Dart, Focus, Cruze, Mazda3 and Corolla Compared:
By now you guys and gals know I love cars and you also may know that Iím in the market for a new car. My trusty old Accord is beginning to wear out and pretty soon Iím going to have to pull the trigger on something new. My choices are wide and expansive and Iím considering everything from another Accord to the Ford Fusion and new Optima. Iím also considering compacts like the Focus, Mazda3 and even the new Kia Soul. I live in Milwaukee now and for whatever reason there seems to be an abundance of cars here with manual transmissions here. I recently was able to test drive a Cruze 2LT 6MT, 2014 Corolla S 6MT, Mazda3 i GT 6MT and a Ford Focus Titanium 5MT. Here are my thoughts. Just for comparison I also drove a Civic EX-L 5AT to compare these cars against the class ďBenchmark.Ē
6) Honda Civic EX-L 5AT
Pros: Roomy interior, Decent pricing, Reliability
Cons: Feature content, Boring to drive, Interior design
What a difference a model year makes! 2013 models are much more upscale, more expressive and more refined than the 2012 Civic models were. 2012 models honestly looked like Chinese spin-offs of the 2006-2011 Civics. Despite that extensive make-over, the Civic still looks dated and too economy-like compared to every other compact I drove, including the new Corolla.
From the front end, the fog lights are a nice touch, but the chrome strip across the lower front fascia is tacky. Honda could have saved $50 bucks on every Civic and spent the money elsewhere. It simply is an ugly afterthought. In a world where the Dodge Dart, Kia Forte, Corolla and Mazda3 all offer some form of upscale exterior lighting, its a shame the Civic still lacks projector beam headlamps. This is especially true on EX, Ex-L and SI models. How about we deleted the ugly front chrome strip and add a set of projector beams for the LX and EX and HIDs for the EX-L and SI? Hondaís main rival, the Corolla, has LED headlamps as standard equipment.
The side profile still looks sloppy with the window and plastic panels ahead of the front doors looking like tacky afterthoughts. Why not place the door mounted mirrors inside the front plastic panels to clear up some of the clutter? The Civic EXís two-tone alloy wheels look nice but are unfortunately too small. The Canadian Civic Touring gets nicer 17 inch alloy (used on the previous generation Civic SI) they should be used on our Civics here in the states as well.
The rear update is a very nice improvement. The dark-colored tail lenses, and redesigned bumper are nice touches. Only thing missing is a nice set of LEDs and maybe a rear exhaust outlet. Overall, Civic ďlooksĒ like a compact car whereas the Cruze, Focus and especially the Mazda3 look more premium and more expensive.
Definitely an improvement from the 2012 model year, at least from a materials standpoint. I still find the interior design to be polarizing though. The interior design didnít change all that much for 2013 but the simplification and streamlining of panels, fabrics and interior colors brings about some good improvements. Most interior materials are good for the class but the Civic still lags behind the Mazda3, Focus and the Cruze for overall material quality. The stitching on the passengerís side of the dashboard is a nice, though random touch. Honda should have stitched the whole dashboard.
The navigation and audio controls are driver centric and work well in theory but the design just looks forced. The two-tiered dashboard never tickled my fancy on the previous generation of the Civic and looks worse still in this generation. It seems as if Honda purposely wanted to make the Civicís interior confusing and overly complicated. The dash designs of the Corolla, Mazda3 and even the spacey Focus are just more uniformed. Mixed with this space-age look are some very dated design elements and an even more dated navigation system. The automatic transmission shifter looks just like the same one my mother had in her 1992 Accord DX and the navigationís graphics look like something from 2003.A power driverís seat would be another nice addition since every other car tested here offers one.
Interior space, particularly the rear space is the Civicís saving grace. The cabin feels absolutely roomy and spacious compared to every other car I test drove. Seating is comfortable overall but nothing about the car feels upscale or expensive. Definitely better than the Corolla but no match for Cruze, 3 or Focus.
The Civic was automatically at a disadvantage next to the other cars driven because it was saddled with a 5AT. Nobodyís fault but Hondaís for that, they dropped the manual transmission option for EX and EX-L sedans a few years ago. Iíve already heard that 2014 Civics will get enhancements and CVTs across the board, I donít see the CVT changing my rating of the Civic overall though because the 5AT is actually a very respectable transmission choice and does a fine job of delivering the power when you need it. Driving the Civic around town proved exactly why the Civic sales so well. The car handles road imperfections with ease, has decent steering feedback and is responsive when need be.The car is classic Honda in its overall refinement except for the fact that the car no longer feels sporty. Previous generations were simply more fun to drive. When I get inside and drive the Focus and Mazda3 it becomes instantly clear that these two are the driverís choices. The Corolla S and Cruze RS at least try to pretend to be sporty,even if they arenít always as sporty. The Civic doesnít even try. I shouldnít have to move up to a Civic SI for an fun and enjoyable driving Civic.
The Civic is a fine compact sedan and I totally understand why the Civic continues to sale as well as it does. However, Honda drastically dropped the ball on the redesign of the Civic for MY2012. Honda took the easy route and offered up a mediocre car at best that simply was not ready for the resurgent domestic and newly competitive korean competition. Honda put in a drastic amount of effort to rework the Civic for 2013 but the car still comes up short. In a world where compact sedans now have as much (if not more) equipment than many midsize sedans, the Civic comes up short, even compared the the once-ancient feeling Corolla. Styling elements of the Civic are sub-compact at best in that the car lacks the overall sportiness of the Ford Focus, the upscale expressiveness of the Mazda3 and the button down-look of the Cruze RS. Proportionally the Civic just looks ďoff.Ē Ditto the interior design which looks overwrought, complicated and disjointed next to the more cohesive designs of the Mazda3, Corolla and especially the Cruze. I am a firm believer that the Civic will continue to be one of the best sellers with nearly 40 years of sales and a stellar reputation, the Civic can sale on its name alone. However, I really wish that Honda would just cut their losses, redesign the Civic around MY2015 and start from scratch. The Civic in its current form is just outclassed from styling, feature content, refinement and sportiness compared to the other cars I drove.
5) Toyota Corolla S 6MT
Pros: Reliability, Pricing, LED headlights
Cons: Cheap interior materials, Cost-cutting is abundant and obvious, rubbery shifter
Let me say that Toyota has done a decent job in redesigning the new Corolla. Itís still definitely no beauty queen but the design in ďSĒ trim with the optional 17 inch wheels gives the car a bit of flair. I really like the fact that all Corollas come with LED headlights as standard equipment. They look really sharp during the daytime and illuminate the roads very nicely at night. I hope the LED technology spreads quickly across the mainstream lineup. I can easily see Toyota adding LED headlights to the Camry for 2015. Honda offers LED headlights on the Accord Touring and they look awesome. The front end of the Corolla looks, dare I say it, aggressive and it's easily my favorite angle of the new car.
From the side profile,this ďnewĒ Corolla strongly resembles the current Corolla. I wouldnít say its a refresh (like the 2012 Camry seems to be) but its definitely an evolutionary design in profile. The 17 inch wheels are quite nice-looking and much better looking than the wheel covers and optional alloys found on Eco and LE models. However,even the 17 inch wheels canít hide the awkward profile styling and ďon stiltsĒ look of the Corolla. The L, LE and Eco models look dreadful. Sadly most new compact sedans all have that ďtooty bootyĒ look that I just donít like. The Cruze and Jetta are the rare exceptions.
The rear end of the Corolla is derivative. Since the 2012 Focus hit the scene it seems like every redesigned small car (sans the Civic) has mimicked the Focusís taillights. Corolla (and Kia Forte) could easily be mistaken for a Focus sedan when viewed from behind.The taillights just look awkward and the whole rear end just looks bulky. S models should get some LED taillamps.
The interior of the 2014 is vastly superior to the previous generation and has a better design (and slightly better interior materials) than the current Camry. Thatís not saying much considering the Camry is at the back of the pack as far as interior design and interior materials go in the midsize class. I love the dashboard stitching too, its kinda classy.
The dashboard layout itself is very attractive and much more cohesive than the current Civicís interior. Iíd say it has better interior materials than the new Forte does too. The Focus, Cruze, Elantra and Mazda3 definitely do it better as far as materials and overall design though. There are no soft touch materials on the top of the dashboard. Door panels are hard as a rock. The actual design on the door panels is quite nice and has some nice detailing and stitching (just like the dashboard has) but I was let down but razor sharp plastics that feel brittle to the touch. I do like the use of trim pieces used throughout the dashboard. Piano black trim and various shades of orange, blue or black trim are found all throughout the interior.
Ergonomics are hit and miss. The audio controls are definitely nicer to the touch and feel more premium than the knobs found inside the Camry but the Navigation system (the S I drove was loaded) and its tiny screen are too low for optimal viewing and the screen itself is surrounded by so many buttons that are too close together. The screen is too small and placed in an awkward position. You have to be careful when using your fingers around the edges of the touch screen, youíll end up hitting one of the surrounding audio controls by mistake. It becomes annoying very quickly. Audio sound quality was decent, not nearly as nice as the Pioneer system inside the Cruze or the awesome Sony system inside the Focus. FM stations actually sounded better than XM stations. I didnít attempt to connect with Entune but if its anything like the prior systems Iíve used its merely adequate. Nothing special. The audio and climate controls functions as they should and the cool blue illumination is looks very nice.
Interior volume was quite good for a compact car, especially in the rear seats. The car I drove had cloth/leatherette interior which was pretty nice. I was a bit miffed by the fact that outboard passengers donít get adjustable rear headrest but the center passenger does. Another sign of Toyota cutting cost. Thatís too bad really.
Decent, very decent. Keep in mind I drove the Corolla S before I took the Mazda3 out for a spin so my entire perspective changed after driving the 3.. My local dealer allowed me to drive the car all by myself so I took a 20 min drive around the city of Milwaukee, driving on the interstates, highways and around town. I spent most of my time driving the Corolla on Interstate 43 and around town in stop and go traffic. Overall I managed a respectable 31mpg, not bad at all considering I got the car up to 80mph while on the interstate. MPG aside though, the Corolla felt too appliance-like for me. The clutch in the Corolla is super light, maybe too light and too sensitive. Shift action is decent and precise, definitely not as good as say a the shifter in my Accord when it was newer. The throws were not very long and it was nice to see Toyota using a 6MT in their car (hello Ford Focus and Honda Civic!) Power though was lacking. I found myself constantly downshifting the car to pull any real power out of it, I didnít have that issue with the Focus, Cruze or the 3. Wind and road noise were minimal, a Toyota trait Iíve come to expect from all of there cars.
Overall, a decent drive. Better than the previous generation but no match for the Focus, Cruze or even the Civic and Forte.
I was totally surprised when I spotted the Red Corolla S 6mt that I took out for a spin. Its rare to find manual transmission cars loaded up with features but this Corolla was loaded. Navigation, Sunroof, leatherette/cloth all for a little of $22K. Corolla isnít the penalty box that it used to be but its become clear that Toyota realizes they can put in much less effort than say Mazda to remain competitive in this class. Iíd say the Corolla is a decent match for most of its competition and is definitely more competitive to its peers than perhaps the Camry is to its competitors but its definitely not the class-leader for refinement, fun or even feature content. However, Toyota (and Mazda and Ford and Chevy) should be applauded for still equipping its higher trim level cars with manual transmissions. Honda no longer offers the Civic in EX or EX-L sedan form with a manual transmission so its good to see that at least their chief rival still does. .
4) Dodge Dart GT:
Pros: Upscale feature content, Roomy interior, Abundant power
Cons: Unrefined power train, Cheap interior elements, awful MPG ratings
The styling direction is decidedly Dodge Neon-looking, why they just didnít call this car ďNeonĒ is beyond me. From the front the GT model as a nice, sporty-looking blacked out grille and premium HID headlamps that give the car a sporty look. The lower honeycomb grille is also a very nice touch. SXT and Limited models with the body-colored grille just donít look as good.
The side profile to me is a bit messy. From some angles it looks bubbly and blobby. A nice set of door side moldings could break up the blah of it. The nice 18 inch wheels the GT models get helps the look a whole lot. Smaller 17s and 16s just donít work on this car.
The rear end is the most ďinterestingĒ part of the car for most people. It may mimic the Challenger and Charger in many respects but it looks like nothing else in this class and thatís a good thing. Like the front end, I love the fact that the Dart is available with LED taillights. Itís a nice touch that looks really good at night.
Another reason this car should be called Neon. The interior design and overall execution just donít cut it in this class. The interior design is too-much 2001 Dodge Stratus or 1999 Dodge Intrepid and not enough new Charger or new 300 good. Even the seats inside the Dart GT I drove looked and felt like something from the 1990s.
Interior materials arenít all that bad actually, Climate/Audio controls have a nice tactile feel to them but the secondary controls feel flimsy. The dashboard itself is made of soft touch materials but they still look cheap. There is a nice mix of chrome used throughout the interior though and I like it better overall than the Civicís interior.I do love the reconfigurable display inside the Dartís gauge cluster and the large UConnect infotainment system is awesome. Better than anything Ford and Honda have come out with, more modern than the Cruze set up and it has a huge display that makes the Mazda 3ís new screen look tiny. Itís mostly easy to use and the graphics are wonderful. The Cruzeís system is still easier to operate though.
Those ugly seats offer very little in the way of comfort and support. Interior volume is pretty good for the class, falling somewhere between the Civic and the Focus and Mazda3 but I just wish Dodge had done a better job on the overall design and execution of the interior.
Better than Civic and Corolla, for sure. But Dart needs more refinement. The 2.4/6MT combo in the Dart GT is good overall but it needs more polish. The shifter feels a bit sloppy and rubbery but power is strong and abundant.
In the compact class, MPG has more merit than HP and here the Dart loses again. Itís nice to have the 184 hp but with MPG ratings of 31 for the hwy, the Dart falls short of the competition for the big drop in MPG.
Steering feel, brakes and handling overall are pretty good, rivaling the Focus in some respects without the Focusís Euro-polish. The Dart feels heavier and bigger than most of the competition because it is bigger and heavier than most of them. A nice diet and some overall refinement are in order in my opinion.
For a speedy design, the Dart isnít a bad car. Itís obvious though that Dodge rushed to get the Dart out for sale. From the beginning the car has had its share of issues, from supply issues with automatics at its launch to issues with transmissions and engine combinations up until recently. Dodge expects this new 2.4L engine to be the volume leader and I question this move since the 2.4 gets worse gas mileage than most midsize family sedans today.
On the bright side though the Dart offers lots of equipment, its styling is sporty, rebates are very good which means pricing is competitive and its got a roomy interior. The unrefined interior design and lack of refinement in the mechanicals just hurts the car in my view. Dodge should go back and rework the car over extensively.
3) Chevy Cruze 2LT 6MT:
Pros: Styling, Easy to use infotainment system, Ride quality/handling
Cons: Dated interior design, Pricing, Lack of feature content
I know Iíve been rough on the Malibu, but Iíve always had a soft spot for the Cruze. I took a 6MT LS model out for a spin way back when the Cruze first debuted and Iíve really liked the car ever since.
As far as compact sedans are concerned. The Cruze is the best looking of the bunch. While most of the compact cars have a gradually rising rear ends, the Cruze has a low, tailored and refined look to it. 2LT and LTZ models look especially nice with the RS package and the Black Cruze I test drove had that package. The front end of the Cruze still looks good, the fog lamps with chrome bezels look upscale as does the dual chrome edged grilles. The rear end needs a little bit of work but overall its still better looking than the Corolla, Civic, Focus and Mazda3 sedans. A nice set of darker rear lenses and some LEDs out back would improve the look though.
Dated. Period. I hear so many folks (even GMI folks) say the Cruzeís exterior styling feels dated. I disagree, its the interior that feels 2008ish IMO. I have two former co-workers who drive Cruze models (LS and 1LT models) and I still cannot stand the fabric on the dashboard. The 2LT I drove had an all black interior. The leather was very nice, chrome bezels around the gauges looked upscale and the materials for the most part were above average, definitely better than the Corolla, Forte and even the Elantra. The carpet on the dashboard just looks tacky though. The Cruze I drove didnít have the Navigation system but it did have MyLink. Dated interior styling or not, the MyLink system was by far the easiest to use and the larger touch screen was placed up high for optimal viewing for the driver. Audio and climate controls felt a bit cheap and I was surprised that the Cruze 2LT doesnít offer push button start (on manual models) or automatic climate control.
Interior volume was good overall, better than Mazda3 and Focus but not as roomy in the rear as the Corolla. Rear seats are comfortable though, and feel more supportive than the 3 does.
Unlike the Malibu, which feels heavy and sluggish, the Cruze is kinda peppy. Sure the Corolla tries to give off a Sporty vibe, but where the Corolla is a pretender, the Cruze comes off as a bit more euro-feeling in its driving and handling. Despite having similar horsepower ratings, the Cruze felt faster, handled better and had better ďfeelĒ than the Corolla did. Iíd go on to say that the Cruze has a better manual transmission than the Focus does too. Only the Mazda3 felt sportier overall. The cabin was coffin quiet too
My local dealer here also let me take the Cruze out for an extended test drive. Around town the car has scoot, it manages potholes and road imperfections well (Milwaukee has some terrible roads in the suburbs) and overall I think it would make a great city car.
The Cruze is an underrated underdog. I always feel like the Civic and Corolla get too much publicity in this class. The Cruze does just about everything better than both. Handling, styling, interior materials, ride quality and performance overall. My issues with the Cruze have more to do with its age overall. Itís interior design is dated, feature content is a bit behind the class competitors (especially the Mazda3) and the Cruze was actually the most expensive car that I tested here. Itís definitely class-competitive and is definitely a better car than the Corolla or the Civic but I just find the Mazda3 and Ford Focus to be more compelling choices for around the same (Mazda3) or less (Focus) money.
2) Ford Focus Titanium 5MT Hatchback:
Pros: Exterior styling, Feature content, Excellent interior materials
Cons: Cramped interior space, Infotainment system is complicated, Needs some lighting updates
Iíve driven so many different Ford Focus models that its pitiful. By now youíd think Iíd own one but I still havenít pulled the trigger on it yet. Thatís a good thing I suppose.
Of this group the Focus in hatchback form is my favorite. Iíve loved this car since it debuted at the 2010 NAIAS. I love the front end with its smoked headlamps and trapezoid grille. The car is beginning to look dated but with a midcycle refresh right around the corner, some LED lighting up front, projector beam HIDs and re-worked Fusion grille is all the car would need to keep me in the fold.
The side profile is still handsome, this is especially true of the Titanium models equipped with the 18 inch wheels which still look oh so good to me. Iíd like to see Ford redesign the rear taillamps on the hatchback and remove the area of the taillights that protrudes into side rear styling. Iíd also like to see LED rear taillamps added to at least the Titanium models. For a car that can reach well over $28K with every option added, its a real shame the Titanium models lack LEDs front and rear and projector beams in the front. Overall though, the Focus just does it for me styling wise.
Some love it, some hate it, I LOVE it. Interior materials are better than the Cruze and Corolla and rival the Mazda3 in many respects. Interior design is space-agey and that works for me. Liberal use of chrome accents and nice metallic trim break up the monotony of the black interior of Titanium models. Optional two-tone leather interiors honestly look tacky because the burgundy or white two-tone trim is used on the steering wheel and trim pieces inside the car. Keep it simple stick with the all-black interior. Would be nice if Ford offered a brown leather option. Iíd be all over than with a dark blue Focus.
The MyFord Touch system is my main area of contention. Its a bit glitchy at times, doesnít have full pandora capability and stupidly Ford still doesnít offer the awesome ďApplinkĒ feature on MyFord Touch-equipped vehicles (which has Pandora.) Hopefully since Ford just bought a software company the application will be added to the car soon. I hope the updated Focus gets the reconfigurable gauge cluster found on the Focus Electric and Fusion models. Itís awesome.
Interior volume is miniscule. Front leg room is simply ok, it would be better if the protruding dashboard were angled a bit differently. Overall the front headroom is good for a person of my stature (Iím only 5 feet 8) but rear leg room is absolutely dreadful. Thankfully its just me, myself and I. I rarely have passengers these days so its ok with me. If you are looking for rear seat room, the Focus (and Mazda3) arenít going to be roomy enough for you.
Though the rear seat is cramped, the seats themselves are very supportive. Ford puts lots of emphasis on being more upscale than the competition. Nice touches like headrest that have a nice suede felt material under them, chrome trim inside of the interior and high quality materials throughout the entire car give it a more premium feel.
European. Remember how we used to beg Ford to bring us cars from Europe? Iím glad Ford finally listened. Steering feels weighty, maybe a bit too heavy at times but feedback is always on point. The 2.0L engine struggles a little bit for speed but its never tired feeling or as sluggish as the Corolla. Adding the 1.5 or 1.6 Ecoboost engines to the Focus would be an awesome idea. The 5MT gets the job done but it wouldnít hurt the acceleration (and perhaps fuel economy) if the Focus had a 6MT. Interior noise levels are class-competitive, not as good as Cruze and Corolla but better than the 3 overall.
Deep down the Focus is still my favorite just based on looks alone but the car is starting to show its age. The Infotainment system is glitchy and overall complicated, every other car in the group offers full pandora capability (Iím a sucker for Pandora, sue me!) and the Focus can get pretty expensive. Thankfully Ford is always ready and willing to discount the hell out of the Focus. Rebates on 2013s are as high as $4000. Focus does have a premium interior, awesome road manner, excellent exterior styling and feature content galore in its favor.
1) Mazda3i GT 6MT Hatchback
Pros: Fun to drive, MPG best in class, Excellent interior materials/design
Cons: Exterior styling elements don't always work, Cramped interior space
To put it lightly, I was a bit let-down by the looks of the i GT hatchback I drove. After seeing all the high-profile and highly-styled studio photos of the new Mazda3 in S GT trim, lessor ďIĒ models just look stale in comparison. Itís amazing what a nice set of alloy wheels, some LED DRLS and even a simple set of fog lights can do for a car. The I GT models should at least get 17 inch wheels. The 16s look terrible IMO.
The front grille is just too large and takes up too much visual real estate. The smaller, less angular grille on the 6 and CX-5 are nicer. Whatís worse is the fact that the license plate holder is smack dab in the middle of this grille so for those of us in states with dual plates its going to be one hell of an eyesore.
Side profile of the hatch is quite nice. I like the elongated front end but here again, the car just looks awkward with the 16 inch wheels. The 18s fill the wheel wells nicely though, I couldnít stop looking at some of the S models they had in the showroom and out on the lot. What a difference some fancy lighting and a different set of wheels make.
The rear end is derivative, mimicking a mini Mazda6, nothing spectacular about it, but nothing offensive. Overall Iíd say the design is clean with the exception of the Angry birds-like front beak. Its a much more expressive and expensive-looking design than the Corolla, Civic or Forte but I still think the Focus Hatchback is the best looking car in this class.
Best in class. Period. The only other compact car that comes close in my view is the Ford Focus, and its a very close second. Interior materials are top notch, from the top of the dashboard all the way to the power window switches. The only eyesores to me were the flimsy feeling push button start and the tacky looking carbon-fiber trim. Otherwise interior materials rival midsize sedans. The climate controls have a very tactile feel to them, interior illumination is much nicer than inside the Corolla, overall it just feels like a more mature and more expensive car than anything else.
Interior design and ergonomics are very good too but I do wish the climate controls were up just a bit higher. The placement is somewhat awkard but its nice to see that dual-zone climate control is offered still in the Mazda3. Cruze, Corolla and Civic only over single zone. Focus, Forte and Elantra offer dual-zone as well. The new audio system is awesome and easy to use. Sure the audio ďpodĒ itself looks like an afterthought in some respects but it works well overall.
Mazda I GT models come with black leatherette, which looks and feels very nice and has red stitching. Kuddos to Mazda for offering multi-level heated seats, the Corolla i drove didnít even have heated seats (I mean i do live in Milwaukee) and even my Accord only has ďhighĒ or ďlowĒ settings. Interior volume is cramped, rear seat legroom is of the Ford Focus variety (I.E. not very good) but the seats are supportive, all five of the headrest adjust (Toyota, take note) and again everything just feels high quality.
Awesome! Even with the 2.0L Skyactive engine, the Mazda3 was fun to drive. I took the car out in stop and go traffic and did a quick sprint onto Highway 45 where I really let the cat out of the bag. There is nothing in the world like driving a nice car with an excellent manual transmission. The Mazda3 is that car. I keep wavering back and forth on rather or not to get something with an automatic transmission. Driving the 3 only makes me want to keep driving the manuals. The car drives effortlessly, shift action is precise and polished, much better than the manual Mazda6 i Touring I drove a few months back. Steering is a bit light but has much better feedback and feel than the Corolla, power is there when you need it but its definitely no powerhouse.When noise is elevated a bit, louder than a Corolla or Cruze but no more noisy than the Civic, Forte or Focus.
The MSRP on the Mazda3 i GT I drove was right around 24K. Not bad for a car with navigation, power moonroof, leatherette interior and all the goodies one would expect in a loaded compact car. Aside from some minor styling issues (and those ugly 16 inch wheels) I absolutely love the Mazda3! The interior is midsize-sedan premium (better than the 6 IMO), its easily the best driving car in its class, pricing is competitive with most every other car in the class and the car is projected to get best in class fuel economy. Whatís not to love? Mazda needs to hurry up and offer the S models with manual transmissions. When they do, there is no doubt as to which compact hatchback Iíll be going for. Ford really will have to step up with the updated version of the Focus next year. Mazda3 is the class leader.