2008 Mazda 3 s Touring 4dr Hatchback (2.3L 4cyl 5M)
Interior design is superb, ergonomic, tasteful,. the 5mt shifts nicely, and the engine doesn't sound obnoxious. Climate control is almost too effective. Aux input works beautifully. All available speaker systems (bose and stock) stink. Replaced the speakers (but not tweeters), so that's remedied. Aux input works w/ iPod beautifully. 27 mpg thus far which is awesome! No rattles or initial failures the first month. Corners wonderfully. Thus far, no real torque steer under hard acceleration. Great clutch - not on/off or stiff. Awesome brakes, though sometimes I've noticed squeaking. Steering wheel controls work well.
Handling. The Eagle RSAs are loud on non-blacktop highway roads, but still the car corners like a sports car. The steering is nicely weighted, and the car goes exactly where you want it to. Great turn radius as well.
Speakers. Put a sub in the spare tire well like the 2003 Protege5, and offer a better audio system. Put quieter tires on the car. Offer an engine that falls in the 180-200 hp range w/o a turbo.