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The Mazda 3 gets mixed reviews among its owners, guest drivers and passengers. Though it’s small and sporty, it has its share of challenges.

First, the good. The Mazda 3 is a zippy, fun car to drive. It handles turns with ease, and it’s a quiet, mostly comfortable ride. There is plenty of storage, though legroom in the back is cramped, especially if the backseat passenger is tall.

The 3 comes standard with a 5-speed manual transmission. For drivers who do more city than highway or country dirving, the automatic transmission might be a needed upgrade, though it adds about $2,000 to the cost of the car.

Mazda engineered this car with an eye toward safety, fitting it with 6 standard airbags; it was the first automaker to put 6 airbags in a car of this size and at this price point.

The 3 doesn’t skimp, however. In 2008, Mazda changed the 3’s 15-inch steel wheels to alloy and made power doors and windows standard.

But on the negative side, there are a few things to consider. At about $22,000 base, the car is priced the same as many other small but sporty vehicles that might handle better under certain conditions and often offer more luxury features.

In addition, drivers often complain that the 2.0-litre engine doesn’t have as much perk as it should, though speed demons can upgrade to the 2.3-litre Mazda 3 SP23, which, at a base price of $29,000, also offers a bit more refinement and luxury inside.

The car can ride rough on bumpy terrain and the tires are expensive to replace. Worst of all, the Mazda 3 doesn’t have the resale strength of its category competitors like the Hyundai Elantra.

Though it has a small share of disadvantages, the Mazda 3 is a top seller in Australia. Those sales are likely fueled by the fact that it’s fuel efficient, sporty looking and surprisingly nimble for a car in its class.

Review Videos: Video 1Video 2Video 3