The 2016 Mazda3s Grand Touring is an all encompassing front drive 5-door.

Offered in sedan and hatchback, the latter offers more cargo room and a sporty look

Rated as one of the most encompassing compact cars, the 2016 Mazda3 has it all. Fuel efficient engine, sporty handling, top crash scores, comfy ride and some utility with the tested hatchback.

The Mazda3 is offered in sedan and 5-door hatchback and in Sport, Touring, Grand Touring and 3i and 3s versions. Depending on engine preference, the 3i denotes a 2.0L 155-hp (150 lb/ft of torque) four-cylinder engine, while the 3s represents the 2.5L, 184-hp (185 lb/ft of torque) four banger powerplant. We tested the top-line 3s Grand Touring with 2.5L and 6-speed automatic transmission. The combination provided more than ample acceleration from a standing stop, during passing maneuvers and has been independently tested at 7.5 seconds for 0-60. Best of all, EPA rated this duo at 27 city, 37-highway mpg, which puts it near the top of its class that includes a host of competitors.

Economy aside, and an important aside, the 3s’s interior is by far the most stylish in its segment. The test car came with a heads-up-display (HID) to keep the drivers’ eyes on the road, a huge single center-mounted analog tachometer and embedded digital speedometer, adaptive headlights and cruise control that are two features that customarily only show up on much more expensive cars. A 7-inch touchscreen color display (whose touch function is disabled while the car is being driven) is positioned atop the vertical stack and resembles a mini-iPad. It serves the rearview camera, audio, GPS nav functions plus, HD Radio Traffic showing traffic flows and jams on area roads and highways, and a Fuel Economy Monitor displaying current and average fuel economy. It’s one of the better systems on many of todays cars.

Added touches include carbon fiber look trim on door handles and eye-catching two-tone perforated leather seats with heated front seats. The seats themselves are soft, supportive and comfy. The rears are soft, comfy and can accommodate two adults with generous leg and headroom. Adding to this, ingress/egress is easy thanks to wide opening rear doors. A center controller knob on the console selects various functions,

and is relatively easy to operate. Overall, the 3s’s controls and layout of them are nicely intuitive.

Cargo space is rated at 20.2 cubic feet, which is somewhat tight but can still hold a large roll-a-long luggage bag. Flip the 60/40 rear seatbacks and capacity increases to 47.1 cubes or enough for two hoofer type golf bags.

Shod with Dunlop 18-inch tires, the 3s rides comfortably on smooth roads but can become a bit bumpy over rough roads and especially when traversing unimproved railroad crossings. While the big 18-inchers compromise some road comfort for impressive handling, sharp turns taken at speed impresses. Credit this to a taut suspension. The tuned steering and short wheelbase makes parking an easy chore with a relatively tight turning radius and nimbleness.

A very long list of safety features includes blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, tire pressure monitoring and with the Technology package you get lane departure warning, forward collision warning and Mazda’s Smart City Brake (forward collision warning that automatically brakes the car at low speeds if it senses a collision). This is a complete front-drive compact car especially with a surprising bottom line. Starting at a base price of $26,495, this price escalated somewhat to $30,270 after adding cargo mat/net ($130), Soul Red metallic paint ($300), Mazda Mobile Start ($550), rear bumper guard ($100), door sill trim plates ($125), satellite radio ($1,750) and a delivery of $820.

The options list isn’t extensive as there are many important standard features included. And to top this off, the 3s received a five full star overall government crash safety rating; plus, five for driver frontal crash, four for passenger; five each for driver/passenger side crash; and four for rollover. In addition, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the vehicle its highest possible “Good” rating in its moderate-overlap and small-overlap frontal offset crash tests. It’s an excellent record with Mazda producing 5 million 3’s since its debut in June 2003.

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