Unfortunately not everyone can afford the latest and greatest sports cars, luxury sedans and SUV's. So for the average petrol head with the average wage and a family, the goal is to find a car that you can enjoy without needing to plunge into inordinate amounts of debt.
This brings us to the modern crop of hatchbacks. A small, reasonably priced car that gets you from A to B but in most cases these days, does it with a little bit of *ahem* 'zoomzoom'.
In Australia as of June 2015, Mazda is second only to Holden in terms of sales, and it's not hard to see why. They have pretty much all aspects covered. You go from the small and economical Mazda 2, to the iconic MX-5, right up to the CX-9 people carrier. Mazda really have come on leaps and bounds in terms of knowing how to sell a car.
And personally, I don't think they make an ugly car in the entire range! Okay the new BT-50 isn't going to win many beauty pageants but all of their cars look sleek and modern and now.
Coming back to the 3, the one I have driven is the base model, the Neo. Specifically the automatic with the 2.0 litre engine, and even the the base model you get a comfortable, punchy yet quiet car that doesn't feel dreary and lethargic as is the way with most family cars. Everything in the drivers seat feels like it's in the right place, the vision out the front and back is excellent and all the instruments feel reasonably well made. You'll also average 8.2 litres/100km if don't have a heavy right foot, and if you do, you will actually get a bit of go. I mean it's no Golf GTi but it's nimble and sharp around traffic and has enough grunt to get you past the lane hoggers on the highway.
If there are any real criticisms it's that the road noise is a little over the top and if you are tall (which I am not) the you may find it a little bit cramped, especially if you were sitting in the back and for a hatch, the boot isn't particularly spacious. In summary, the Mazda 3 is a car for the masses that still manages to have a little bit of character for someone who appreciates a good drive.