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.
I was shopping for a new car, had a 98 Honda Accord for 11 years, needed something sporty and fresh. I really liked the styling of the Mazda 3 and was attracted to the many features and 156 HP. Love at first sight at the dealership, took it for a test drive and was impressed by the tight handling of this car. Have put about 800 miles on it so far, mostly highway miles. I find the mpg is a bit lower than I had hoped for, but it might be that I just can't go slow in this car! So far my best mpg is about 28 when I keep it on cruise control 70mph. So many great features-roomy, stereo is awesome with 6 cd changer, tight cockpit, bright orange instrument panel, safety features-great deal for 17k!!
Moon roof!! Awesome stereo, cd changer, mp3 plug, roomy, smooth quiet ride puts my son to sleep on long drives. Awesome handling, super fast, responsive, sexy car!! This car makes driving fun. My 3 year old son calls it my drag car.
Lock for hatch, better visors, better seat adjustments. Not a big fan of the circus clown horn, hard to relay my road rage with the euro-toot! (-: