I bought my 2005 Mazda 3 as a used, certified car with 48,000 one owner miles on it.
I had just started a new job which is 25 miles one way so I needed a reliable, fairly fuel efficient car that looked sharp, was fun to drive and could seat four adults when needed.
I'm 6'3" tall so I also needed a car that could handle my lanky frame.
I have to say my Mazda 3 has been a pleasure to drive over the past three years.
It has also been reliable.
The only mechanical failures I've had are the serpentine belt tension pulley and the drivers side front wheel bearing.
I have replaced the brake rotors and pads and bought new tires (Continental ExtremeContact
Overall I love my 3!!!!!!!
Room for tall drivers, sporty, fun to drive, decent fuel mileage, reliable.
Plenty of room in the hatch and is comfortable to drive on long trips.
The interior has help up very well, no issues.
The electric sunroof has been trouble free, operates smoothly and no leaks.
The body has help up very well, no wind noise from doors/windows thus far.
Since this is a 1st gen 2005 Mazda 3 it's not really worth going into suggested improvements. I will be replacing the plastic guard on the bottom of the engine that covers the oil filter as it's broken in a few spots.
I'll be in the market for a new car in late 2012 and will take a serious look at the new 2012 Mazda 3 Hatchback.