Among the more ignored pieces of advice given by automotive writers such as myself is "buy a Mazda". Japan's number four brand (behind Toyota, Nissan and Honda) really should be in its top two and in America's top five.
Mazda builds premium compact cars with killer handling characteristics and recently has been dialing up the power as well.
Order the 2.5 Turbo in the Mazda 3 and you get 227 horsepower. Feed it 93 octane premium and it'll deliver 250 horses, with 310 lb-ft of torque. That drops zero to 60 times for the Mazda 3 to six seconds flat while putting power down to all four wheels and it manages that while still returning an EPA-estimated 23 miles per gallon city, 31 highway.
There is a Mazda 3 sedan that does all that and it's terrific. But what the hatchback offers is space. Remove the theft-deterrent lid and things back in the cargo area stack. Fold the rear seats flat and there's some serious cargo room.
Equipped with the Premium Plus package, the 2022 Mazda 3 simply wows in terms of materials, fit and finish. Especially at the price, which starts at $34,400. For that, you get the mechanicals discussed above, leather-trimmed seats, navigation, a full suite of active safety features, a power moonroof, dual-zone automatic climate control and a 12-speaker Bose premium audio system.
And (regular readers know what's coming here)---that's about it. Our tester had an extra-cost optional paint color ($395), but everything else is standard. So, with $1,015 delivery, processing and handling fee, the as-tested price of the 2022 Mazda 3 2.5T AWD Hatchback is $35,810.
That's a thousand dollars less than the Volkswagen Golf GTI I reviewed back in March. You give up 9/10ths of a second getting to 60 and two mpg city, three highway, but you also don't have to deal with the new VW's maddening infotainment and climate interfaces, and you get a much more premium interior, which absolutely counts for something. Whether or not you buy a Mazda (and you should)---absolutely test drive one. The 2022 Mazda 3 2.5T AWD Hatchback belongs on your short list.