I've been driving around my new 2011 WRX and loving it. One of the things I really like about this car is the feel of the shifter with the short throw kit (which came on the car). Enough notchiness to know when you're in gear, light enough and with a good throw length to make it fun, and a great mechanical feel through the shifter.
Tonight, though, I got into my wife's Mazda3 and the first thing I noticed was by comparison how tight/stiff the shifter is. I'm just talking about how much force it takes to move it side to side in neutral. IIRC my old Civic was about the same as the Mazda, and by comparison the WRX's is way, way lighter. It probably takes half the force to move it side to side.
I think I've just been getting used to it over the past few weeks, and I wouldn't exactly call it sloppy, but I was surprised at how big the difference is.
Obviously the shifter setup on the two cars is very different (cable linkage to FWD transaxle vs rod setup mounted more directly to the transmission), and the stick itself is also shorter on the Mazda than on the WRX. Is this just how it is, normally? I don't dislike the way it feels but is this why so many people talk about installing aftermarket shifter bushings?