2007 Mazda MAZDA3 s Touring 4dr Hatchback (2.3L 4cyl 5M)
I've liked this model since it was the Protege5 and circumstances finally got around to where I bought a Mazda3 last week. I actually prefer the exterior of the P5 to that of the Mazda3 but the interior is a huge improvement (bye-bye econo-car.) My car has True Red paint with a black leather interior, 5 speed and moonroof/CD package. I also looked at the VW GTI, Passat wagon and Audi A3 and just couldn't justify spending the extra money on German "engineering." Sorry, the domestic competition was just too underwhelming to consider. The car is not perfect (see suggested improvements) but the positives FAR outweigh the negatives. MPG is 20 with all-city driving and a cherry motor.
Interior features--audio controls on steering wheel, cool dash lighting, iPod aux, lots more; quick steering; stiff yet still pliant suspension; decent 4 cylinder engine; very comfortable seats; good shifter; great value. This car is a ton of fun to drive (and I'm still breaking in the engine.)
Pedal box area for driver is a little small: brake and gas pedals are too close together and foot room is a bit tight by dash; have to remove headrests from rear seats to lay seats down; Honda still makes the best 4 cylinder engines; rear seatroom and cargo area are not what you'd call exemplary.