Yeah, $30K for a Mazda 3 is insanely expensive.... This probably sounds like blasphemy (I'm not a 'fan-boi', I'm just with Kingsoup - anything decently built and reliable gets my vote, except GM), but have you looked into any of the recent Hyundais or even Kias, like the Forte, or Elantra or Elantra GT? The new Kia Forte is actually a very nice car and Hyundai/Kia has jumped LEAPS and BOUNDS in recent years in terms of quality and fit and finish. Best friend of mine has a '10 Forte and he's never had any issues with it at all. I've driven it once or twice, decent power, good build quality, and a reasonable price, plus a surprising amount of stuff as standard. Like I said, not a 'fan-boi', but I guess I am a little biased as I've never had any issues with my '09 Accent either, although the one I have is definitely a base model...everything plastic interior, yes, but it's well put together. I miss my old Impreza though, but I imagine even a base model Impreza would be fairly expensive too if you went to look into those....good cars though, although the latest-gen is a bit bland styling-wise to me.