2008 Mazda Mazda3 i Touring 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 5M)
We were originally considering the Civic but took a test drive in the 3 after reading positive reviews on this site (and others). Wow, what a pleasant surprise. The 3 has much more pep (especially with the manual), is better looking, and has more standard features than the comparable Civic LX. It gets fantastic gas mileage! 1500 miles on our 3, and we're averaging around 30 to 33 mpg with about a 50/50 city/highway driving. Granted, it's no BMW or Lexus but for well under $20K, you can't go wrong.
Great acceleration for a 4-cylinder, handles great, looks good, great gas mileage, very practical.
Gas/brake/clutch pedals very close together, a bit plasticky around the exterior, and slightly (road) noisy, but I'm stretching here.
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