Buying an automobile doesn't have to feel like going through a car wash without a vehicle.
Last year, I assumed “car wash” was the case. So with trepidation and a budget around $22,000, my choices were narrowed to the 2016 Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic and Mazda 3. “Probably the Honda or Toyota,” I thought.
Test driving the Corolla and Civic led me here: “Well, if the Mazda 3 isn't much better, it's onto Hyundai and Chevy Cruze.” I was seeking a smooth mid-size car ride in a compact vehicle. Not sub-compact. Also: I wanted a stellar car built around a great sound system. Oh yeah a sunroof, too. Was I wishing on a star? Maybe. Mazda was my last hope before expanding the search, which sounded more like a project than a pleasure.
I cold-called Martin Mazda in Newark, DE. Told the salesman who picked up the phone that “look, I'm not buying, just comparing. And if I happen to fall in love with the Mazda 3 – not likely because I'm picky – but if I happen to fall in love, I'll compare your 'rock-bottom' price to the other Mazda dealership in the area.” Yowl, that spiel prompted an answer which almost disoriented me. “That's what I would do, Len,” said the salesman, Tracy Thompson.
What? A salesman who was agreeing I should try somewhere else – maybe first? How could that be? I was expecting something like, “We won't be undersold...etc.” Even if this was terrific salesmanship and reading of the customer on the phone, I was impressed. Impressed enough to make an appointment with Tracy Thomson late Saturday afternoon. But he was busy with another customer and so there I was with Tracy's colleague, Brian Matt. Would I now get a hard sell? Hardly. I test-drove the Mazda 3 Touring sedan (not top of the trim line) and, wow, the car drove far better, firmer than my used Altima. The Mazda 3 itself was the best salesman of the three. Without “3” love, it would be impossible to walk down the aisle to the salesman's office for the dotted line.
But that's what happened. Brian, with Tracy nearby (a split commission), made an offer of less than $22,000 for a compact that sold itself, plus a sunroof and enough Bose speakers to make a downsized concert hall sound pitch perfect. The price was just $3,500 more than subcompact 2015 Honda Fit I had briefly considered a couple years ago – no sunroof, no Bose speakers and not a comparable ride.
So that's my Mazda 3 story. After the fact, it gets even more reassuring. One of the two salesmen, Brian Matt or Tracy Thompson, calls every six months to make sure things are okay. Note: They're not trying to sell me something. The car's under warranty for two more years. I also get six-month email notices from Martin's Service Department. No charge there, either.
Am I exaggerating about the car itself? Don't think so. Read the following (it's brief). Apparently 2017 is even better than my 2016 Mazda 3.
Roy Morgan Research survey finds Mazda (and Volvo) have jumped last year's top three
“Mazda has narrowly slipped ahead of Volvo to take outright honours in a survey of owner satisfaction conducted by Roy Morgan Research (RMR).
The market researcher's 'Automotive Satisfaction Report' was compiled from 40,000 interviews over the course of the year ending July, 2017. It's a follow-up to the 2016 report, which placed Mazda fourth, after Lexus, Skoda and Isuzu Ute.
For 2017 Mazda overtook all three of those brands (out of 24 brands surveyed), and so too did Volvo.”
That's 40,000 interviews, more than many political polls. To me, that's a soft sell hard to ignore.
- Len Rosen