I purchased my 2011 Mazda3 Grand Touring new. I fell in love with the car while renting one. The Mazda3 is a car I give great praise to because it is a fun car to drive. You can enjoy driving it on curvy roads and even in traffic. The manual shift mode in the automatic is very fast to respond which gives you more of a standard transmission feel, if you're into that. I chose not to get the manual transmission because it can become a pain in traffic.
The 3 is a great all around compact car. Trunk space is plentiful for most shopping trips. The ride is comfortable for daily use. The features, especially on the higher trim levels are great nice to haves that won't break the bank. Higher level trims give leather, premium sound, heated seats, xenon headlights etc.Because it is a compact car it is super easy to park in almost any lot.
I often recommend the 3 to family and friends who are looking for a car to start out with. If you don't have a family or are just a couple the 3 is a great car to have. If you do end up with a family though, it will be tight. For those starting out though, the price is awesome, the reliability is great and its a car that will be enjoyed and kept for a long time.
There are some quirks. The biggest which seems to only apply to this generation, is the delay on bluetooth audio. Also, there is the giant smile on the front. I found that I got used to that after a while. Also, road trips in this car that last longer than 6 hours may become unpleasant. The firm suspension will be felt through the body and into the cabin and controls.
I purchased a brand new Subaru Outback and a brand new Volvo XC70 since I purchased my 3. My Mazda3 will always have a spot in my garage, it is still my city warrior vehicle and after 5 years, puts a smile on my face :-)