This is easily one of the most enjoyable cars out there. Not even most car guys know it exists, and it's truly a bargain for what you get.
This car is all about torque. It will throw you back in your seat in pretty much any gear, from 2500rpm all the way through 6500rpm. It does lose some power just before it hits redline, so I almost never push it that far.
For me, the sweet spot on this car is 4th gear @ 4000rpm. Just put your foot down and it goes like a freight train.
I am the king of the on-ramps in my city with this car.
Although it is definitely not a track car, the handling is beautiful. It does have a touch of under-steer, but if not over-driven, it won't be noticed too much. Body roll is minimal as well. These character traits were immediately noticeable to me, having driven the RX8 prior to this car, but most drivers used to sport sedans will find this car's handling to be an improvement on almost anything else out there.
The AWD only kicks in when driving "sportingly".
I was able to drift the car in a wet parking lot, and it was great fun.
My only major gripe with this car is the clutch pedal. Its bite point is way too high. When I first purchased the car, it took me nearly a month to get used to it, and I would let the car die on a daily basis. To this day, it's extremely difficult for me to have smooth shifts. When friends or relatives take it out for a spin, they always comment that my clutch is burnt out, but this is definitely not the case. There was a TSB issued by Mazda on this, but it only covered cars that were still under warranty according to my local dealer. So I will deal with it for now.
The 6 speed transmission is not as smooth or precise as the RX8, but then again, the RX8 is somewhat of a gold standard.
I daily drive this car, and have put over 16k miles on it in just over a year. I have taken a few 3-4 hour road trips on it as well, and plan to take it on my cross-country trip in the spring.
I did find myself having to adjust the seat position while on one of the longer trips.
Interior comfort is great. The leather seats have good lateral support, but could have a little more upper-back reach, as I'm 5'11" and my shoulders have no support. Again, the RX8 had clam-shell style seats that I loved.
The seats are heated, and while they get pretty hot initially, they eventually cool off and you almost forget that you have the heat on the seats turned on.
The Bose sound system is a delight.
All 4 windows have automatic down-up buttons, but the sunroof does not. The RX8 had the same buttons for the sunroof as this car, and it had automatic open/close. So the lack of this feature doesn't make any sense.
There is no trunk release latch/button inside the car. This is almost unheard of in a 4-door sedan.
The navigation system has a detachable remote, which presumably would be for you to provide the rear passenger with the ability to program the system. But the navigation system locks up when the car is moving, which makes the remote useless and gimmicky in my point-of-view.
While it does have its shortcomings, they are few and relatively minor. The truth is you get an amazingly well engineered car for a very fair price, that will give you more smiles-per-dollar than a lot of other cars out there. This is a WRX for adults.
Although my car is bone stock, it's nice to know that there's still plenty of power left to be extracted from this car.
I would definitely recommend this car for any enthusiast driver that knows how to properly maintain a car.