On the advice of a car dealer/racer friend I purchased my Speed3 after first test driving the GTI, WRX sti, Mini S, Lancer RalleyArt and Cobalt SS. This car made me say "Holy cr@p!" more than any of the others. The Speed3 was an upgrade from my 2005 Pontiac GTO which was incredibly fast, but lacked cornering, braking, space, utility, and was extremely expensive to own. The Mazda is a much more complete performance car. After 36,000 miles it's still capable of shocking the bejeezus out of me with its acceleration, cornering, and braking. I've had no quality issues, rattles, squeaks. etc. We take this car on long trips instead of my wife's Maxima because it's more comfortable. I love this car!
Acceleration, handling, brakes, interior materials, audio system. I'm very happy I chose a new '09 instead the 2010's which were also available. The '09 is more than 200 lbs. lighter, it has a more attractive interior, and it lacks the boy racer hood scoop and "smiley face" grill. It's amazing how much stuff will fit in this car with the rear seats down. With them up my 6'2" brother has been comfortable on 250 mile drives.
It could use an additional power port and it would be nice to have the "aux" jack on the front of the audio panel instead of inside the console.
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