GTP Editor, GTPEDIA Author
- Rule 12
As I'm badgering people to post up their cars for the Members Cars features we're running on the GTPlanet front page, I thought I should at least lead by example and post (one of) mine.
This is the Turbotank, or a 2008 Mazda CX-7 2.3 petrol turbo, which I picked up in August 2021.
In essence, I needed a larger, newer, and slightly more day-to-day/long-trip suitable vehicle than our Mk1 Mazda MX-5, because I often drive a fair distance with some kit - and the MX-5 was booked in for a respray ahead of being passed along to eldest child - by virtue of my job, and some towing capability was a want/need due to... umm, let's call them "reasons". But I don't like boring cars, and I'm a bit of a Mazda bore so really I wanted Mazda.
My list of requirements then was:
- Not boring to drive
- Not slow
- Big enough to take stuff, also tow
- Not diesel (see point 1)
- Mazda (also see point 1)
With a maximum budget of £3,000, that basically spat out the CX-7.
It's a somewhat complicated vehicle - it's based on the same platform as the first-gen Mazda 3 (similar to, but not the same as, the second-gen) which means it's closely related to the second-gen Ford Focus and Volvo C30. However, as you can see, it's not a wee family hatchback, but a crossover SUV - designed by Moray Callum, if you're interested.
That doesn't exactly tell the entire story though because for the first three model years (2007-2009), Mazda only sold the CX-7 with one powertrain option: a 2.3-litre, turbocharged petrol engine good for 255-263hp (depending on year) and tied to an intelligent all-wheel drive system through a six-speed manual. If that sounds familiar, it's basically the Mazda 6 MPS/Mazdaspeed 6 powertrain... Yeah, it's quick.
Enter problem one: the UK introduced an emissions-based road tax system in 2007, just before Mazda introduced the car to Europe. That means that, despite a single trim level of really rather decent standard (of the day) and really rather good performance, the poor fuel consumption meant very high tax; new owners had to pay an extra £750 for the first year, and £415 a year after that. Oh and that latter value has been rising, so it's now £615 a year.
So... nobody bought them - Mazda sold ~400 a year before replacing it with a dog-slow diesel which also didn't sell - and as they've become more expensive to run, nobody bought them used either. Of those they did sell, poor maintenance (that engine is robust in standard form but runs very hot; if owners don't keep up with maintenance it pops) and the UK's salty roads accounted for about half of them; yeah, only ~600 remain registered in the UK. Also the cream interior version looks great in pictures but is awful in person, which narrowed it down further.
That means there's a lot of bad ones out there, and it took a while to find one; @homeforsummer even went to look at one near him (but a long way from me) for me, which was fine, but the dealers were arseholes. Eventually I did find a private seller with a black one (red is best, but black and blue are both great) with a few battle scars but under 90k miles and he was willing to go snap the underside for me. Mild downside - it was in Reading, which is a 550-mile round trip (half of which on trains).
Remarkably, despite being up for £2,300, the owner agreed on £2,000 flat, and I drove it home. And then it passed its MOT in October without a fuss.
Now... I was fully accepting of the fact it might be a rolling project itself, and it does indeed have foibles. It took a little while for the wee smell to go away (previous owner had a young child; it goes with the territory - at least it's leather in there), and I noticed some pretty unpleasant clouds at high rpm as well as an odd off-throttle thrust to the right. And the bodywork was pretty minging but at least straight and no particular scratches through the paint.
Job one then was an oil/filter change, which cured the clouds. An alignment check (as clued in by the odd wear patterns) revealed what I'd phrase as "hippo's teeth"; that's also got rid of the lurch. By and large though, everything else is a matter of maintenance. The tyres are okay but only technically (enough tread depth on enough of the tyre to be legal) so need replacing and the brakes are getting to be pretty poor; both are in the schedule ahead of its next MOT and before the roads become greasy and cold. It's also had a rust spot (rear wheel arch) removed and a general polish to get rid of the worst.
There's an aftermarket "GT Auto" unit for plugging an iPhone in. I don't have an iPhone, and it's also screwed the radio up. I'm making a plan to replace the entire headunit with a navigation/DAB+ item - which will be handy as it means I won't have to drive in a silence with my phone giving directions to the random places I go. It's not a vital item, but it's on the list... as is a remap, because the fuel economy is dreadful and there's a hole in the torque at about 2,500rpm. I'm cogitating a suspension upgrade as I don't entirely like the noises at low speeds right now, but with ~90k on the clocks it could probably do with a general tightening-up.
It's been making itself at home though with aplomb. Even my wife has been impressed, despite largely wanting nothing to do with it. Thus far it has been pressed into service as an incredible load-lugger; despite being generally rated poorly, this thing just destroys our Suzuki Swace estate for load space (10cm more load length, and over a metre between the arches). Our old Octavia estate, one of the highest rated cars of all for load space, is not its equal.
We've moved cabinets, mattresses, bookshelves, PVC windows, scaffolding, an entire dining table/chair set, and - although it took three trips - a whole kitchen including oven, hob, and dishwasher. In fact the only thing thus far not to fit in was a 2.4-metre sofa (no surprise as there's only 1.8 metres of load length), but it fitted for height and width so I roped it in place with the load eyes.
There's going to be updates to this thread as some of the jobs are coming up real soon... so watch this space!