A shiny new family car sits in our garage. And as it turns out, life doesn’t always go as planned: I was supposed to drive my first car into the ground before buying another;
my our next car was to be a used one, not new; and, no way was I going to buy a minivan (even though he wanted one) – I would choose a SUV, even a pick-up truck over a minivan if we had to go up in size (but not a crossover, because I don’t understand the point of those). But my reluctance eventually became a compromise: this one is smaller than a typical minivan and we found a friend willing to buy our old car, one that has served us well for the past 10 years. j.w is happy because he gets to drive a new car, which he has always wanted but never had before and he gets a minivan mini-minivan / microvan – in red too!
And so, we’ve joined the Mazda family.
Pros and Cons
There aren’t many vehicles to choose from that meets
our my requirements if we were going to upgrade: Asian make (American cars are infamous for breaking down sooner and European cars tend to be more expensive to maintain), more than 5 seats, spacious, drives okay, smallish, easy for children to get in and out – or to carry in and out. The nice-to-have sliding doors really limited our choices down to one car that wasn’t as big as a minivan: the Mazda5 – but we were okay to forego that had we found something better. In terms of form factor, it’s not the most stylish vehicle around but contrary to popular opinion, we actually prefer this generation’s look over its earlier counterpart as I didn’t like the vertical lights which gives the perception that car is taller and spacey. The price of the vehicle seems more affordable than those than fit 6+ passengers in other classes (crossovers, SUVs, minivans, pickup trucks) but comparable in price point to the Kia Rondo; I was just surprised that the base price of this vehicle was about the same price of my ’05 Civic SI sedan – either prices of cars haven’t gone up much in 10 years, or Honda vehicles are valued so much higher than Mazdas (which would make sense as well)! Compared to my mother in-law’s van (Sienna), it feels more agile and zippy, which I like because it feels more like I’m driving a regular car still.
The downsides? Fuel economy rating isn’t the greatest for a vehicle this size as other bigger cars outperform it and it seems to be on its way out: Mazda discontinued the manual transmission (not that we drive it), US has already phased it out, and 2016 and 2015 models are exactly the same (minute differences in curb weight and fuel economy, and a $500 difference in price), and as an everyday vehicle, practically, it’s only a 4-seater; the other two seats take up cargo space and isn’t the most ideal for long(er) legs (ie. adults). I was a little surprised to find that it seems like more of a no-frills vehicle, with little compartments to store items in – especially up front – compared to my old Civic, and even to the Rondo. I just hope that the Mazda reputation for rust will not follow vehicles in this generation; the sales person tried to assure me that quality has gotten better since its Ford partnership and the fact that it is manufactured in Japan.
The Test Drive (and Purchase) Experiences
When I initially agreed to test drive this car, I was somewhat hoping that I wouldn’t like it as I had my reservations about Mazda; that it would feel too big or bulky and their service would be like my first test drive experience with a Mazda3 (at a different dealership), but surprisingly, that wasn’t the case. A couple of months had passed, and I didn’t know whether there was any progress with either dealership discussions or on the sale of our car and to me, it seemed that time was running out because year-end stock tends to dwindle by the fall (in favour of clearance prices and next year’s models) and I had thought it was almost time for our friends’ to become new parents (and by extension, life momentarily stands still). I was indifferent about whether to upgrade our car or not – it was more so an opportunity than a need. I didn’t feel like we were very aggressive in terms of negotiation, but some searching on the internet and unhaggle.com gave us a ballpark on what to expect in terms of invoice price and the lowest prices (one site rated room for negotiation as 27% or marginal) and we ended up negotiating by asking for accessories – which we could’ve gotten as a cash discount, but we opted to keep the accessories that were on our wish list anyway. It’s a good thing that j.w asked about tinted windows, because she ended up throwing that in too. By the end of the day, we heard that they are supposed to make at least a $400 profit on a vehicle and at least 10% profit margin on accessories – whether that is true or not is what we don’t know. We also appreciated that they offered a courtesy trade-in service, so that we could save on being taxed full price on our vehicle (and the buyer will have to pay tax anyway). This experience was a much more pleasant one – the salesperson seemed knowledgeable and patient enough, to the point of offering stickers and crayons for the toddler, and offering to read the manual from cover to cover out loud for us (though she says no one has taken up her offer yet). They even provided a CarProof report on our old vehicle (based on the VIN) for our friend to review! Though, I am still surprised that it showed that my car was in a police-reported accident in Ottawa?! I was the only owner and driver of my car at the time of the report (August 2006), and a search through Gmail suggests that I was in KW the weekend it allegedly happened because I offered a friend a ride to a farewell party. If the left front of my car was damaged in an accident and the police was involved, wouldn’t I remember?
From the time of our first test drive to our purchase date, my sister and brother-in-law decided to sell their Fit (also to someone they knew) and buy up. They were originally looking for a used vehicle, but the dealership’s offer for a new Kia Rondo ended up being very near their asking price, plus extra accessories and service perks to boot! (like lifetime car washes and oil changes). They raved so much about their new car that we decided to test drive one, since this generation’s Rondo is different from the 2011 one that I test drove years ago. Maybe we gave off a different vibe, but it seemed like the Kia salesperson wasn’t really interested in negotiating or trying to accommodate us either. I was especially surprised that they gave us a 5-seater Rondo to test drive and when we asked for a 7-seater, they just told us that the third row is practically useless and wouldn’t fit any adults. They did try to up sell us a Sorrento, which seats 8, but I felt so claustrophobic in the back – as if there was no room to escape / harder to get in and out with the high second-row seats. I was also surprised the sales person sat in the vehicle on our test drive, which makes me feel that I can’t discuss things with my husband as freely. I was surprised that I didn’t like the 2015 as much as the 2011 one – despite it looking more stylish. As a short person, I found my feet hung off the ground on the passenger seat (and you can’t adjust the vertical height) and the dashboard seemed really deep with really thick/chunky A pillars, so despite heated seats and other nice defaults, it wasn’t a favourite of mine.
So while we could’ve test drove other cars, we didn’t.
My husband and I tend to share some similarities but usually he is happy to just go with the flow; I am the opposite. As a planner, I like to be control or at least aware of what’s going on, and being punctual (even though I find myself late too often). During most of this process, I felt that my hands were tied and that I was constantly asking j.w about updates or the status of where we were at in our conversations with either the dealerships or the buyer because I was minimally involved (except I was the one responsible for the paperwork and pickup) – is that how a project manager feels? (if yes, then I’m even more thankful that I didn’t end up on that path). At times, I felt like we were playing broken telephone: I would pass on a message but then it either was ignored or misinterpreted, or that I was told one thing but changes happened last-minute whether it was the salesperson telling me she didn’t need to see the car in-person, but expected to last-minute (because of an incident that happened during the week that required a change in policy), or j.w sending me to get the car safety-ed and e-tested an hour before I was supposed to complete the buy-and-sell transaction, waiting for the shop to complete the work, figuring out the logistics in terms of payment, pickup and drop off points, and then rushing from an unfamiliar location in Cambridge back to the dealership, which basically meant I had negative buffer available to use to get to the appointments on time. Additionally, had I known that our friend was going to get the winters mounted, I would’ve probably asked j.w to change it first to save them money. You know I’m stressed when I begin to compare this to wedding planning…
At least I learned a few new things while waiting at the mechanic our friend uses: a) high mount lights are the brake lights at the top of your car – I didn’t even know they weren’t functioning and wonder how long they have been out for (and grateful yet curious why no police officer pulled me over for that); b) they are also used by Forward church (for their vans) – a big church in Cambridge; and, c) at the end of the appointment, someone seemed to recognize me – I think maybe from a dinner party at a friends’ place in Cambridge a few nights earlier.
So, it’s goodbye Honda, hello Mazda. I pray that we can bless others with this car too – just maybe not driving people to and from hockey (which my car was used for a lot during the first few years). We’ll see where the next 10 years takes us…!