To start off, I've only owned this car for 4 days now. I was a very proud rx8 owner and loved every bit of it, except for the gas mileage. This car, has everything that you want. Perfect handling, the right amount of power, it's very practical and to be honest, economical. I know people will be like "economical? it only gets 18mpg!" Yeah, when you're flooring it everywhere. When I drove home from the dealership I was about 50 miles away from home. I drove it like a grandma and averaged 34mpg. So if you really want to economical, this car can definitely do it. I can't talk on the reliability as I just got the car, but I still rated it a 5 because I love everything about this car.
I have had my Mazdaspeed 3 for 3 months and 3700 miles now and have noticed things I love and things that need improvement. The car handles very well, but may be a bit harsh for some. The interior is very nicely laid out (love the blue accent lighting). The exterior styling can take a bit getting used to. I bought mine in Black, so the "happy face" is not noticeable at all. I drive very conservatively so I have been averaging around 23-24 mpg with a 60-40 mix of city and highway driving. Overall a nice car and a great value, but Mazda needs to work on the clutch on these cars. My clutch is taking away from the fun of driving it, which is a big reason why people buy these cars.
I have owned my speed3 for almost 2 years now. In that time I have put 54,000 miles on it. I can say that it's a fun car, It has a good amount of cargo space, and it roadtrips well. The fuel economy isn't bad, but the read out is a bit optimistic. I use the car for family roadtrips (500mi one way my wife and I), work (multiple 500 mi days per week), and even the ocasional track day. Currently at 77k and really nothing unexpected as far as maintence goes. Spirited public roads driving the speed3 is as much fun as the GTO and 540i M-sport I have owned previously. It does have understeer at the limit, and that does sap a bit of track day fun.
I have owned only Taurus SHO's for the past 17 years - all manuals. My last one just turned 190k as I went researching for a honorable replacement. It surely wouldn't be the new SHO as it was released w/o a stick and way too much $$$. As I went to different review and "best of" sites the MS3 was always ending up in the top two spots. Anyway ended up test driving the WRX (not as refined inside + more $) and the GTI (more $ and slower than the MS3). Since I have owned it (the MS3) I have to admit it just gets better every time I drive it - even with that goofy smile in the front. I did have to get used to a turbocharged car as far as shift points and turbo lag but all are quite manageable.
I've owned the car for about 3 weeks now and it is an absolute pleasure to drive. I was planning on waiting for the new STi, however I'm glad I decided on the MS3 for both practicality and affordability. Plenty fast for a mid-thirty year old, gas mileage is a solid 26 mpg (I do a lot of city driving), and it handles like it's on rails through the curves. Motor Trend just did a comparison between the MS3, the wrx, gti and ralliart, and out of all of them, this is the "point and shoot racer" that simply feels much more "dialed in". Believe me, they're spot on. I simply can't stop grinning.
Mazdaspeed 3 Tech Package ($1,895 -- includes navigation system, alarm system, keyless ignition and Bose audio system with CD changer and satellite radio).
2,260cc (138 cu-in)
Double overhead camshaft
Compression ration (x:1)
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
263 @ 5,500
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)
280 @ 3,000
Transmission and axle ratios (x:1)
Hard to launch well. Wants to bog or boil but not put power down. Hence the run with traction control on was almost identical to the run with it off. Shifter is VERY reluctant to change gears quickly. Must shift at least 800 rpm early for best times.
Consistent pedal feel -- not as hard or responsive as I remember, but still good. Short stops. No fade.
Skid pad: Still won't rotate off throttle. Highly "managed" even with stability control turned off. Slalom: Very controllable and easy to predict. Well-mannered over midcorner bumps. Steering is accurate and precise, even without conventional engine-driven pump. Overall, a big improvement here. Can't wait to hit the road in this car.