APA Members have full access to past and present vehicle reviews. Here are some examples of our most recent Lemon Aid Used Car Buyer's Guide.

Mazda 3 (2004-2009)
Nissan Altima (2002-2006, 2007-2009)
Ford Escape (2001-2007, 2008-2009), Ford Escape Hybrid (2005-2007, 2008-2009), Mazda Tribute (2001-2007, 2008-2009)

MAZDA 3 (2004-2009)

Overall Ratings
2004-2006: Below average (well below average with 2.3L and manual transmission)
2007-2009: Average

Model Change Chronology
2004: 3, in sedan and hatchback forms, replaces the Protegé
2006: Five-speed automatic available with the 2.3L engine
2007: standard side and side-curtain airbags and ABS. MazdaSpeed 3 released
2008: Mazda releases a 2008.5 model, including a GX 2L hatchback
2009: Short model year as 2010 model went on sale early in 2009

Body style  Four-door sedan, four-door hatchback
Engines  2L-4, 2.3L-4, 2.3L-4T
Transmissions  5M, 6M (2.3L-T only), 4A, 5A (2.3L 2006-2009)
Drive Systems  Front-wheel drive

Sedan and versatile hatchback body styles
Good cabin fit and finish
Carefully developed ride-handling compromise

Mediocre reliability on 2004 models; pick a 2007 or later model
Some expensive repairs starting after the fourth year of ownership
Higher than average fuel consumption for a car in this segment

Mazda’s refined and fun-to-drive compact replaced the Protégé for the 2004 model year. Both engines provide good performance, with the 2L being more economical than the available 2.3L four. Roomy in front, with reasonable space in the back seat. Very good headroom. Very popular, with lots of examples available used. Prices, once high, have moderated. The 3 sedan sells for little more than a Hyundai Elantra of the same vintage. A base GX sedan without a power group or air conditioning will cost less; conversely, a 2.3L hatchback (called Sport by Mazda) will cost about $2000 more than a mainstream 2L sedan. Oddly, white cars can command a price premium over other colours.

2004-2005, and to a lesser extent, the 2006-2007 models: a lot of problem areas, including; engine failure and engine mount failures, automatic transmission failures, prematurely worn alternators, lit warning lights, and rapid rear brake wear. After 100,000 km, a noise heard when idling could signal a worn throttle butterfly in the air intake ($360: please fill out the form on APA.ca if you have experienced this problem). Some air-conditioning system failures have been reported. The 2.3L engine does not appear to be as reliable as the 2L (check APA Alerts). 2L engine: more reliable than the 2.3L, but excess oil consumption is possible due to valve interference.

Sway bar links (failed), wheel bearings (loud; not replacing them ($80 each) could lead to hub failure ($250), ignition (misses), air conditioning compressor (noisy), rear brakes (wear, clean rust off the rear brake pads twice annually and lubricate the parking brake mechanism), heater fan (the resisters on the first two speeds fail frequently).

2004-2006: poor paint adhesion: very vulnerable to rust at welded joints, rear wheel wells, lower body areas and lower doors and the roof pillars. Dealers can correct this rusting courtesy of a warranty against rust perforations which has been extended to six years for original owners. Drain holes on the lower doors can freeze in the winter, retaining salt and water. Log on to APA.ca to find details on a shop that can apply an anti-rust compound to help slow down the corrosion. 2007-2009: rust resistance appears improved.

APA Alerts
2.3L with manual transmission: 1) oil consumption can begin around 80,000 km, check the oil level during oil changes and keep your service records to avoid Mazda denying a warranty claim. The catalytic converter of cars affected can become progressively blocked. The related part is often on back-order. 2) The connecting rod bearings can fail, typically in the number one cylinder. Inspect the engine and the catalytic converter prior to end of the warranty. Please complete the form on APA.ca if you have experienced this problem.
2004-to the start of 2007 production: 1) the door locks offer insufficient protection against theft. Dealers will install door reinforcements without charge. Contact the legal firm of Woods and Associates (dbourgoin@woods.ca) to join a class action lawsuit against Mazda. 2) rust and leaks are possible in the transmission oil return line; dealers will replace the lines free of charge.
Recall of 2004 models: a crack in the airbag crash zone sensor housing may allow water to enter the sensor, cause a short circuit, illuminate the airbag warning light, and cause the airbag to not deploy in a frontal crash; dealers will inspect and, if necessary, replace the sensor with a modified part.
Recall of 2007-2009 models: intermittent loss of power steering assistance: dealers will replace the electric servo, steering fluid and some of the steering lines.


NISSAN ALTIMA (2002-2006), NISSAN ALTIMA (2007-2009).

Overall Ratings
Altima 2002-2006: Average
Altima 2007-2009: Above average
2002-2003 Altima with 2.5L engine: Well below average

Model Change Chronology
2002: third-generation Altima introduced.
2005: exterior facelift and upgraded cabin trim. A five-speed automatic was optional on V6 Altimas. A sporty V6 SE/R model was introduced.
2006: standard ABS. Last year for the third-generation Altima.
2007: fourth-generation Altima released
2008: Altima coupe and hybrid sedan joined the lineup.
2009: No changes of note

Body style  Sedan
Engines  2.5L-4 (2002-2006, 2007-2009), 3.5L-V6 (2002-2006, 2007-2009)
Transmissions  5M and 4A (2002-2006), 6M (SE-R 2005-2006, 2007-2009), 5A (3.5L 2005-2006), CVT (2007-2009)
Drive Systems  Front-wheel drive

Lower prices than for the Toyota Camry or the Honda Accord.
2004-2005 models: good availability and very affordable (about $2000 cheaper than a Camry of similar vintage).

The 17 and 18 inch tires wear quickly and are expensive to replace.
2002-2003 models with the 2.5L engine: the heater is slow to warm the car.
2002-2004 models: avoid the 2.5L engine as it can burn oil excessively.
2002-2004 models: cheap looking cabin plastics and indifferent assembly.
2007-2009 models: standard tire-pressure monitors complicates winter tire installation.

The Altima was redesigned for the 2002 model year in a much bigger format than its predecessor. The strong V6 produced 240 horsepower, but was teamed with stiffer suspension and bigger wheels and tires, which hurt ride comfort. The four-cylinder versions of the Altima had a more absorbent ride than those powered by the V6. 2005 models featured a minor facelift outside and a heavily revised cabin with more pleasing shapes, more attractive components and improved assembly. The V6 engine gained 10 horsepower. A V6-powered SE-R model was offered with a six-speed manual transmission. Its large disc brakes prevent the installation of winter wheels and tires less than 18 inches in diameter; a winter wheel and tire package for this car could cost up to $2000. 2006: ABS brakes became standard equipment. Redesigned for the 2007 model year on the more robust Renault-Nissan D-segment platform. Much improved chassis, refinement and fit and finish. Overall performance is at the top of the class for Japanese-branded mid-size cars.

2002-2006 models: the use of oversized wheels and tires combined with firm shock absorbers on V6 variants cause the suspension to loosen, leading to squeaks and rattles as the cars age. 2002-2006: catalytic converter material on 2.5L cars can find its way into the combustion chambers, causing overheated engines and excess oil consumption, which, if not monitored, can lead to engine failure. Dark engine oil is often an indicator of this difficult to detect engine problem. 2002-2006 cars with the V6 engine: neglect oil changes and risk timing chain failure. See the entry on the Murano for more details. A knock in the steering column that seems to come from the steering rack is a sign that a steering column joint needs to be replaced ($150 plus one hour in labour). 2007-2009: insufficient reliability data, with few complaints received thus far. The warranty of the CVT has been extended to 10 years/200,000 km.

2002-2006 models: front and rear disc brakes (warped rotors on the front brakes and seized calipers in the back), steering rack (torn rubber boots), power steering (rusted fluid lines), ball joints on V6 cars (premature wear). 2.5L engine: clogged air filter after 20,000 km (inspect it every six months or at each oil change). V6: coolant leak on the right side of the engine block or from one of the radiator hoses, lit check engine light.

2002-2006 models: check the welded joints of the side window frames. Accumulated salt and water on the carpets can attack the topside of the floor due to poor factory rust protection. Dry out the floor and use heavy rubber mats during the winter to keep moisture off the carpets and the metal floor beneath. Place newspapers between the carpets and the rubber mats as an extra precaution to prevent corrosion. Visit www.apa.ca to get the name of a shop that can apply an anti-rust compound to this area for around $50.

APA Alerts
Winter tires for the 17 inch wheels on V6 models can cost from $200 to $240 each; and they will be worn out by 25,000 to 30,000 km. Good quality 205/65R16 winter tires ($140 to $150 each) mounted on steel wheels can be cheaper. Starting from 2007, this is more expensive due to the tire pressure monitor sensors.
2004-2005 models: the rear subframe could rust and crack, causing a suspension knock. Nissan will replace the rear subframe bushing and apply an anti-rust compound; if rust in the subframe is advanced, Nissan will replace the subframe.
Recall of 2002 cars with the 2.5L engine: road debris caught by an exhaust pipe hanger pin could be ignited by the catalyst; dealers will remove the protruding portion of the exhaust pipe hanger pin.
Recall of 2002 models with the 2.5L engine: the pre-catalyst could overheat and damage the catalyst substrate, and substrate particles could enter the combustion chamber, leading to damaged cylinder walls, increased oil consumption and fire; dealers will reprogram the engine control unit to prevent the possibility of the pre-catalyst overheating. If the conversion efficiency of the pre-catalyst has deteriorated, the catalyst will be replaced. If the original pre-catalyst is damaged, the engine will be replaced.
Recall of 2002 models: a bad electrical connection on the driver’s side airbag could prevent it from opening; dealers will install a retaining clip on the electrical connector.
Recall of 2002, 2005-2006 models with the 2.5L engine: the crankshaft position sensor can malfunction and cause the engine to stall; dealers will reprogram the Electronic Control Module to prevent stalling.
Recall of 2006 models with the 2.5L engine: some 2.5L engines may exhibit excess oil consumption due to improper piston rings, which could lead to engine damage and fire; dealers will reprogram the Engine Control Module and if required, replace the engine.
Recall of 2007 models: if a hot object enters the air filter housing, it could ignite the air filter, causing an underhood fire; dealers will replace the air filter with a less flammable one, and install an air deflector in front of the air intake to reduce the intake of debris.
Recall of 2007 and 2008 models: an incorrectly manufactured Occupant Classification System (OCS) sensor may result in the passenger side airbag failing to deploy in a crash; dealers will test the signal between the OCS and the Airbag Control Unit, and if necessary, replace the seat cushion containing the OCS hardware.


FORD ESCAPE (2001-2007), (2008-2009), ESCAPE HYBRID (2005-2007, 2008-2009), MAZDA TRIBUTE (2001-2007), (2008-2009)


Model Change Chronology
2001: Ford Escape and Mazda Tribute introduced.
2005: Mild facelift. 2.3L four replaced the previous 2L unit. Ford Escape Hybrid introduced.
2007: Powertrain warranty increased to five years/100,000 km.
2008: Both nameplates receive new outer bodies and cabins. Standard stability control.
2009: New 2.5L four (with 17 more horsepower) replaced the previous 2.3L engine. 3L-V6 gains variable valve timing and 40 extra horsepower. Hybrid switched to the 2.5L engine. Six-speed automatic transmission replaced the previous four speed unit.

Body style  Wagon
Engines  2L-4 (2002-2004), 2.3L-4 (2005-2008), 2.3L-4H (2005-2008), 2.5L-4 (2009), 2.5L-4H (2009-10), 3L-V6 (2002-2007, 2008-2009),
Transmissions  5M (2002-2009), 4A (2002-2008), CVT (hybrid only 2005-2007, 2008-2009), 6A (2009-2009)
Drive Systems  Front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive

Overall Ratings
Below average: 2002-2009
Above average: Hybrid

Spacious for its size.
Good value, priced less than compact Japanese models.
Lot of used Escapes/Tributes available used.

Lacks refinement.
2002-2003: poor fit and finish and so-so reliability.
Heavy duty use can cause maintenance costs to escalate with as little as 50,000 km on the odometer.

Good performance from the 3L V6, but the 2L four (the same engine as in the Focus) lacks sparkle. The 2.5L four introduced for 2009 delivers good acceleration and relaxed cruising, but sounds very rough when accelerating. Revised V6 and new six-speed automatic work very well in the Escape/Tribute. Predictable handling and reasonably comfortable ride. Good on the highway despite high levels of wind noise. Used Tributes cost a bit more than Escapes due to Mazda’s better reputation for reliability. The all-wheel drive system commands a price supplement from $1500 to $2000 over a similarly equipped front-wheel drive model. V6-powered versions are priced roughly $1000 higher than similarly-equipped four-cylinder models. Priced up to $5000 less than either a Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4 of the same year, mileage and condition. 2005: mild facelift. The Mazda 2.3L four delivers better performance than the Ford 2L four it replaced. The all-wheel drive system was revised for better traction, stability and economy. 2007: last year before these vehicles were re-bodied, powertrain warranty increased to five years/100,000 km. 2008: much improved fit and finish inside and out. Counter-intuitive, button-festooned audio and climate controls.

The best model years seem to be 2005 to 2007. 2002-2003: numerous electrical problems (windshield wipers, dashboard controls, steering column and turn signals). ABS sensors: a broken toothed crown wheel could cause the ABS sensor to signal a fault; the individual part is now offered for $35. Excess oil consumptions on both the four-cylinder and V6 engines, especially if used for severe duty (like pulling a trailer), All-wheel drive models: some complaints have been received regarding driveline failures, defective driveshafts on vehicles equipped with manual transmissions, slipping automatic transmission and steering column problems. Some major 3L V6 failures (pistons, piston rings, connecting rods, oil consumption). 2004-2008: V6 (pistons, connecting rods and rings), and automatic transmission exhibit poor durability if used for towing. The on-board computer, poorly placed under the windshield, is vulnerable to corrosion; an unstable idle, a lit “check engine:” light, intermittent anti-theft alarm operation and stalling may be signals that the computer have been damaged. 2005-2007: improved reliability. 2008: significant increase in consumer complaints with the introduction of the rebodied model. 2009: some engine and six-speed automatic transmission failures reported.

Wheel bearings (excess play, rumbling, wear), steering column (clunks), parking brake (seized, a replacement cable costs around $175), ignition key (not recognized by the on-board computer, reprogram or replace), rear shocks (knocks from the lower anchorages, leaks), tie rod ends and ball joints (worn), transfer case (noisy, check to see if the four tires exhibit the same amount of wear), power steering pump (noisy, leaks). 2002 2L four: oil smears (leaks form the timing belt cover and the camshaft seals). 2003-2004: rear differential (change its oil every 36,000 km to improve its durability), hinges (excess play), rear window wiper (function), passenger side seatbelt (defective retractor), front brakes (worn rotors, seized calipers).

Vulnerable to rust. Check the bottom of the doors as well as the glued joints on the good and tailgate. Visit APA.ca to find a shop that can complete repairs for around $500, and another that can apply an anti-corrosion compound to these areas.

APA Alerts
Check the oil level on both the 2L and 3L engines to detect excess oil consumption (especially on vehicles used for towing).
Complaints have been received regarding all-wheel drive system failures. Ignoring a seized front driveshaft joint can result in a failed driveshaft middle support.
2008: transmission fluid leaks emanating from the transmission cooler; the repair costs $600. Mazda will pay for vehicles beyond the warranty, but Ford withdrew coverage in August of 2010.
2009 models equipped with automatic transmission: if you feel abnormal gearchanges, a Ford technical bulleting recommends that the powertrain control module be reprogrammed.
Lots of all-wheel drive failures have been reported: If you neglect to repair a seized driveshaft bearing at the front of the driveshaft taking power to the rear wheels, it will result in the failure of the middle driveshaft bearing (consult APA.ca to find the name of a shop that can provide a remanufactured driveshaft).
Recall of 2001-2003 models: the 3L V6 can stall while decelerating to less than 60 kilometers per hour.
Recall of 2001-2004 models: the ABS brake module wiring connector may corrode, leading to a loss of ABS function, a lit ABS warning light, smoke, melting and a potential fire: dealers will inspect, and if necessary, make repairs.
Recall of 2002 models: risk of a fuel leak where the fuel lines meet the fuel filter; replace the fuel lines if necessary.
Recall of 2002-2004 models: The accelerator cable may escape its sleeve and prevent the vehicle returning to idle when the pedal is released; dealers will replace the cable.
Recall of 2004-2005 models: the rear tailgate latch may open in a severe rear impact if left unlocked; dealers will replace the tailgate release rod and attachment clip.
Recall of 2006 models: a lack of grease on the windshield wiper motor output shaft gear may cause gear teeth distortion, fracture and loss of wiper function: dealers will inspect, and if necessary, apply grease to the output shaft gear.