Earlier this year I bought a 17-year-old orange Mazda6 sedan on a whim, because I loved the color, and already had a Mazda6 that was a year older and 12k miles more worn. The color never fails to make me smile, she’s in good shape, and passed the state inspections no problem, and has no quirks that aren’t easily remedied with time and effort (though I haven’t yet gotten around to most of them) and maybe some strategic financial expenditures. I love the heated seats this time of year, along with the moonroof. She’s a fun drive even outside of the boring midsize sedan segment, and I’m proud to call her my own.
However, her previous owner wasn’t the most fastidious of caretakers (dents abound, there’s some blemishes that need a sanding and paint correction, and a few other niggles - again, nothing some effort and time can’t fix, and maybe a little money). Rubber parts naturally fail over time and while there’s nothing yet needing replacement, I know there’s the likelihood within the next year or so. The radio/HVAC panel sometimes doesn’t work, but it’s a short drive and I know my preset radio stations, and have memorized the HVAC settings that aren’t the defrosters (since they have their own buttons). She won’t win any beauty or performance prizes, but that’s not why I got her. I’m also not the biggest fan of sedans - 5 doors are my preference - especially because they don’t have rear window wipers, which I strongly prefer since I park outside and I like being able to see out the windows when they’re closed without waiting on the electric defroster.
Pragmatically, there’s a few shortcomings: she only has 2 airbags. I typically drive less than 10 miles a day (commuter car), and my job has me travelling at lower-trafficked times of the day, so accidents are less likely. (Before anyone chimes in: Biking is out because of hills and the lack of showers at/near work). Gas mileage is never going to be great because hills + short drive. FWD has its limitations, especially in snow (yes, I know tires make a difference, not the point here), and my job requires me to be there every day to open the department, if not the store. As I mentioned, there’s no rear wiper. I rarely carry passengers, but I like to have the option handy if needed e.g. Treating my department to lunch or driving friends to an event. However, the car is paid off, and there’s nothing that could go wrong with it that I couldn’t afford to fix.
TL;DR 1: I like my paid-off car that I spend less than 30 minutes a day in, but she’s aging and has some issues. As a result my eye has wandered...
...to a Suzuki SX4.
I’ve always liked the SX4, and told myself that if one came up in a good color and in good condition with acceptable options, that I should get it. I appreciate that its name is a tribute to the AMC Eagle SX/4, which was ahead of its time in many ways, as was the SX4 as we’re witnessing with the small crossover craze.
First, the best parts: Hatchback (“Crossover”, not the “Sportback”, but either way it’s just a taller-than-average hatchback, only cosmetic differences between IIRC), AWD, blue, and very good condition inside and out. The AWD also has a legit locking mode, which I’ve watched numerous YouTube videos on, and it does pretty darn well. It’s certainly more capable than what I need.
It’s easier to get into and out of compared to the 6, and the dead pedal actually works as a functional footrest, unlike the far-away sliver the 6 has. The sideview mirrors are delightfully big, and are equipped with defrosters, like my 6's.
It has modern features my 6 doesn’t have, like satellite radio (meh!?) and an AUX port (ooh! No more FM broadcasting from my phone!). It also has many airbags, I think 6. That’s more airbags than restrainable occupants! I don’t plan on crashing, but they’re called accidents for a reason.
The car still has time and mileage left on its powertrain warranty! I’ve never dailied a car with a factory warranty! My wife has that luxury with our purchased-new 2016 CX-5, but I’ve never had it. Oddly enough, the Suzuki dealership (formerly a Subaru, Isuzu, and Suzuki dealership, now just Subaru) is closer than the Mazda dealership, not that I have any intention of using either beyond recalls.
Here’s the so-so parts:
It has just over 80k miles travelled in 5ish years, so mostly highway miles, I guess. I’d have preferred fewer miles but at least it’s been being driven.
It’s the “Premium” trim, which, oddly, is just the mid-level trim (“Technology” is the top trim). The trim names don’t make sense. Whatever.
It is equipped with an autotragic. In fact, it’s a (trigger warning!) CVT! Ahh! Run! But don’t, really, because I’ve driven Suzuki’s CVTs (in the Kizashi and SX4) and they’re darn good for what they are. Way better than Honda’s, Nissan’s, and Subaru’s efforts (even the newest ones), and roughly on-par with Ford’s and Toyota’s. The manual option for the year only had 5 forward gears anyway, so mileage is actually rated higher with the CVT. Plus, the aforementioned hilly commute makes driving stick a PITA, or, rather, a PITLL (left leg).
Now the downsides:
Daytime Running Lights in the form of low-power headlamps. They’re on all. The. Time. Ugh. If/when I buy the car, I want that useless function disabled, or else find some way to change it to something (modern-style LED DRL somewhere? I found some aftermarket headlamps with the ugly “string-of-pearls” LEDS, for instance. I want to be able to have the headlamps off, in short. I haven’t yet experimented to see if the exterior lightscan just be left on all the time and if the car turns them off after being locked or something, but that could be acceptable.
Expense: My Mazda is paid-off. This 8-model-years-younger and 12k-mile less-worn Suzuki would be about twice the amount I spent on the Mazda. It’s still less than market value (hooray working for a used car dealership!) and the money isn’t the problem, it’s the impracticality of going from one paid-off car to having to pay-off another. I can easily sell the 6 for more than I bought it for, but I wish I could practically keep both (wife wouldn’t allow it!).
Features: Yes, the SX4 is newer, safer, and has better tech than the Mazda. However it lacks fog lights which I use, as I drive a lot in the dark, so extra illumination is genuinely helpful. Due to the lack of fog lights and other fearures, the car has 3 button blanks on the left of the steering wheel (and 2 on the console between the seats) to remind me I don’t have all the options this car offers (though all US-spec SX4s lacked at least 1-2 of the buttons that could go on the dash). It also doesn’t have leather, seat heaters, a moon roof, 6-disc CD player (I think? Only seemed to want to take 1 disc), a sizeable center storage cubby, and other things I’ve grown used to. Some of these are able to be remedied (Katzkin conversion, seat heaters are an easy addition but less necessary woth cloth seats; i like being able to use the seat heaters so the windshield defroster can run).
Ergonomics: A lot similar to the Mazda’s, but smaller buttons that are harder to distinguish at a glance. They’re more -or-less better than my pre-1990s cars, and still better than a lot of new vehicles.
Power: I’d be giving up almost 100hp and much torque. This would actually be the 3rd or 4th least-powerful car I’ve owned and dailied, and then it still has to do AWD duties as well when needed.
Side-to-side room is snug. Really, room in all directions except up and down are snug but not bad. Again, passengers are rare but they happen. Getting in and out is easier and faster than my coworker’s mid-90's Jeep Cherokee 5-door.
There’s some unknowns, like long-term seat comfort, turning agility, handling closer to limits (there’s a 90-degree turn at a 5-way intersection near my house that - with traffic flow - I like to take slightly fast, and my Mazdas and Volvo have done well on it) and in emergency situations, especially as a taller vehicle.
Tiny fuel tank. Under 12 gallons!
TL;DR 2: I like my Mazda, but the Suzuki is a good vehicle and more practical but not as luxurious. I fear I’d kick myself for not getting the Suzuki, but I feel... Guilty?? Privileged? Something? For having recently gotten the Mazda.
Thanks for feedback/input. I know this was long, so if you’re still there, it’s appreciated.
More to come. Bedtime...