With a 167 horsepower four cylinder the Mazda3 four door sedan turns back fuel economy figures of 22 city/29 highway. That is impressive for a four cylinder of that size, displacement and power. With the six speed manual transmission this is one fun to drive car. It may not be quite as fun as a Miata but it is close.
Front seat room is ample while the rear seat is big enough for occasional passengers. If I was a parent looking for a fine first car for my college or high school student I would definitely put the 3 near the top of my shopping list. Either that, or I would give the kids my hand me down car and keep the 3 for myself.