I purchased my 2007 Mazdaspeed 3 with just under 10,000 miles in September 2008. I too had the occasional turbo smoking issues and VVT actuator recall which Mazda took care of (2007 models were prone to this). The only issues that I had was replacing the timing chain $800 @ 110k miles and thermostat $180 @ 130k miles. This car delivers so much to what todays car try to duplicate. Now 7-1/2 years later with 150,000 miles on the clock it runs as great as ever. Holding on 'til 3rd gen comes out.
Pros: Fast, Reliable, Easy to Maintain, Utility - You can pick one up now for a good deal (2007-2009 Gen 1 Models) Cons: None really
I had the s Grand Touring Hatchback Mazda3, and I only say "had" because I lost it in a flood this month. It was without a doubt the most fabulous car I've ever owned. Mechanically perfect, exceptionally safe, hugged the road like a warm sweater, comfortable, gorgeous - everything I wanted in a car. The basics were outstanding and the high-level bells and whistles were even better. The only problem I ever had was with the navigation system joy stick - it would, literally, intermittently stick and not allow me to input things, so that I couldn't finishing adding an address I wanted to navigate to. As many times as I took it to the Mazda dealership for this, it never did that for them - so it never got fixed. But that is IT for cons. It hauled a s***-load of stuff in the hatchback, while at the same time looking like a "poor man's BMW" in the interior. Beautifully appointed and the "cockpit" was intuitive (except for changing the time!) - everything was where you would expect it to be. This was going to be the last car I ever owned - and would have been, considering its reliability, if it weren't for the rains...
Here is my take away from owning a MS3 for about 8 years. Here are the cons. There were quite a few annoying issues and repairs that needed to be done. There was the notorious smoking issue that needed to be fixed. I replaced (by Mazda) the turbo (because of annoying turbo whine that sounded like an ambulance was always behind me), valve/solenoids, suspension 2 times, and I had issues with the Transmission freezing up on cold days (Mazda dealer couldn't solve after 3 transmission fluid changes). I also did not like the creaking noise the suspension made on cold days or how the transmission didn't like to be rushed. The rear seat was not very comfortable for any adult passenger and a baby seat was a bit tight to fit in. The fog lights were useless with the HIDs. This car was just OK in the snow. Costs for a MS3 will be a lot more than a regular Mazda hatch. Now for some positives. The MS3 was just fun to drive. The stiff ride made you feel confident on turns and the turbo had some good pickup. There was a lot of room in the back if you folded down the back seats. I even hauled a full sized futon across state and transported my Kayaks on top without any issues. Overall, I enjoyed this car a lot and did take good care of it, but it was quirky and a little expensive to fix.
The old man would have loved the Mazdaspeed3, too, even though he was a Porsche guy. I bought my Gen 1 new in 2007. It just turned 96-thousand miles and I have loved each and every one of them, especially those on California's coastal mountain range. Many an older Mustang, BMW and Corvette has been surprised by this mighty mite.
There are 3 things every Speed 3 owner will need to deal with: smoke, the clunky 2 to 3 shift, and the rear bar which comes loose and needs to be re-torqued periodically (in my case, twice in 8-years).
First the smoke. The car was allegedly spec'd with the wrong size PCV. There are 2 fixes. First, run "the pill" or some sort of restrictor in the crankcase vent tube. Look up "the pill" online. It's made by a company in Washington, I think. Second, start running 10W-30 synthetic motor oil. No more smoke.
When you start hearing the rear bar "clunk" as you go over the curb into a driveway, it's time to have the dealer torque it town again. 20-minutes and no more smoke.
Finally, the 2 to 3 shift problem was supposedly fixed in Gen2 models. For Gen 1 you can go to more slippery transaxle fluid like Royal Purple or Redline and that will begin to mitigate the problem. Next fix would be a good short shifter kit at around $150.
Other than those things, it has been the most fun car I've ever had. The bright red paint is even more eye-popping than ever. I also had a Gen1 RX-7 with great red paint like this. Only complaint is that in order to replace everyday items like a PCV or thermostat, something big, expensive and time-consuming has to come off first...
Loved it at first, then things started falling apart. Broken motor mount recalled, EGR failure, Started smoking at idle at about 30k miles. I replaced the turbo inlet pipe, valve cover vent (added restricter). Made my own oil restricter bolt 66 instead of 98, swapped out the bpv and springs and shims, still needed a custom tune to up the idle to 1100. Now I find myself babying the thing so the turbo won't blow. Canada made Mazda recall the k04 turbo. We didn't get so lucky here in the USA. So unless you're a mechanic or really good with a wrench stay away from this year and maybe a few others too.
Turbo when it is not smoking and suspension when the rear sway bar doesn't pop off.
Upgrade the EGR system.
Better ecu tune.
Better LSD instead of restricting the 0-60 in first and 2nd gear.
Better motor mounts.