2006 Mazda Mazda3 s Touring 4dr Hatchback (2.3L 4cyl 5M)
Interior & exterior look stylish & expensive: people often assume it cost $10k more. Fast, with good midrange power (though more at low RPM would be nice). Manual tranny feels good (but improved clutch feel would permit smoother launches, and the too-tall 2nd gear ratio drops you out of the engine's sweet spot around town unless you wring it out in 1st.) Precise handling, yet good comfort (although more steering feel and suspension travel would be nice). Road noise seems excessive but that's partly because the engine is so quiet (silent idle, & easy to forget to shift to 5th). Brakes are fantastic (though the rotors eventually warp, as they seem to on all modern cars).
Handling, braking, acceleration, style, interior & exterior lighting, quality, mileage, comfort, spaciousness. It's practical: I get 26.5 mpg combined despite very hard driving, it's got lots of space in back for my dog, and it's plenty civilized enough for Mom if driven gently.
Adjustable seat cushion length (like BMW). Less road noise. Shorter 2nd gear ratio. Better clutch feel. More steering feel. More suspension travel. Better carpet. Warp-free brake rotors. But these are quibbles. It is impossible to supply a BMW at a Toyota price, but Mazda is doing their best!
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