I can already see the rolling of eyes and the muttering of ‘Dear God, not another Mazda geekfest’ and, no worries, this won’t be that. Ok, maybe a little. But that’s because the 2016 Mazda3 hatchback is a seriously good car with connective technology, driver assists, and a sportiness that you get when you buy into the brand.

For a starting MSRP of $26,495 for the 2016 Mazda3 S Grand Touring ($30,270 as driven), you get one great hatchback, a peppy engine, and head-turning designs.

We decided to take the Mazda3 to the local imports meet and you wouldn’t believe the oogling looks which turned its way and stayed there as we drove, or people walked, past. The Mazda3 takes the Kodo-Soul in Motion design cues and makes them edgy.

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2016 Mazda3 S Grand Touring Hatch_68An optional appearance package ($1,750) graces the front fascia with an air dam, a hatch spoiler and rear bumper skirt showcase the dual exhaust and boost the rear-end appeal, while side sill extensions accentuate the low profile and standard 18-inch alloy wheels. Even for the extra cost, I’d get these, too. They give the already classically good looks of the Mazda3 and gives it a little pizazz.

2016 Mazda3 S Grand Touring Hatch_34The 2.5L SKYACTIV-G engine pumped out 184 horsepower and 185-lb.ft. of torque, more than enough for that every day smile. Connected to the powerhouse is the SKYACTIV-Drive automatic 6-speed transmission with sport mode which isn’t just for show. Pop the Mazda3 into Sport and it feels like driving around a front-wheel drive, oversized MX-5.

Utilize the paddle shifters while in Sport mode and you’ll find yourself blissfully happy with the performance and handling.

Of course, sport isn’t everything (…who am I kidding, yes it is!), interiors matter and the Mazda3 has been well-trimmed and well-equipped.

Our test mule Mazda3 came with comfortable and power-adjustable (for the driver) leather-trimmed sport seats that we spend quite a few hours enjoying via random cruises around town. We may not have road-tripped in the Mazda3, but we did what most other people do: Random stuff. And there were plenty of cup holders for late night shakes from Jack in the Box.

DSC05043For the price, the Mazda3 has one of the nicest interiors in the industry. Soft-touch, leather-accents, and a stylish design all give the Mazda3 an interior that will keep you happy for years to come.

The rear seats were also comfortable, to which my ever-present backseat reviewer (Britt) mentioned during our drive between Lake Stevens and Monroe.

And, the bass was always bumpin’ via the 9-speaker Bose system and the easy-to-use Mazda Connect infotainment system. Ours included navigation and Sirius XM radio, which was handy when the FM and 4G ended somewhere around Lake Roesiger.

Driver assists include hill start assist, traction and stability control systems, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive front lights, and a remote start ($550 factory installed). One of the best driver assistive features is the active driving display with speed, directional display, and more – this heads-up display (HUD) also makes ducking slightly as other drivers go past whilst making ‘pew-pew’ Star Wars noises extremely fun.

Competitively priced, the 2016 Mazda3 Grand Touring has heated seats and heated exterior mirrors, a great motor, a firm yet comfortable suspension, a classy looking interior filled with tech, and phenomenal style. What more could you ask for?

Not much, that’s for sure.

For us, the 2016 Mazda3 S Grand Touring was the perfect blend of cost-effective craftsmanship, performance, and comfort. To learn more about the Mazda3, please visit www.mazdausa.com for more information.