Re: Why I Selected a 2011 Mazda 3 S Hatchback
I bought a 2012 3 s Hatch after comparison-shopping the new Kia Forte 5-door, the Focus SE Sport HB, Mitsubishi Lancer GTS hatch, and Subaru Impreza Hatch.
The Mazda won out because it checked more boxes than any of the competitors
Sporty / Fun to Drive: check
Available w manual trans: check
Reasonable Insurance: check
Fuel Efficient: err, no. It's not terrible, but it's not efficient.
Kia lost me right at the outset by not offering manual transmission in anything but a base model. I wanted the sportier engine/suspension. Mitsubishi lost me because there didn't seem to be any GTS hatches in my region of the country. The base model was just too pokey. So that got the axe. The Impreza was tempting - it finished 2nd or 3rd. But it driving it just seemed dull compared to the 3, and the styling, while improving, was still . . . well . . . Subaru.
I thought I'd buy a Focus, based on all the rave reviews. The car I was replacing was a 7 year old focus with 83k miles. It had been fairly reliable, and so I wanted to give Ford a shot to keep my business. And I had no problem finding the exact combination of color/trim/transmission/options. I'd even give it a slight edge over the 3 in terms of styling. Not that it's wonderful, but it's certainly a bit fresher.
Why didn't I buy the Focus? The 2.0 gets close to the horsepower of the Mazda 3 s, but it's not so close in torque. It had noticeably less passing power. But the real issues were the dash and the manual shifter. Most people love the Focus interior, so kudos to Ford. But it looks chintzy to me. Just my $.02. And the shifter was nowhere near as quick and fun to use as Mazda's. Where the 3 s shifter seemed to snick with quick, fairly short throws, the Focus just seemed notchy and clunky. And the throttle response was front-heavy enough to make me feel like I was driving a manual again for the first time. Blech.
So Mazda scored the upset win. I really thought I'd end up with the Focus, or maybe even the Lancer. Glad I took that test-drive at the Mazda dealer. It made all the difference.