I also test drove a Mazda 6 (auto though) before I got my WRX. The power delivery is slow, however the engine did sound nice. Handling-wise, it doesn't feel like a front-wheel drive car at all. The dealer was nice enough to let me test the handling to its limits . The car felt very solid through tight turns, and I even took a left turn doing like 40 with puddles of water..thats when the traction light came on =)..There are problems though..seats werent all that, power delivery not fast enough..also first year model..they'll have 2 work out the kinks and the quirks.
Bottomline..will it touch a WRX in terms of handling, power, braking, traction(awd)? In my opinion- no, the WRX is way to angry of a beast to compare wit...=)