If you go by photos and spec sheets for the 2017 Mazda3 5-Door hatchback alone, nothing will really jump out at you. It’s a good looking car with an aggressive front end and swooping contoured sides, but nothing in its looks wows you. The 184 horsepower from its 2.5-liter naturally aspirated, twin-cam four cylinder sounds pretty good on paper, but the straight-line 0 to 60 times in the mid-7-second range don’t.

To appreciate the Mazda3 fully, you have to get into the driver’s seat because the third-generation Mazda3 does everything well. It’s a very well-balanced machine with the perfect combination of value and refinement. The Mazda3 doesn’t throw you into the back of its seats with raw power, instead it makes even daily commutes just a little more fun without sacrificing comfort or poise.

A stand out feature of the 3’s handling is the steering. It’s precise, smooth and light. The 3 goes right were you point it with great feedback through the wheel. For a car with no sporting pretensions, Mazda’s commitment to driving excellence really shines through. Aiding handling response is the standard G-Vectoring Control system, which gradually reduces engine torque as you turn into a corner. The system allows the front tires to really bite the road which further enhances the direct connected feeling the car has to the road through the steering wheel.

The chassis feels poised and offers plenty of comfort and the body upon it delivers a best-in-class coefficient of drag (Cd) at 0.255 and 0.28, respectively, when equipped with active grille shutters and i-ELOOP, a capacitor-based regenerative engine braking system to power all of a vehicle’s electrical components. The active grille shutters mounted in front of the radiator open and close with changing driving conditions, improving aerodynamic performance.

2017 Mazda3 5-Door Grand Touring Review

Inside, the car is extremely pleasant for the price point. Great seats, impressive fit and finish and a clean layout greet the driver. The infotainment system utilizes a small rotary controller on the center console for scrolling through menus on the central color touchscreen display. Surrounding it are buttons for directly accessing the various systems — nav, audio, etc. The system is easy to navigate while driving and the positioning is very comfortable.

The steering wheel is very nice with a chunky three-spoked, leather-wrapped design with a great layout for all the buttons you need to operate the infotainment system and Bluetooth phone system without leaving the steering. All told you have three ways to control most infotainment features; steering wheel controls, center console rotary controller and touchscreen. Climate-controls are also very straightforward, with dual-zone control and heated seats in Grand Touring trim.

2017 Mazda3 5-Door Grand Touring Review

The gauge cluster features a centrally positioned analog tachometer flanked by a pair of wing-shaped digital displays. A decorative dash panel outfitted in satin chrome with piano black trim pieces extends from the gauge clusters to the center console and front door inserts.

Rear-seat legroom is tight in the 3 and with a rear-facing car seat in the back legroom becomes tight for the front passenger seat as well.

Starting at just $24,945 in top-of-the-range Grand Touring trim, the Mazda3 hatchback definitely punches above its sticker price. Included are a nine-speaker Bose surround-sound audio system, 18-inch alloy wheel, keyless entry with push start, moonroof, 6-way power leather seats, blind-spot monitoring, and a lot more. My tester came in at $29,770 thanks to the addition of the Premium Equipment package (nav, LED headlights, heated steering wheel, and more), the Appearance package and several accessories.

The 2017 Mazda3 Grand Touring 5-door has a lot of competition in the same class and price range. While you can find a comparo that beats it in just about any respect, I don’t think you can find a vehicle for the price that delivers such an impressive overall package. The 5-door powered by the 2.5-liter engine in Grand Touring trim is certainly the pick of the liter and should satisfy nearly everyone’s needs.

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