Javelin SuperDork
Dec. 6, 2010 6:26 p.m.

Well the Miata is driving me nuts, and I think it's from having to rely on it everyday. The wife and I keep talking about adding a wagon to the fleet and we have looked at and test-driven some (Mazda6 wagon, Protege5, bugeye WRX wagon). I have been patiently waiting out a bugeye that's not a totaled rebuild (haven't found one with under 150K yet, let alone in the required WRB) or a 6 Sport with a stick and cloth (not a one, even non-sport). I like the P5 but she thinks it's a bit small and I'm worried it might be as well.

Anyways, while I was farting around looking at cars I started stumbling across Mazdaspeed3's. I remember that GRM had(has?) one in the project fleet, and I test drove one way back when I was shopping and bought the P71 and liked it. It's newer, faster, safer, and roomier than the other choices and actually seems to be available locally. I'd have to up the budget from $10K to $15K, but I think it could be worth it for 50K less miles and/or 5 years newer.

So, am I barking up the right tree now? What issue is the Buyer's Guide in (if GRM has done one, didn't see it online)? Any issues? Good with car seats? Decent MPG (ie - better than V8 Interceptor)? Reliable?

Thanks!

octavious New Reader
Dec. 6, 2010 6:40 p.m.

I can't speak on the MS3, but my wife drives a regular Mazda 3 hatchback/wagon thingie. Gas mileage, wise she gets around 28-30 with a mix of highway/interstate mileage. Best we ever saw was 34 on a long road trip once. Her's is an 08 manual with cloth seats. I think the seats are pretty comfy and the car is pretty fun to drive. Personally I think it lacks a little power, but I assume the MS3 would take care of that. Space wise its pretty good. It has a fair amount of legspace in the back. And if the driver is short, there is tons of room. The hatch is nice as it gives a little more packing room, but you're not going to be able to put the family of 4 in there and a weeks worth of luggage. Its more than enough room for a small family and all the stuff you must have to travel with a youngster. The interior is a bit cheapish in my opinion, but its not horribly bad. Ours has I think 60K miles on it, and all it has ever taken is gas, oil and one set of tires (just replaced). Other than that it has been a great car.

I spoke to a guy today (just happened to see him drive up in it for a meeting I was in) who drives a MS3 and he says he gets about 23-24ish with a mostly interstate drive to work. And he said the only bad was that it takes premium gas. I tried to talk my wife into the MS3 but she wouldn't go for it.

You'd have to check but I don't think the MS3's had cloth, I think they were all leather. I may be mistaken there so don't take my word on it.

Like I said its a great car and she loves it. I barely get the keys to it so my opinion is rather limited.

Good luck

Teqnyck Reader
Dec. 6, 2010 6:48 p.m.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDobNBVDjRc

If you'd like to know my opinion, watch that. If that's something that you'd like to do with the car eventually, you're choice is made.

JtspellS Reader
Dec. 6, 2010 7:39 p.m.

13-18k is the range for the 1st gen and that is anywhere around 25-55k mi.

I love mine, they do have some issues like any other car (Rear motor mounts weak, stock turbos flamethrower's after 19psi, PCV system is not the best in the world, like to through rods if you don't know how to tune or properly when modding) but still a blast.

On mixed driving 22-25mpg, sounds like something that would fit you well as it is still a family car.

RexSeven Dork
Dec. 6, 2010 8:45 p.m.
Teqnyck wrote: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDobNBVDjRc If you'd like to know my opinion, watch that. If that's something that you'd like to do with the car eventually, you're choice is made.

Ouch. I found the post explaining what happened:

http://www.gofastadventure.com/?p=70

I can pretty much vouch for everything JtspellS said about the Speed3. I already have a rear engine mount on the car and a oil catch can ready to be installed.

I love mine. The only reason I haven't raced it yet in autocross or a track day is because it's still under an extended warranty. Aside from a clogged EGR valve and a toasted wheel bearing (after driving on rocky logging roads while working at a rally race), it hasn't given me a problem, and I've put almost 20K mile on it in the first year I have owned it. Get snow tires- this car rocks in the snow.

Strizzo SuperDork
Dec. 6, 2010 11:36 p.m.

had an 07 GT, it was a great car. pretty much everything thats been said is true.

the turbo is near the top of its most efficient range at stock boost levels, but thats not to say that there's no power to be had by upping the boost. mine ran 13.7 @ 104.5 mph running sri, downpipe, and accessport tune. it was a hoot to drive on the highway, but once i put it back to stock i realized how nice it was to have a civilized car for the day to day commute that didn't try to tear the tread off leaving every light.

the theory was for a while that the pcv system was pooling oil and somehow dumping it into the intake and hydrolocking one of the cylinders. before that, the theory was that the balance shaft was somehow siezing up and causing the motor to toss a rod. not sure what the latest theory is, but i'd take it with a grain of salt.

the factory lsd is great, makes spirited driving much more fun as well.

JtspellS Reader
Dec. 7, 2010 4:56 a.m.

Forgot to mention, have taken it to over 10 auto-x's and 1 track day and you really the appreciation for this car out on course (with the right tires)

Only real issue (racing wise) seems to be that is awesome for DS but after you get out of DSP it kinda seems a lost battle.

dsycks Reader
Dec. 7, 2010 5:16 a.m.

I would second the looking into the non speed version. The 3's are great cars out of the box and with some bolt on's could be trackable as long as you don't long for killer hp.

Then again you would always add a turbo kit to the S version and make some serious power with lower premiums and lower start up cost as well.

Food for thought.

Klayfish Reader
Dec. 7, 2010 6:36 a.m.

Javelin, I can honestly say I feel your pain. I went through this exact same debate almost a year ago. Went to replace my '99 Protege. Narrowed down my search between an '06 Miata Grand Touring and an '08 Mazdaseed3 Grand Touring. The MS3 had been in a wreck, but I felt confident it had been repaired properly. Prices between the two cars were nearly identical. I so much wanted the MS3, but I let the internet forums (specifically the MS3 forums) scare me away because I read of too many problems with them. Engines going kablooey, turbo problems, strut problems, engine mount problems, etc... So I went with the Miata.

I love my Miata, but like you, the day to day living is starting to wear just a tiny bit on me. To this day, I really wonder if I should have chosen the MS3. Most of the posts I read on forums about MS3s blowing up were due to tuning, beating, etc...which I would be unlikely to do. Still contemplating doing the very same thing as you....ditching the Miata (as long as I don't take a bath) and going MS3. Wish I had the funds to have both, as the Miata is an awesome car.

Best of luck in your decision.

Javelin SuperDork
Dec. 7, 2010 7:55 a.m.

I guess I should point out that this car would stay 95% stock for me and won't see any track time at all. We have the Miata as a dedicated autocross car, I have a seat in a highly-modified Turbo 944 available, and sooner or later the Javelin will be ready for track antics. This will be my strictly daily-driver, ferry the kids around car.

So, leaving it pretty much stock (think springs/shocks, tires, maybe wheels, K&N) are they any good?

alfadriver SuperDork
Dec. 7, 2010 8:00 a.m.

In reply to Javelin:

If the plan is to mainly drive it on the road, I'd really ask if the turbo is needed or not... I don't mean to ask that, but between the cost of the car, and the worse mileage- are you really going to benefit from the turbo?

If the answer is yes- that's ok- I just want you to ask and answer the question.

twolittlebroncos
Dec. 7, 2010 8:02 a.m.

I can speak to the car seat/family segment. We have a regular 3 hatch. We have used it for weekend trips with the two kids (3 year olds) and had enough room. I wish the hatch area was more like a wagon. The other day I picked up 4 snow tires with my two kids in car seats in the back. I had to put the fourth tire in the passenger seat since they wouldn't all fit in the cargo area.

Back seat area is narrow. When we have our two car seats in there (both Graco Nautilus forward facing - big car seats) we cannot fit a passenger between the car seats unless they have no hips or are a small child (who should legally be in a car seat). Conversely, our Grand Cherokee can go 3-wide with the same car seats or comfortably fit a person between the two. I think this is probably typical of cars this size, but something to be aware of.

Our car is a 2004 2.3 5-speed and has just over 150k on it now. Needs new struts, has some vibrations when stopping from high speeds and the light behind the HVAC controls is going dim. Honestly, I just change the oil and put gas in it. It has been a great car so far. I drove a 2007 Impreza wagon the other day with about 40k miles on it and it felt more loosey goosey than the Mazda with 150k.

My gas mileage has been a pretty steady 31-33 mpg on average. Low tank was 27 mpg and high tank was right around 40 mpg. Almost all driving on highway/freeway.

Sorry for the brain dump. Hope this helps.

mndsm Dork
Dec. 7, 2010 8:51 a.m.

The ms3 you say? I may know a thing or two about those-

To answer a question that may previously have been answered- Ms3 is available with cloth seats. You'd be looking for a Sport Package, as opposed to a GT package. Prior to 08.5, the GT package had leather bolsters/seatbacks/headrests, and the same cloth centers as the sport model. After that, the GT package replaced the centers with alcantara. With the sport, you also lose the Bose (no big deal) HID's (easy enough to do, since all cars were equipped with projectors) rain sensing wipers (I like em, but they're picky sometimes) auto on/off headlights, and LED taillights. All cars were equipped with TPMS- and the sensors are in the wheels themselves.... so if you're a wheel whore like me, your TPMS light becomes a regular fixture on the dashboard.

People have previously mentioned the weak PCV, and they're right.... the stock PCV setup in the car SUCKS. Mine's fouled out after about 50k mi. Replacing it is not a real treat either, because from what I've seen, you have to get behind the intake manifold to do it, and that is a real treat in and of itself.

The rear motor mount is also known to fail, though less prevalant after 2007. There was a factory recall to replace the mount, if your potential car has NOT had it done, do so. I had mine fail on a road trip, and thank god I was 10min from a truck and a trailer I could get, because it shredded the entire driveline assembly on the drivers side of the car. (new axle, CV, etc etc).

Rear shocks have been known to be weak, though I've not experienced that personally. Seems that it's more prevalant with the let's slap some lowering springs on it and call it good crowd, though the jury is still out.

Turbos have also been known to eat seals.... AGAIN- it's with the modding crowd. Seems that poor tunes, downpipes w/o said tunes, and shoving it past like 19-20psi is the likely culprit..... same with the rods.

The biggest problem with this car is fuel. Always has been, always will. The injectors are MORE than capable of flowing anything you have to throw at them (seriously, 400+whp 3076 builds and STOCK injectors are at like, 38% duty cycle, it's just silly.) The problem is the CDFP (cam driven fuel pump) on the top of the engine. It's notoriously weak, and has been known to fail under high pressure. A lot of the popped motors/fragged rods/miscellanious horror stories you've heard can all be traced back to weak fuel. Various solutions abound, from uprated internals, to a whole new CDFP built for high HP applications, to one guy I know actually ran twin Walboro electrics up top. He won't tell me how the hell he tuned it though.

Now for the fun stuff-

This car responds VERY well to opening up the intake/exhaust side. An SRI and a mid/test/offroad/don't get caught in CA pipe is worth ~20whp.... been verified on multiple occasions, on various dynos.

If you wanna get tricksy, look into an aftermarket intake mani. I won't name names because I am sort of (my website anyway) sponsored by said people, and I didn't exactly pay for it, but I have a stage 3 ported intake mani that saw me gain 100cfm airflow. The ports themselves were varied like 25% from 1-4, and the VCTS was nothing but a way for air to not get where it needs to be. I'd be happy to point out where said part may be purchased from, and there are flow benches and dyno sheets on it as well, but I don't really wanna violate any rules regarding advertisers and whatnot, so I'll wait for clearance from Big Brother. Anyhow, the short of it was, I gained 100cfm flow, spooled approx 400rpm sooner, made ~+5whp ( could have been other tweaks I made at the same time, so tough to say... but it made more power than the car right next to it, with my identical mods, on the same dyno, back to back) and LOST 3 PSI. Should be LOADS of fun once I get 'er cranked back up.

Tuning is fairly easy, and there are a couple of crowds on this one. CP-E and Cobb. Cobb has recently released v2 of the AP, and people are seeing some pretty hefty numbers with the AP and AccessTuner Race. CP-E standback has been the go to for the big number guys since it came out, because of some internal flaws in Cobb's initial design that sent out wonky boost spikes and whatnot. I don't know about Cobb- but I know for sure that CP-E's tuner is capable of tuning for E-85, and that's worth some good power. IIRC, a STOCK cx-7 (same motor, smaller turbo) gained close to 30whp on an e-85 tune, no other mods. Now I don't know if the boost was cranked up on that one, so don't hold me to it.

Overall, the car is a lot of fun. I see ~28mpg mixed driving on a fairly regular basis. Clutch is strong, handles fairly well, and is practical when it needs to be. I'm sure there's more to the car I'm forgetting, so if you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask.

Javelin SuperDork
Dec. 7, 2010 10:32 a.m.
alfadriver wrote: In reply to Javelin: If the plan is to mainly drive it on the road, I'd really ask if the turbo is needed or not... I don't mean to ask that, but between the cost of the car, and the worse mileage- are you really going to benefit from the turbo? If the answer is yes- that's ok- I just want you to ask and answer the question.

Previous daily drivers in descending order:

  • 2001 Ford P71 Interceptor w/mods, ~300HP V8, 14.8's@95
  • 1988 Ford TBird Turbo, totally built big turbo motor, ~325HP, 14.7's@98 (had soooo much more in it)
  • 1992 Ford SHO, minor mods, ~250HP V6, low-15's
  • 1987 Ford TBird Turbo, gutted, stupid boost, mid-15's

Hmm. I just realized that every one of my DD cars has been a Ford. I had 2 DD pickups in there as well (both Nissan Hardbodies). Odd.

Anyways, I think I would need the turbo. The P5 seemed a little underpowered but was fun in a Miata sort of way. The WRX and MS3 are about the same power, and the 6 wagon isn't too bad since it has that nice V6.

I dunno. I probably don't need it, but I certainly would pine for it every time I saw one and was in my standard 3. I still regret not talking the wife into a GTP instead of her GP. Every time I drive the Miata the thought "this car would be soooooooo much better with a turb" immediately pops into my head.

alfadriver SuperDork
Dec. 7, 2010 10:42 a.m.

In reply to Javelin:

At least you won't regret going with the turbo- I'm glad you asked yourself.

And I assume the AWD MS6 is not part of the search? Had one as a test car, and it was darned nice.

Still, GRM has shown how good an MS3 can be, and how good it is. Hope you find one close that you like!

Javelin SuperDork
Dec. 7, 2010 10:53 a.m.

I'd love an MS6, but I really do need a hatch/wagon. We have a good size garden in the back that always needs work (4 3'x10', 1 L-shaped 3x12x5), I'm always dragging home wheels/tires and engines/parts, and we don't have recycling service so every other week we have 4 giant rubbermaid bins to take to the recycling center.

MA$$hole New Reader
Dec. 7, 2010 11:21 a.m.

I just traded in my 08 MS3 10 days ago. As a perfomance vehicle it was a hoot to drive, as a commuter not so much. I had a lot of little gripes with it, that & I had enough of my dealership that I traded it in for something more practical (08 Civic Si).

The MPG for these cars is not great for city/rush hour driving. In my 3 years owning the car I saw maybe 22 average. I saw 27.5 twice on long distance highway drives, but usually 24/25 max highway with a tune.

Rear motor mounts are an cheap fix with an upgraded one, as is the PCV system if you install an OCC to help it out some.

The only failure I had with mine was an upstream O2 sensor that stocked working at 8,100 miles, but it was covered under warranty.

mndsm Dork
Dec. 7, 2010 11:39 a.m.
MA$$hole wrote: I just traded in my 08 MS3 10 days ago. As a perfomance vehicle it was a hoot to drive, as a commuter not so much. I had a lot of little gripes with it, that & I had enough of my dealership that I traded it in for something more practical (08 Civic Si). The MPG for these cars is not great for city/rush hour driving. In my 3 years owning the car I saw maybe 22 average. I saw 27.5 twice on long distance highway drives, but usually 24/25 max highway with a tune. Rear motor mounts are an cheap fix with an upgraded one, as is the PCV system if you install an OCC to help it out some. The only failure I had with mine was an upstream O2 sensor that stocked working at 8,100 miles, but it was covered under warranty.

Commuted daily in mine for almost 4 years now, never had a problem. Different strokes I suppose. I also deal with creaky endlinks from my a/m sways and whatnot, and call it part of the plan. I also like driving my 100$ Taurus, for reference.

Strizzo SuperDork
Dec. 7, 2010 11:59 a.m.

mine got 22-24 in mixed driving, and i saw 29.5 with about 1/4 city and the rest highway on the cobb economy tune once, but it didn't make much sense for that car, and having a 4k fuel cut, so i only used it that one time. the downpipe and stage 2 tune brought highway mileage down to around 26-27 from about 28.5. somewhere i have a spreadsheet that kept track of mileage

Javelin SuperDork
Dec. 7, 2010 12:16 p.m.

That's better real-world mileage than my 1.6 Miata gets! (Probably because I have to spin it at 5K to get it to move anywhere approaching good speed)

mndsm Dork
Dec. 7, 2010 12:32 p.m.

Yeah, in all fairness, the other quotes are probably a better gauge than my car- I seem to have gotten a ringer in the MPG department.

mndsm Dork
Dec. 7, 2010 12:34 p.m.
dsycks wrote: I would second the looking into the non speed version. The 3's are great cars out of the box and with some bolt on's could be trackable as long as you don't long for killer hp. Then again you would always add a turbo kit to the S version and make some serious power with lower premiums and lower start up cost as well. Food for thought.

Tripoint makes a KILLER kit for this, and you could always look at some of the Puerto Rican builds......

Javelin SuperDork
Dec. 7, 2010 12:50 p.m.

Uh, I was talking about Strizzo's 22-24

z31maniac
z31maniac SuperDork
Dec. 7, 2010 2:37 p.m.

I average about 23ish my commute is 95% 45mph or above and about 85% is highway. 40miles round trip per day.

I'm also in a GenPu (2010) so it's a bit heavier, but same engine. I love mine as a DD, quick, handles reasonably well, I can put quite a bit of stuff in it.

RexSeven Dork
Dec. 7, 2010 3:50 p.m.

I get about 23-26mpg in my '07 MS3 doing about 70% highway/30% city driving. As mentioned previously, if you get an early '07, make sure the transmission mount recall has been done. Also, when looking at potential candidates, let the car idle for 5-10 minutes and check for white smoke. Some steam at start-up is normal, that is condensation being evaporated by the exhaust. If that white smoke comes out, then the turbo seals have blown. If you buy a MS3 and you get smoke while the car is under warranty, Mazda will have you switch to a 5W-40 or 10W-40 oil. If the car still smokes after the oil change, then they will replace the turbo. Pennzoil's Platinum and Ultra 5W-30 works really well in the MS3, which as fuel dilution issues. If you have to switch to a 40 weight oil, Shell Rotella 10W-40 is a good oil.

A rear engine mount is the essential modification for this car- it will reduce wheel hop and drivetrain lash and the shifter will feel slicker. Switching to Red Line, Amsoil, or Ford Motorcraft XT-M5-QS synthetic MTX fluid will help the shift action even more. You can also replace the intake tract ahead of the turbo and add a downpipe with no issues. Anything more than that and you will need to tune (like with a Cobb Accessport) and/or upgrade the fuel pump. You can tell the stock fuel system is overtaxed because the car runs out of breath at 5500rpm.

The car is really underdamped from the factory. It is hard on shocks/struts. I've heard of Konis failing prematurely on even regular Mazda3s. KW and Mazdaspeed coilovers are best for this car.

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