I absolutely love my 3 to death every time I get in it.
As for what you compared it to; focus is out, it has so little power, what's the use. I was honestly quite surprised because I just recently heard how little even the Focus SVT has..
Jetta is good; they get phenominal gas mileage... or should I say can?
Jetta is a common car, its nice, nothing wrong as far as I am aware.
I can't say how well it competes against a matrix or though, I haven't been in one of those yet, but they do produce the same power; I have no idea how much trunk space they have though (i'll get on to that in a second)
Pontiac vibe is a mean looking car, I kind of like them.
but for a larger liter engine .. it doesn't go as easy at the pump according to True Delta's real gas mileage ratings: http://www.truedelta.com/fuel_economy.php?session_code=0
I really just hate to sound against the others and pro Mazda.
But here's a comparison about this car. (this is assuming you get the hatchback, and not the brand new ones)
2.3 liter engine; produces a rated 156 ponies, and it is pretty accurate to all of the dyno sheets I have come across.
Gas mileage: being a hatchback it is of course heavier, and also in the US market you can only get the 2.3 liter model (or in the new ones up to 2.5), doing highway only traveling if I try I have managed to get up to 38 mpg... Which for me personally is absolutely astonishing.. the car is rated at a HORRIBLE 22/29. I have YET to get down below 30mpg even in city driving.
Also note mine is manual; I don't think the weight matters with automatics these days like they used to though.
What all can I stuff in the boot?
Roommate and I discovered this one unintentionally (or did we?) We fit in a 50" plasma tv in its box, and with the rear seats down, it fit perfect; wish I had the dimensions of that box.. but it was HUGE.
The most recent news is in 2009 there were more sales of 3s in Canada than there were Civic.. which is possibly a good thing? It's popular either way. Sedan more than any other though.
Speed 3; well.. if I had the choice I would for sure get the speed, it's a hatchback, its badass.. it's basically the top of the line as far as FWD turbo cars on the market.. still. It is the king in its position; if you're reading reviews and they mention torque steer.. they have 0. I don't know why reviewers seem to have issues with it, but.. it has almost no torque steer at all.
Okay; as far as what is Ford in the car goes.. Every car anyone buys will have some sort of issues, that's just the world we live in, nothing is perfect. The only common issue is the passenger side motor mount will go out. Mine went out the day I drove it off the lot. Everyone's seem to go every 50k-60k miles. That's ford for you. It costs about $60 to replace it, and it took my dad and I about 15 minutes. If you're worried, there are aftermarket mounts that will run you just over $100 and I haven't heard one of them break yet.
Oh, and here is the picture of the tv box in my car.
It is no surprise it has become a popular car. There aren't to many problems with them, they get astonishing gas mileage, and very comfortable to sit in, in all places.
Other than the motor mount breaking there are few issues i've seen around on the forum except for people throwing CELs from modifying. I mean motor mounts go out in all cars; they're made to supress vibration.. nothing like that lasts forever.
If you can get a deal on one, go for it, I can't come up with one reason not to.
I get my short throw shifter in tomorrow.. woo wooo!! It'll feel nice to have that baby installed.