Zoom Zoom!

Two weeks ago today, Casey and I made our covert trek down to Burnsville Minnesota. The mission: to pick up our new 2004 Mazda3. We kept the purpose of our trip a closely guarded secret – I can count on one hand the number of people we told. This is a surprising feat, considering both mine and Casey’s relative inability to keep secrets to ourselves. The fun of surprising our families made it well worth the secrecy though!

I’ll start at the beginning. In early June I took our Oldsmobile Achieva in for some required recall work and requested that the service guys also take a look at the front brakes at the same time (I had been hearing a “clicking” sound every now and then while driving). They later reported back that while there wasn’t any urgent service work required on the braking system, some parts would eventually need to be replaced at a cost of about $500. This began our talk of trying to sell the Achieva while we could still get a decent amount of money for it. Since Casey and I got married in June of 2002, we have only put about 7,000 miles on it, so it was still in very good condition. Later in June we decided to start trying to sell the Olds, so we took it in to Valley Car Wash for a complete detailing and then listed it with CarSoup and the Grand Forks Herald, which automatically listed us with as well. The end result: several calls, one test drive, and one scam email. My hopes of selling the Achieva for Kelley Blue Book value slowly turned to reality: there isn’t really a big demand for a mediocre styled and mediocre powered family sedan. More on this later.

While all of this was going on, we also began researching new cars. We started by looking at the Pontiac Vibe, which had received high ratings from Consumer Reports and some automotive magazines. We saw a couple in person at a local dealer and liked their style, but we never had a chance to test drive one. Then, while on the Pontiac web site one night, Casey was looking at a comparison between the Vibe, the Mazda3, and another vehicle. According to Pontiac’s own data, the Mazda3 not only costs less, but includes more standard options and equipment. Needless to say, this quickly got our attention.

The next weekend was the Forth of July weekend, which we spent the majority of in Fargo. We took the occasion to visit Lunde Mazda, our closest Mazda dealership. Before showing up, we had found a 3 matching most of our wants by using the inventory search feature of the Mazda website. We located it upon arriving at Lunde, and looked at it while waiting for a sales person to come talk to us. Ten to fifteen minutes later, we were still looking and waiting, so we went inside to talk to someone. We asked a sales guy if we could test drive that particular Mazda3, and he went and got the keys, handed them to us, and told us to let them know when we got back. No asking for our names, no request to see a drivers license, no offer to ride along with us. We went for our test drive and stopped half way through to swap so we both had a chance to drive. We were both really impressed. We liked the looks (a lot), the interior was comfortable, and it drove very nicely. When arriving back at Lunde, we went back inside to drop off the keys and the manager found someone who knew more about their Mazdas (they also sell vehicles made by Saturn, Lincoln, Jeep, and Mercury). We had already done a lot of research at that point, so we both knew more about the 3 than the sales guy did, which was somewhat amusing. He gave us he card and told us to let him know if we had any questions. Overall, very very low pressure. I almost wonder how they sell any cars.

The following Tuesday, I began looking through the various inventories of area Mazda dealers to find potential candidate 3’s for us. There were quite a few Mazda3’s available in Minnesota, but our wish list quickly narrowed down our options:

  • 5 Speed Manual Transmission
  • Moonroof and CD-Changer package
  • Leather Interior

It appears that there aren’t weren’t many 3’s that matched what we wanted – the vast majority of them came with automatic transmissions. Color wasn’t a major issue for us, however – we were open to almost anything as long as it wasn’t Lava Orange. I came up with about eight different 3’s that matched our necessary list, all of them in the Twin Cities area. One in particular got my attention, and it happened to be located at Walser Mazda in Burnsville. I called their Internet sales manager to ask about it, and found out that it was actually on its way to the United States from Japan and would arrive at the dealership the last week of July. Casey and I discussed it, and we decided to put a deposit down.

On the last Monday of July, we received word that our Mazda3 had arrived at Walser. They still had to install several accessories and apply window tinting, so we arranged to pick it up on Friday of that week. By this time we hadn’t sold the Achieva either, so we decided that trading it in would be the least problematic route. So, we left Fargo early Friday morning so we could make our 10:00 am appointment at Walser. The whole process was surprisingly pleasant, and went very quickly. Walser offered us a trade-in price for the Achieva that, while about 1/2 of what we were attempting to get by selling it ourselves, was still acceptable. Less that two hours after we arrived, we were out the door with our new Mazda3!

Our day was still far from over, however. Earlier that week, I had arranged to have 3M Scotchgard Paint Protection Film applied to our 3 by a man who came highly recommended on the Mazda3 Forums website. We drove to the north end of the Cities (Ham Lake to be precise) to his little shop, where he applied the film to the hood, side mirrors, and the vulnerable areas around the wheel wells. I was very impressed watching him work – he did an amazing job. He even found and fixed several small air bubbles in our window tinting that we probably wouldn’t have even noticed otherwise. Afterward, we began our trip back up to Fargo, where we finally arrived at about 10:30 pm that evening. All in all, it was a very long day, and we were both very ready for bed at that point.

Two weeks later, I’m happy to say that we’re very satisfied with our purchase. It’s a blast to drive, and so far, it’s the only one we’ve ever seen in Grand Forks. Incidently, we’ve been noticing a lot of Pontiac Vibes on the road lately, making us even more happy that we have a car that is much more unique. Our one and only problem thus far is a rattle that comes and goes in the driver’s door. Casey took it down to Lunde for warranty work to fix this yesterday, but unfortunately we now have a new rattle higher up in the door. We’ll see if it disappears after a bit (unlikely) or if we need to take it in again for another tweak. I realize we’re nitpicking at this point, but it is a new car with only about 700 miles on it, and it shouldn’t have anything wrong with it – not even a rattle in the door. Thankfully, we’re covered by a very good warranty!

For the interested, pictures of our Mazda3 can be found on Flickr.