What’s your favorite vehicle?

2017 Mazda3 (Sinclair Broadcast Group / Jill Ciminillo)

I hate that question. But as soon as someone finds out I write about cars, that’s invariably the first question they ask. However, what they’re really asking is: “Will you validate my choice in vehicle?” Or: “What do you think I should buy? Because I’m looking at a [fill in the blank], and I want you to validate my choice.”

I used to tell people flat out which vehicles were awful and which ones were worth buying. Until I lambasted a car for a good 20 minutes, talking about the shoddy construction and poor reliability. I then asked why he wanted to know, and he responded with: I work at the plant that builds them.


If you really want to know what I think, the better question is: What would you buy?

If you asked me that question, I’d answer without hesitation: a Mazda3.

It’s no secret that I’m a Mazda fangirl. I love pretty much everything it has ever built. Except for the previous-gen Mazda6. But, that’s another story for another time. Its current lineup (IMHO) is the best in the biz: sexy, fun-to-drive, fuel-efficient and tech savvy. Oh, and affordable.

So, why Mazda3? It checks every box in my must-have book. It’s both compact and fun-to-drive. It has a lot of up-level tech features. Plus, you can get heated leather seats. The biggie, however, is you can get a manual transmission at every trim level. I would expect nothing less from an automaker that uses the hashtag #DrivingMatters.

Usually you only see the manual-transmission/heated-leather-seat combo in the likes of BMW or Audi – for twice the price.

I recently had the 2017 Mazda3 sedan at the Grand Touring trim level, and it completely reaffirmed my faith in the little sedan. The as-tested price rang in at $26,880 and included the aforementioned must-haves as well as blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, push-button start, passive entry, navigation, heated steering wheel, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition and automatic emergency braking.

Wrap your mind around all that for a minute.

High-end safety tech. Luxury accouterments. And a manual. For under $27K.

Equipped with a 2.5-liter, 184-horsepower, 4-cylinder engine, the Mazda3 is zippy and smooth. The 6-speed manual transmission is easy-to-shift – and easy to live with as an every-day driver.

I love the new elegant design direction Mazda has undertaken. From the outside in, the Mazda3 looks like it’s much more expensive than it is. The interior is attractively appointed and comfortable. And all the gauges and controls are intuitive and easy to use.

The base price for the Sport trim, which is just as attractive and drives just as well, is $18,720. That’s with the manual transmission and very few whistles and bells, but it does include push-button start, rearview camera, Bluetooth phone pairing and cruise control.

Yes, I love the Mazda3. The only thing that would be better: A Mazdaspeed3. You know, in case anyone from Mazda is reading. Because #DrivingMatters.

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