and what is the expected outcome. As I am very particular on my car, and having a good chance to learn more about the car, I drive down to KL from Penang every 6-7 months once for maintenance. While having a few days escaping trip to KL, I also grab the chance to meet up with friends who get know each other from the car club.
So, Is the maintenance of a Mazda 3 very expensive when comes to the time owners have to fork out the money from their own wallet? Based on what I experienced and some feedback from friends who drive the same car with me, a basic oil change with oil filter and labour will cost around RM300-400. The price comes with reputable full synthetic engine oil with proper certification and original Mazda oil filter, and the price mainly varying base on the engine oil of choice.
While Mazda claims automatic transmission fluid (ATF) for Skyactiv transmission is lifelong and no replacement is needed, being someone old school, I still change it every 20k km or yearly basis. The total cost for ATF replacement with labour included is below RM200, and it is considerably cheap for a car with this price point. I personally don’t see any reason for me to not changing as I believe maintaining the fluid chemical and physical properties at the optimum range will ensure the transmission works flawlessly, while ensuring the longevity of it.
As a car enthusiast myself, I aware that having a direct injection engine, my car will not be able to escape from its fate for having intake valve deposits. If it is not being solved, it will hinder the car performance and increase the fuel consumption. Therefore, in April 2019, I have decided for intake valves cleaning and installs an oil catch can for my car, while doing routine maintenance. At 52k km mark, which is considerably low mileage for 4 years and 3 months old car, the amount of intake valve deposition is actually surprised me. After the intake valves cleaning and oil catch can installation, the car becomes more responsive and easier to maintain its cruising speed with light tap on throttle.
The 2014 Mazda 3 Skyactiv is a car for someone who enjoys driving and appreciate the handling of a car. It is actually a special car and not a car for everyone. Low resell value, tight interior space, loud NVH were comments I was facing from relatives and friends around me when I purchased the car. Even so, I am still enjoying the Jinba Ittai philosophy of Mazda when behind the wheel. The car still makes me smile when I am driving it, despite 5 years and 7 months of ownership currently, and I definitely will take care and keep the car as long as possible. With this car, not only I able to learn new stuffs about modern cars, I also manage to grab a bunch of new buddies who shares the same hobbies. Thus, it is also something meaningful for me throughout the journey of my life.