It’s not always easy to find a car that stirs your passions and also appeals to your rational side, but the new Mazda Mazda3 manages to tick off both boxes.
Long known for its sporty driving demeanor, the fourth iteration of Mazda’s compact sedan continues that tradition, in part because the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine (186 hp) that was an option last year is now standard across the model lineup. This powerplant comes mated to a 6-speed automatic, though a 6-speed manual transmission is also available. FWD is standard, but AWD is now offered for those who want an extra sense of safety in rainy or snowy conditions.
Inside, you’ll find major upgrades in design and materials that give the passenger cabin a decidedly upscale look. The rear seat is still a little short on legroom, and the 13-cubic-foot trunk is on the small side. But the 60/40-split rear seatbacks fold down to make room for bigger cargo. The 3 also comes as a likable wagon-like hatchback for those with more to schlep.
Factor in the suspension’s nice balance between confident handling and a comfortably firm ride, plus above-average fuel economy, and the Mazda3 is bound to satisfy.
Vehicle layout: 2.5-liter inline 4 (186 hp), 6-speed automatic, FWD
MSRP, base model: $21,920; (as tested: $31,335)
MPG, city/hwy/combined: 27/36/30
Safety ratings: NHTSA: not yet rated; IIHS: good (all crash-related ratings)
Spare tire: Compact temporary
Final assembly: Hofu, Japan
Basic warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles
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