Replaced my VW GTI with a MZ3 S hatchback. Was stunned by the test drive. MZ3 handled better than the GTI and was nearly as quick. Very nice interior for the money and a a real back seat with plenty of trunk space to spare. Mileage is also pretty good to unless you really bury your foot in the gas - which is easy to do with the 2.3 motor. Variable valve timing kicks in quickly and the car really takes off when you want it to. I can't imagine doing better with any other car in the $17K range. Fit and finish are exceptional and I suppose only time will tell as to reliability but the car has a great rep and it is built in Japan.
Fun to drive/handling; 2.3L motor offers strong performance and decent mileage; excellent interior design and steering wheel controls for the stereo/cruise control; back seat will fit two adults comfortably; hatchback utility.
Standard CD player should be MP3 compatible - this is 2006, guys. Shouldn't have to spend extra money for the 6-CD changer which does play MP3s. The electrostatic gauges are great, but the dim/brighten buttons are a bit non-intuitive. Vent controls a bit too close to the radio selection buttons.