Pleasantly surprised by this little import. Did not know quite what to expect when I bought this thing, since this is the first Japanese car that I've owned. So far, my impressions are very positive.
Three areas to consider: Power, handling, and comfort.
Handling is very good. I've redone the whole front end and it is as good as new. A car that I own doesn't have to be the most powerful, but I am a total handling snob.
The 2.0 liter engine is one peppy four-banger; mine is mated to a manual gearbox and is a lot of fun to drive. Clutch does engage a little high compared to American clutches. A performance shifter this car is not meant to be.
Pretty good interior for its class. The body is almost 10 years old, and it looks pretty good and is holding up well.
One service adviser commented that if taken care of, Mazdas will last practically forever. I understand.
I thought about getting a truck or something with a little more power and room, but will probably save my money and keep whipping this thing around and get my moneys worth out of it.
Don't mind the snide people who beat their chest about big American cars and "Buy American!". Mazda is under the Ford corporate umbrella.