2008 Mazda 3 s Touring 4dr Hatchback (2.3L 4cyl 5A)
This is one snappy little car and I'm very pleased with it. I've had it about a week and traded a loaded 2002 Jetta turbo for it (hooray, no more premium gas!). The cars that got great mileage (e.g. the Honda Fit) didn't have the power I need for a local highway where certain onramps force you to merge from a standing stop, so the Mazda was a compromise between mileage and power. It handles and drives beautifully, is well-equipped and well-designed with excellent fit and finish. Cons: there's more road noise than I'm used to and the sporty ride is stiff/bouncy. Also, the automatic transmission shift gates take some getting used to. These are just nits--I highly recommend this car.
Dash layout and lighting, steering wheel audio controls, handling, power, looks. Cupholders everywhere. Covered rear hatch has plenty of room. 60/40 folding back seats that an adult can actually sit in.
Need to do something about road noise, stiff suspension. Get rid of the anachronistic cigarette lighter or put it inside the ashtray where it can't be seen. The rear pillars create significant blind spots.