I recently purchased my Mazda3 (5 dr hatch, 5 spd auto - Copper Red Mica) within the last month, after I checked out comparable models like the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic and determined they didn't compare. In my personal opinion neither were anywhere near the Mazda3 in quality of build, handling, response and overall driving satisfaction (definite zoom-zoom factor). The car seems like its rarin' to go right now but I want to ease into it and not push it too early. I am getting great mileage so far, especially with gas the way it is, and am very pleased overall. If you're looking for a great compact car with a lot to give - the Mazda3 is the "Ticket".
The whole car is great... solid engine, smooth shifting (even for the 5 spd auto trans), great brakes and stereo, comfortable ride, steering wheel mounted controls and great gas mileage.
Just aesthetic improvements like maybe standardize carbon fiber trim inside and out and if the car has side sills, maybe add a front air dam or lower the front end to match the side sills to give it a lowered sleek look. I plan on doing these things to my car soon.