this car is fun to drive, while it may not have the same power as the new 3 or many new small cars now (2015) it still gets up and goes with the 2.3L motor 7.2 seconds to 60 in my test with a stopwatch and a friend with the 5 speed manual. the passenger motor mount is fluid filled and breaks frequently spilling the fluid and causing vibrations that feel like a bent rim but the mount is cheap to buy and easy to replace with a jack and simple tools. gas mileage is simply ok. its not great but not horrible i get about 25.5-28mpg average depending on how much highway i drive and how much fun i decide to have that gas tank, but i did not get it for the mpg but for the fun i have driving it. the seats are comfortable and me being just at 6' tall i have plenty of room to move around. the interior plastics are well made and feel solid and at 7 years old still look new. the a/c is ice cold. the regular non hid lights are still decently bright and when upgraded with brighter bulbs give great beam pattern. I have owned mine for almost a year and put 8500 miles on it and the only issue was the motor mount and a thermostat (but thermostats go out on 99% of all cars) the sunroof motor was also loose and quit functioning but 3 screws fixed that and its worked just fine since then. the car handles great and feels rock solid driving down the road. it does have a minor amount of wind noise but nothing that makes it unbearable, just noticeable (and may just be because its 7 years old)
simply put this car is fun and handles great it seems to be built well and has not given me any major issues. just like all small mazda cars its zippy and fun. test drive one thats been well maintained (as thats what all cars need) and you will be pleasantly surprised at how it handles and the amount of power it has.
I don't know where you can get a better car for the money. The body style, fuel economy, and "fun to drive" factor is amazing. I downsized from an SUV and wanted something sporty but under $20K for mostly city use. After 2,500 miles I am getting 24 MPG in town and 30/31 MPG on the highway. The Mazdaspeed 3 was even more exciting but it was too much car for my ice and snow roads. My only minor gripe is that the seats are a little firm for my taste.
A fully function computer printout for fuel consumption might be useful. The interior rear light for the cargo area is very dim. I have left it on by mistake several times. Seats are rather firm. All black interior looks a little dirty.
Traded my 2002 Miata SE for this car. Wanted an all season car without giving up much handling and fun to drive. Shopped Civic Si, WRX, Altima Coupe, Mazdaspeed 3 and GTI; chose a Mica Copper Red Mazda3s Touring 5M for price, fuel mileage (premium fuel not required) and versatility. Figured I was making a compromise for enconomics sake. My 1st drive was over a winding mountain pass here in Montana and I haven't smiled like that since I got the Miata. Of course it doesn't have the kick in the pants acceleration of a WRX or V-6 Nissan, but the handling and transmission is more then up to the task. I'm 6'4" (yes I fit in the Miata) and found the front seats as comfortable as any I tested.
The Mazda3 5-speed hatch is a great car to drive -- good handling and driving dynamics. Designed to compete with the VW Golf / Rabbit, it offers similar performance and fuel economy out of its 2.3L 156 hp engine. The only thing keeping this car from blowing out the competition is fuel economy. The next generation 3 should address these issues.
Low the ground ride. Euro-tuned suspension. Smooth engine and great manual transmission.
The car is a little "big" -- just a few inches short of a BMW 3-series wagon. Interior space needs to be reorganized (has small back seats and low cargo space for the class). Fuel economy is so-so, but understandable since it was conceived in 2003. New 2009/10 Mazda3 will be different.
I have had the car for 2 months (sometime in that 2 months they started calling it a wagon, not a hatch?). I bought it in Feb, during some of the worst driving weather possible, and it handled as though it were a dry sunny day. I love the performance, and the stability control in the Touring model really helps grip the road (we have some tricky ones in the mountains). My husband loved it so much he bought the same in an automatic, which also handles beautifully. We wish we got better mileage (I get about 27 mpg) for a small car, but the emissions ratings are good. We recently had 3 teens, 2 adults, and all the teens' college gear in the Mazda, no problem!! Cargo space is great.
Comfort, performance and acceleration (both manual and auto), 17" wheels, road grip. Price! Cargo space and wide hatch opening so you can fit whatever you need to (like an entire office from IKEA). The styling, inside and out.
The goofy horn - I read the other reviews and didn't think it would bother me - it does. No need for the 20 ways to light/fade/dim the dash and display lights. Mileage could be better for a small car.