2009 Mazda 3 s Touring 4dr Hatchback (2.3L 4cyl 5A)
My last car was a VW Golf. It served me well for 10+ years. It was a fun-to-drive machine, but quite costly to maintain, especially with age. So I decided it's time for a new car. I test drove 3 hot hatches: new Toyota Matrix (158hp/4cyl); VW Rabbit (170hp/5cyl); Mazda3 5dr (156hp/4cyl). Here's my little comparo. 3rd place, Matrix. Highs: big cargo room, Toyota reliability. Lows: Mazda3 copy cat, dull handling, peculiar styling, high price (23k for XRS), poor corner visibility due to large A pillar. 2nd place, VW Rabbit. Highs: big engine, VW fun, quality interior. Lows: uncomfortable seat (angled too much), confusing controls, strange "wall" under windshield, questionable reliability.
1st place, Mazda3 5dr. The winner of my admiration and cash. :) Highs: the most comfortable seat and driving position here, excellent handling, quality interior, clean exterior styling, most features for the price. Lows: smallest engine here, smallest cargo space here, a bit more tires / road noise.
My ownership is short, so reliability can't be judged yet. Interior fit and finish is near perfect aside from minor details. Lower edge of real bumper can flex, feels cheap. No sports car, though 156hp is adequate. Trans manual mode give more acceleration, but it's not error-proof. Average 27mpg. A+