Paulthagerous: The Mazda 3 MPS is a really nice car, great fun to drive. The one I drove was quite keen to understeer though (only when driven quickly mind you)Yeah, I know a golf gti (edition 35) owner who loves his. I have looked at the Subaru S-GT (WRX equivalent from what I understand) and think it looks like it could work also.
The three golf owners I know really like their cars, but no doubt they are more expensive to service than my Subaru.
Assuming you are after something quite sporty, have you thought about a WRX like this one? For my money the 4WD helps get the power down a lot better. Yes this one is an auto, but you get the idea.
I'm assuming any hatch I can afford will understeer to a degree and won't be pushing it so hard that I have to worry about it most of the time.
Something that bugs me about imports is the hard time one has getting their stereo/moitor systems to work in NZ. I know some friends with a Subaru import and their navigation screen can only show the time as the settings disc isn't present and the firmware is defaulted to japan. Has this changed recently to be easier to fix?
Most of the cars i'm looking at seem to be turbo. I've never owned a turbo but see some people finding newer turbo's to be as economical as older normally aspirated engines. I don't really mind, but lets me honest, more power is something i'm going to enjoy.