All I have to say is I am glad this car is a rental. I have had it for a considerable number of miles, and I want my car back.
Headlights are amazingly bright and clear.
Red gauge lights at night take some getting used to, but after a few nights, are nice to the eye.
Has the ability to be shifted like a manual transmission without a clutch.
Steering wheel controls.
Awesome sound system.
Layout and design of the driver speedometer/RPM temp and gas.
Layout and design of the radio dash controls as well as the steering wheel controls.
Traction control on the base model.
Tire pressure monitoring light on the base model.
Seat belts don't choke you like a lot of smaller cars.
Wiper blade length is amazingly effective.
Sunglasses holder on the base model (great for putting my gate cards into).
A lot of room under the hood.
An air conditioner so cold that you could turn the car into a freezer, literally.
Roomy trunk (I fit 3x 24 packs of water and about $100 more in groceries back there, and had more room comparable to a larger midsize trunk).
Great range on the remote for keyless/honking to find the car. I have driven new cars with a range of 5-10 parking spaces; this thing will activate from 1-2 rows over.
Audio jacks for MP3 players, however the dash will play MP3/WMA, but they are simple analog jacks and will not charge your equipment, however there are two different power outlets.
PLUSH stock floor mats; while in traffic for several hours, I noticed that my foot didn't get that heel numbness that you get with other cars.
I have noticed in my long miles over the last week:
There is a lot, and I mean a LOT, of play in the steering wheel, and by the time that you get to where it responds, it feels like you are 100% over compensating.
Controls feel like extremely cheap plastic; almost brittle.
Handles on the interior of car when you close a door, feel like there is a ton of give there; almost like you're going to rip off the door trim.
More blind spots than a box truck! Be ready to crank your head A LOT more than what you do on other vehicles.
Seats are firm, yet after sitting in them for any period past 30-45 minutes, it starts to feel like the seat is pressing into your lower back. 15 minutes later the firm and comfort level is definitely gone. I have sat in metal chairs longer than I do driving this car, and been comfortable longer.
There is a lot of road noise with this car. The car comes with auto loud control, which only covers up the road noise by jacking up the volume/bass of the car. It isn't gradual/gentle about it either.
The 4 cylinder engine doesn't have enough power to get out of its own way. Don't expect to make it through many yellow lights with this car.
The transmission of this car, if left to normal automatic, will want to shift the engine at approx 2500-3000 RPM unless you're flooring it. The magic shift number for driving this car to get any type of feeling of power is 4000-4750 RPM; any lower than that, and you are going to struggle to get up to speed from an on ramp.
Speaking of that, be ready to have to shift it into 3 or really press on it if you're letting it shift itself to go from 55 to 65 mph. Left to its own devices, it will take 3/4-1 mile to get there if you don't punch it and just use the controls.
The windows in the car won't go up any further if you push the button, even though it sounds like it isn't a good seal (almost sounds like you have the windows cracked at highway speeds).
The head lights don't have an alert chime to let you know you left them on. If you have a lit garage you pull into, make sure you turn them off.
The front seats are ROOOMMMMMY, however unless you have kids, any adult will not be happy in the back seat of this car. I have seen/had 2 doors with more legroom in the back (even a Ford Festiva had more leg room in the back; the old school 90s ones).
Child locks on the back doors seem to flip themselves, although it does make for some good laughs when friends are in the back.
Front cupholder area will fit large drink cups (Burger King large, McDonald's sweet tea, etc), however a bottle of water, bottle of soda or a thermal coffee cup that is not of the large variety will roll around; there are no rubber inserts to keep smaller cups secure.
Radio button finish is wearing off with less than 25,000 miles on it.
Brake/gas pedals are NOISY when letting off the brake or gas; you will often hear them "thud" or "thump".
When the car is in Park, D or M1 and fully stopped, there's a chirping noise under the car somewhere, almost like a fan belt chirp, but definitely not a fan belt. When applying gas or motion, it instantly goes away. The girls in the drive thru hear it, and I was next to another 6 today at a red light, turned off this quick and listened, and theirs did it as well. Definitely irksome for someone like me who hates it when cars make random noise.
The suspension system is interesting. Speed bumps and potholes, it handles amazingly, however go over the road line paint to change lanes or over those little reflectors to designate lanes, and it feels like riding in a shopping cart.
Tires/wheels make a TON of road noise.
Steering wheel is made very VERY cheaply. After driving for 150 miles the first day, I literally had blisters from the steering wheel. Put on a steering wheel cover and that took care of that. Speaking of that, if you drive with your hand at the bottom of the wheel, don't expect to get to the horn easily; I have missed the horn a few times, and pushed my knuckles hard into the hard plastic... not happy. Also the top of the steering wheel (above the air bag and horn) also feels highly brittle and cheap.
Gauges have 2 brightness settings... dim and glaring bright; there is no happy medium.
The dash is cheaply made and has a lot of plastic in it. It is highly reflective. I have seen vinyl and leather dashes do 200x better. This dash, if you are driving into the sun, will cause you to have those dark spots when you shift your eyes. When you have sun to right or left side, it will almost always hit the Mazda emblem in the middle of the steering wheel and glare right into your eye. However with the sun behind you, going down the road, it is a beautiful dash/cockpit.
The car is nowhere near as fast/mean as she looks. Grandma in a Caddy will beat you at a red light if you drive it as a normal person would. It feels like you have to floor it to get any type of speed.
Headrests are HUGE, leading to bigger blind spots.
No car info center. Really, you can tell me the temperature outside, miles, 2 separate trip odometers and tell me radio time and everything else in the center display, but you can't add the option to print out some of the computers readings into the dash somewhere... This is 2012 people, and cars at this price point offer that as standard.
Speaking of that radio display, it's in the center of the dash in front of what looks like a storage cabinet (which it's not, but would have been great if it was). That sun issue with the dash, yeah, you can't read that area at all if you are driving towards the sun.
There's a large plastic "trim" piece on the floor where the clutch would be. It's not quiet either when you rest your foot on it. I thought I was breaking something the first few times until I got used to it.
This car has a 4 cylinder engine, but has a 18.5 gallon (yes, you read that right) gas tank. I have had Caddys with smaller gas tanks and twice the engine! Is a gas tank that large really necessary to add that much weight to an already massively under powered vehicle? SIGH. The first time I filled it up at just under 1/4 a tank and it took 15 gallons, I just about died! This car definitely looks like the type of car that would have a 12-15 gallon tank, not an 18.5er!
Automatic transmission can't make up its mind what gear it wants to be in when you come off a light. It will on average change gears 7-10 times before settling on 5th once you get up to speed. Only way to avoid this is to drive it in M auto mode. I also noticed that driving it in M auto mode improved MPG by about 15%
Honestly, with what I have experienced with this car, take your money and spend it elsewhere, I didn't even get on the warranty I read, which was a joke and a half. But it's just my 2 cents :)