I have been driving 45 mi. per day in an older Tacoma, so perhaps I am too easily impressed... but this car is amazing. Exterior looks, check. Just look at one. Interior is wow! for a Mazda, and the seats are very comfortable. This model is loaded with tech, like the radar blind spot detection, pacing cruise control, impressive and intuitive infotainment system, adaptive headlights that steer, etc. But driving is what it's all about and it's what this Mazda is all about. It is fast and nimble. Until you hit the Sport mode button, it is really just a very tight and competent little car. The Sport mode unleashes it's inner potential and it just wants to go. I am glad I got the 2.5L!
I've only been driving this Mazda 3 Touring hatchback for a little over a week, so take what I say for what it's worth. However, I am comparing this 2014 to my 2004 Mazda 6 i manual 5 speed which I traded for the current car. First, let me say I'm loving the looks of this car and enjoy the overall performance. While it's no powerhouse, the 2.0 has enough Zoom-zoom to feel spirited and enjoyable to drive. Unfortunately with the combination of 155 hp and auto transmission, there is a noticeable lack of power compared to my 10 year old Mazda 6. By comparison, I was able to attain at 0-60 time of 8.4 seconds in the 6 but only a disappointing 10.5 seconds in the new Mazda 3.
This car rocks!!! I traded in my 2010 Infiniti M35s - excellent car - but wanted something smaller, good looking, better on the gas mileage (main reason) but still spirited and responsive. I opted for the top of the line S Grand Touring hatchback with tech package that includes IELoop, LED brake lights, Bi-Xenon headlights, NAV, blink spot warning, etc...in pearl white. Overall I am extremely impressed with the quality of materials inside and it's handling characteristics. Driver feedback is good and it grips the road extremely well. Came with 18" stock wheels. It is just as much fun to drive than my Infiniti. The 2.5L motor is REQUIRED if you want a spirited, more aggressive experience.
I went from a BMW 325i to this and do not miss it at all. It turns with no effort and no body roll even taking a turn at 40 mph! I drive about 30 miles a day and I average 32 mpg having a mixed road type (7 miles city, 23 highway) and it takes me about 2 weeks to get to empty. Ever since I got it, I have never spent more than $35 to fill it up on regular where as the BMW cost about $70-$80 on premium. The infotainment does get a little used to but its mostly simple. I have the feature where it can read my text messages while I'm driving (Doesn't show you the actual message for safety reasons) and it works fine with an iPhone 5c.