You want a rig to massage your ego? Maybe make others look at you longingly in traffic? You never take you car to the redline, don't know that 'matching revs' means, but like to pretend that you could run a hot lap at a local track day? Well then, stop reading here, this isn't your ride...not by a mile. The Mazdaspeed 3 is a stealthy performance car, with a high build quality, that can embarrass a great many more pricy rigs. It doesn't have many interior 'toys' and it's looks don't say "I dipped into my 401K for this...worship me". But it does go, stop, and handle like it cost 50K. Need coddling? Look elsewhere. Want high speed-per-$? Then this is your ride.
Possibly the "best" car, for the money, I've ever had! (Except for dealership experience--see my review, no, see ALL the Edmunds reviews of the AutoTown [violative content deleted]) I previously had an '02 Z06, and while it was more HPDE capable, the 'speed3 is more enjoyable at all "public streets" speeds, and twice the value/dollar as the 'vette (assuming you don't need the "Corvette ego massage.") I've enjoyed a "decadent 2nd childhood" the last 20 yrs--including 2 M3s, 3 SVT Cobras (2 "R"s), and a few '60s muscle cars--and the 'speed3 is a balanced highlight, overall. I'm waiting 'til the warranty's used up before I try any mods (that could be used as an excuse to void my warranty); 2013 s/be fun.
Bought it new in 2009 and I was in love with it. 1200 miles later, my turbo start failing during acceleration. Take it in, I'm told Mazda knows about it but there's no fix. Take it in a second time, they basically ignore me. There are tons of rattles and squeaks that start to develop, though most will go away if you squirt some WD40 on it or shove some foam somewhere to create pressure to stop the rattling (like the steering column). It's still a fun car and definitely worth the money. There are some things that I do love about it, but I'm going to move on since this car isn't exactly great for stop and go traffic that I'm typically stuck in. (Didn't have a commute when I bought it.)
I had a 2007 Honda Civic SI 4dr which was my "dream car" before this MS3. I put 90K miles on it in 2 years and needed another inexpensive "fun to drive" sales rep commuter vehicle. I had owned a 2003.5 Mazda Speed Protege so the MS3 was my next logical choice. This car performs "way beyond my wildest expectations". While in stock form, the SI actually corners harder, the motor in the MS3 is amazing!! Another surprise, if you shift the MS3 at 3000 RPM's or below you can achieve 30MPG! I find this truly amazing!! 280 Ft Lbs of torque and still better Hwy mileage than a Honda Civic SI! The build quality is exceptional and I just did the 30K service and a set of tires! That's it, ZERO defects!