The old man would have loved the Mazdaspeed3, too, even though he was a Porsche guy. I bought my Gen 1 new in 2007. It just turned 96-thousand miles and I have loved each and every one of them, especially those on California's coastal mountain range. Many an older Mustang, BMW and Corvette has been surprised by this mighty mite.
There are 3 things every Speed 3 owner will need to deal with: smoke, the clunky 2 to 3 shift, and the rear bar which comes loose and needs to be re-torqued periodically (in my case, twice in 8-years).
First the smoke. The car was allegedly spec'd with the wrong size PCV. There are 2 fixes. First, run "the pill" or some sort of restrictor in the crankcase vent tube. Look up "the pill" online. It's made by a company in Washington, I think. Second, start running 10W-30 synthetic motor oil. No more smoke.
When you start hearing the rear bar "clunk" as you go over the curb into a driveway, it's time to have the dealer torque it town again. 20-minutes and no more smoke.
Finally, the 2 to 3 shift problem was supposedly fixed in Gen2 models. For Gen 1 you can go to more slippery transaxle fluid like Royal Purple or Redline and that will begin to mitigate the problem. Next fix would be a good short shifter kit at around $150.
Other than those things, it has been the most fun car I've ever had. The bright red paint is even more eye-popping than ever. I also had a Gen1 RX-7 with great red paint like this. Only complaint is that in order to replace everyday items like a PCV or thermostat, something big, expensive and time-consuming has to come off first...
Well, being a car guy I knew exactly what I was looking for when I began my car search. Manual transmission, plenty of power, but also utility for my new family. Test drove several cars that were almost good enough, but fell in love with this quirky turbo immediately. Mine is SUPER red with Mazda RX-8 wheels and looks very sharp. I have the Grand Touring package that comes with a super radio and other fun options. The price was right on, and the gas mileage can be as good as you want it to be, or as bad as your right foot tells it to be! Simply put, a spectacular vehicle that does so many things well. I can't wait to get off from work and drive it home!
3rd gear, enough said. I love the sporty seats and the "stealth factor." The red color is very nice, and the overall speed of the car is bonkers. I fully expect a ticket soon!
The shifter is the only thing that needs improvement. If I miss that 2-3 upshift one more time, I'm gonna go bonkers! Aside from that the only other gripe would be the fuel mileage and use of premium gas.
As a former owner of a Subaru WRX, there is much more car here for the money than with my beloved WRX at around the same cost. No turbo lag here. Very responsive to the pedal and the steering. This thing is fun to drive! Sleek interior design. From the console hosting auto temp regulators, auto wipers, down to the stitching on the seats, shifter, and wheel. Attention to detail. The computer will also tracks mpg, miles to empty and instantaneous mi/gal Not sure how useful instant mi/gal actually is but it's there if you like too much information. Adjustable headlights are standard. Again probably overkill but there if you are on dark roads and don't want to blind oncoming traffic.
Quick response and curve handling. Interior design and features. Bose stereo. interior design. (see above)
A bit noisy on bumpy roads/highways. Tires could last longer. Fifth gear is difficult to find sometimes making it easy to downshift to 4th when accelerating to 5th.
Why I won't buy another Mazda: Blown LF strut at 25,000 miles. Smoking turbo at 26,000 miles. The turbo was replaced, but now Mazda claims that the smoking is actually caused by an inadequate PCV system. Five months ago it was promised that a PCV revised system would be available in 90 days. Now Mazda is saying the fix won't be ready until March. Variable Valve Timing Actuator became noisy at 46,000 miles. At 51,000 miles the car is throwing a EGR flow insufficient fault code. This repair-$600-will be on my nickel as it seems that the EGR system is not covered by either the powertrain or the 49 state emissions warranties. RF strut is also failing. The worst automotive choice I've made.
Fix "on-off" clutch engagement. Fit a reliable engine. Fit dampers with a half-life of more than 25000 miles.
Short review.... I get 26.5 mpg overall mpg, posted seems low. And I go pretty fast. Bose stereo is a waste of money. Basic system is fine, and the OEM speakers they use are very good--even if you replace the head unit, stock speakers are solid. Seems Bose didn't tune the system because it rattles terribly. I'm an audio dood; Bose are clown shoes. A safety recall on engine mount, an "unofficial" recall on d-link in rear end, and a throttle failure in first year. Occasionally belches smoke. Hmm. Interior design is nice. Lots of rattles. Good cargo capacity. More fun than the WRX, feels faster, snappier brakes. Clutch is sticky and 'sudden'. Best 'fast' car for the money, by far
I like the Fast most of all. Seats are nice, too--better than WRX. I can fit a huge sub cabinet or a half dozen trombones in the back, so the cargo capacity is really nice for a fast car.
Fire Bose promptly. Add 12dB gain to stereo. Tune out interior rattles for sport suspension (stock 3 doesn't have this, I assume it's due to higher frequency rattling through sporty suspension). Else, perfect. Add 4WD?