Good looks help the Mazda stand out from the crowd, while an efficient range of engines keep CO2 emissions - and therefore company car tax - and fuel bills low.
So should the Mazda 3 be on your shortlist? Here are five reasons why we think it deserves your attention.
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5. Standard equipment
Every Mazda 3 comes with air conditioning, Bluetooth, two USB sockets and steering wheel-mounted controls, as well as a 7.0in touchscreen infotainment screen. There's no need to look any further up the range.
Even tall drivers will be able to get comfortable behind the wheel of the Mazda 3, thanks to plenty of leg and shoulder room. There's decent leg and knee room for rear passengers, too, although three grown-ups will feel a little squashed.
With prices for the Mazda 3 starting from £17,095, it's competitive against the Focus and Astra and significantly cheaper than the VW Golf. Mazda also has a solid reputation for reliability.
2. Efficient engines
Considering how powerful they are, the fact that Mazda's engines are so efficient is impressive. The 1.5-litre diesel is a good bet for company car drivers, with CO2 emissions of less than 100g/km, and the 2.0-litre petrol we recommend for private buyers returns good fuel economy.
1. Comfortable cruiser
The Mazda 3 rides well on all surfaces, especially if you stick with 16in alloy wheels. The six-speed manual gearbox, which comes as standard, is also pleasant to use, but there's a six-speed automatic available, too.
What about buying used?
The previous Mazda 3 was introduced in 2004 and went off sale in 2009. This first-generation model shared its running gear with the Ford Focus - already one of the best hatchbacks to drive. It offered a comfortable and practical interior, a sizeable boot and a pleasant driving experience.
There are three petrol engines and one diesel to choose from, but we'd suggest that the 1.6-litre petrol offers the best balance of power and ownership costs. Expect to see around 39mpg without trying too hard, but if you're going to be doing lots of miles then the diesel should return 56mpg.
Cars from this era cost as little as £500, but for a late model with fewer than 60,000 miles you'll want a budget of around £4000. You can expect to spend more on servicing than you would with a Focus or Astra, but you can cut costs by taking the car to an independent garage rather than a franchised dealer.
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