"This fun car is very affordable. However, this cheap vehicle doesn't come without problems. I have a 2008 Touring i with 2.0 manual. The engine is WAY too weak to pull the heavy car from a stop, especially with the A/C on. Once the car starts to move, the engine's strength is okay. The seat material started to fray on the first day of purchase (this was a new car). Seats were replaced under warrantee but they were defective also. Still dealing with Mazda Corp. about this issue. Gas pedal space is too tight. My shoe gets caught by the brake pedal at times. A bit dangerous. My right knee also hits the center stack while I'm driving. (I'm only a 5' 8", 170 lb guy). The lock mechanism of the driver's door began to squeak anytime you locked/unlocked the doors (replaced under warantee). And the radio's antenna is WAY TOO weak. I don't receive all of my regular stations that my Honda Accord (the great car I traded for this Mazda 3) picked up. I deal with the static b/c the dealer said this is normal.
The car is good on gas, fun to drive, and sporty for an economical vehicle. Steering is tight and the car takes rough roads well. Turn radius is amazing. Overall, I like the car but regret trading in my Accord : ( Wish I had it back!!"
Pros: "HANDLING DYNAMICS! reliablity, and efficiency"
Cons: "rust...everywhere! catch it early!"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Great all around car for someone who truly enjoys driving, but also needs a reliable, practical commuter car. Handling dynamics are far superior to anything else in its class.
I bought this car because I was driving 30k+ miles per year for work, and needed something reliable and fuel efficient, but didn't want to sacrifice driving fun. We also had another 2006 3i at the time, so I knew of its handling and reliability already. My 2006 3s served as autocross race car for 3 full seasons, netting 2 class championships at the regional level, and doing so on one set of race tires. Street tires have consistently lasted 60-70k miles for me, no problem.
In fact, most everything seems to last a long time on this car: didn't burn out a single light bulb for over 8.5 years, original shocks/struts replaced at 144k only for upgrading to adjustable for autocross, original battery replaced after 9+ years, front brakes last 50k+, rears last 100k+, original clutch still going strong at 188k. Gas mileage varies from 30mpg mixed to 35-37 all highway.
The only non-wear parts that have needed replacing have been A/C compressor and motor mounts. The other downside is the inevitable rust that seems to plague all Mazdas of this vintage. I do live in the heart of the rust belt, but have taken good car of the car's exterior. Still, the rust is starting to grow everywhere. Nothing perforated, but at least 10-12 different places where rust is forming. For me, the car has a lot of miles now, so it doesn't bother me quite as much, but I still think that this should not be happening to a car that's only nearing its 10th birthday. Car also has intermittent check engine light for EVAP system, which developed around 180k (yes, I've replaced the gas cap). It runs fine with the light on, so it doesn't concern me any.
Other random complaints are: not enough seat adjustability, clutch pedal feel could be a little better, but I've driven much worse (anything made by VW), and EXTREMELY non-linear throttle mapping. 1/4 throttle on the pedal is really like 1/2 throttle and there is literally no difference between 3/4 and full throttle on the pedal, 3/4 throttle is full throttle. This may work for automatics, giving the average idiot the feeling that the car is peppier than it really is, but it makes it more difficult to get used to and annoying on a manual transmission car.
But overall, the best car I've ever owned and I wouldn't hesitate to buy another of the same generation or newer. It started my passion for Mazdas, and now I currently own 3 of them."