Sedans are meant to be the pillars of an automobile manufacturer's lineup, the vehicles which form the backbone of sales thanks to their practical image that makes them a good fit for almost every driver's lifestyle. Four-doors, seating for at least 5 passengers and a good size trunk are an easy value combination to understand, and as sedans are offered at a variety of price points they can appeal to a wide range of buyers.
Without a little bit of personality injected into the mix, sedans can often fall into anonymity due to their rather homogenous set of characteristics. For this reason, brands often attempt to develop a specific sporty, luxurious or utilitarian image in order to support a marketing strategy that helps them define their vehicles in the market. BMW is a notable success in this regard, transforming their sedans from yuppie accessories into the 'ultimate driving experience' in the course of less than two decades.
Mazda was a company whose sedans risked oblivion in the early 1990's. While they were well built, comfortable and pleasant to drive, the smaller car company's attempt to field a fully flesh out lineup met with general consumer apathy. Mazdas were seen largely as basic transportation appliances, no matter how many premium features were crammed inside. Their more luxurious vehicles enjoyed a cult following, but they were unable to build a stronger customer base in the face of stiff competition from Toyota and Honda who dominated the import car market.
The dawning of the new millennium saw Mazda adopt an entirely new strategy when it came to advertising their sedans. The company had always been known for their sporty coupes and convertibles, notably the RX-7 and the Miata, and they attempted to transfer some of this performance image into their four-door cars as well. Using the tagline 'Zoom Zoom', Mazda not only talked the talk but also went about re-designing their sedans to offer as engaging a driving experience as their front-wheel drive platforms would allow. This meant a major refresh for both their entry-level compact sedan and their mid-size offering, as well as a gradual phasing out of their top of the line luxury vehicle. Public response to the new Mazda was quite positive, resulting in a renewed surge of enthusiasm for the company's products.
This article discusses the 3 best used sedans available from Mazda, which covers both the vehicles on the crest of the automaker's new performance wave as well as the best automobile from the old guard of Mazda products.
1999 - 2002 Mazda Millenia
When Mazda saw the success that Toyota and Honda were enjoying with their North American luxury brands, they too became interested in capturing a portion of the premium car market. Plans were drawn up to create a new Mazda division that would focus solely on exclusive, high feature cars, but hard times forced the company to scale back their ambitions and the vehicles that were originally planned as cutting edge brand representatives were released with relatively little fanfare under the standard Mazda badge. Perhaps one of the most compelling of these automobiles was the Mazda Millenia.
The 1998 - 2002 Mazda Millenia represents the last gasp for Mazda's luxury hopes before the company turned in on itself to focus on their sporty new sedans and coupes. The Millenia is an interesting blend of tradition and the forward-thinking philosophy that has been displayed by many of Mazda's automobiles. The base Millenia is outfitted with a 2.5-liter V-6 engine that pushes out 170 horsepower through a 4-speed automatic transmission. The Millenia S, however, makes use of a much more interesting Miller Cycle engine. Displacing only 2.3-liters, this 6-cylinder manages to trump the base engine by 40 ponies, all while getting much better fuel economy. This is thanks to both the unique Miller Cycle combustion process and the presence of a supercharger to help knock out some impressive on-road performance.
The 1998 - 2002 Mazda Millenia's interior is typical of 1990's Japanese luxury, with tasteful and restrained leather and wood trim backed up by simple instrumentation. Heated seats, cruise control and steering wheel-mounted audio controls are some of the vehicle's standard features. The Millenia is large, with space not an issue for rear passengers. The sedan also underwent a refresh in 1991, which consisted mostly of exterior tweaks to the body panels and trim pieces to bring it up to a modern design standard.
As a novelty, the 1998 - 2002 Mazda Millenia fits the bill nicely, an uncommon used sedan that will fly under the radar through speed traps while providing excellent comfort to all occupants.
2004 - 2007 Mazda MAZDA3
When attempting to connect with the youth market, most car companies lead the way with their compact vehicles. Smaller cars are often priced at a level that is friendly for first time buyers, and they are also usually lighter than mid-size fare, which reduces the performance penalty imposed by their 4-cylinder engines and increases their fun factor when it comes to handling. At the forefront of Mazda's new performance-oriented image is the MAZDA3, a small sedan which incorporates all of the above features in a tightly styled package.
By taking advantage of a global Ford platform also shared with Volvo, the 2004 - 2007 Mazda MAZDA3 incorporates the benefits of modern chassis development with a range of interesting engine choices. The base sedan makes use of a 150 horsepower, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, while higher trim levels are treated to a 2.3-liter unit that makes 160 horses and 150 lb-ft of torque. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard equipment for either power plant, and either a 4 or 5-speed automatic can be selected as an option, depending on the year. Weighing in at around 3,000 lbs, the MAZDA3 is a feisty competitor when it comes time to carve up exciting hairpins and switchbacks.
For value-conscious buyers, the MAZDA3 can be found in an extremely barebones trim, with manual door locks and a complete lack of the typical amenities found in newer automobiles. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to upgrade the car through options packages, adding such niceties as air conditioning, anti-lock brakes and side-impact airbags. Leather seats are also available. The MAZDA3 is definitely on the small side when it comes to interior accommodations, but the trunk is fairly generous, and compact car buyers will not be taken aback by the size of the vehicle's accommodations.
The 2004 - 2007 Mazda MAZDA3 is a used sedan that should appeal to anyone looking break out of the ordinary when it comes to economical, compact vehicles.
2003 - 2007 Mazda MAZDA6
The mid-size sport sedan market is a crowded one. There is no doubt that when it comes to attracting buyers, nothing helps seal the deal like a little bit of sizzle. As a result, many automakers offer quick and fun-to-drive editions of their standard four-door family cars, and some even attempt to give every mid-size vehicle in their lineup a performance edge. Despite these tough odds, in 2003 Mazda re-purposed their 626 sedan as a peppy option for Japanese car lovers looking to escape the boredom of the Toyota / Honda hegemony.
Even entry-level 2003 - 2007 Mazda MAZDA6's are well-equipped to entertain drivers seeking more than just basic transportation. A 2.3-liter, 4-cylinder engine that produces 160 horsepower is par for the course for the MAZDA6, but the real fun begins with the Sport model, which crams a 3.0-liter, 220 horsepower V-6 between the front fenders and lets drivers loose with a 5-speed manual transmission (later upgraded to 6-speeds). A manu-matic 5 or 6-speed transmission is also available for drivers who prefer to let the gear shifting take care of itself. The MAZDA6 easily surpasses the mid-size sedans built by its countrymen when it comes to cornering and road-holding, making it an inspired choice for rapid family transportation.
Inside the MAZDA6, care has been taken to not only ensure that occupants have enough room to stretch out and relax, but that the fit and finish of interior materials is top notch. The MAZDA6 represents the top of the Mazda line, and as such it can be ordered with perforated leather seats and carbon fiber trim, as well as a Bose stereo system and a number of other comfort-related options. While it would never be mistaken for a luxury car, the MAZDA6 incorporates many features that would have been restricted to that class of vehicle only a few years ago.
The 2003 - 2007 Mazda MAZDA6 is a revelation, a sincere upgrade from the previous generation of mid-size four-doors from Mazda and a solid used sedan.