Wow, what a great little hatch. This 2.5-liter I-4 pulls very well from idle to fuel cut, and the six-speed manual transmission is superb. I can't think of a better example of a small car that feels just as solid and rewarding as a "real" car. Of course, the last Mazda 3 was also terrific, so it's not surprising that the 2010 Mazda 3 is so delightful.
The exterior of the Mazda 3 hasn't earned universal praise, but the interior is quite well received. As West Coast editor Jason Cammisa pointed out in his review, the funky navigation display doesn't quite fit with the rest of the interior, and the iPod interface is frustrating compared with many of the others on the market, but the materials are quite nice. Again, here's a small car that doesn't scream economy.
When asked about a quality compact car, many people immediately think Honda Civic, but the Mazda 3 is arguably a better choice - particularly in this hatchback configuration.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor