This really is a great solid little car. Fun to drive! Very reliable, always starts, never needs repairs. The ES has several added features, alloy wheels, power sun roof, spoiler, 4 wheel disc brakes. NICE! I have the five speed and it helps the gas mileage about 5 mpg over the automatic. Get about 27 in town if I drive it right! Car is tight, and everything always works. If your looking for a (not too) small, and dependable car that gets good mileage, this is it. I've had Hondas and the Mazda is very comparable. I can't say there's much I would change on the car, except the 5th speed overdrive design. (not enough difference between 4th and 5th speed). Brakes are excellent.
Very reliable and trouble free! One of the best small cars I've owned. Love the little 2.0 engine, and smooth 5 speed. Very clean running and responsive engine. Plenty of power for average driving. Driving the car is lots of fun, as it drives like a sports car.
The transmission is very smooth, but it needs a different overdrive gear ratio in 5th gear (or a 6th gear) It's not low enough overdrive ratio to get real good highway mileage) I've had other cars with 5 speeds that you can tell by the lower RPM on the tachometer, they have more overdrive gearing.