If we were to tell you that you could have a compact car that would give you forty mpg, had more than ample power, handled beautifully and was just a kick to drive, would you be interested?  If so then you might want to take a look at the 2012 Mazda 3.  We are not ready to claim that the 3 is the best of the competition, but we are willing to say it is close to, if not at, the top.

Competition comes from the Hyundai Elantra, Chevy Cruze Eco and the Ford Focus, but only the Focus has more power and it barely hits the 40 mpg mark and the only on the highway.

There are several Mazda engines to pick from.  The 3i SV and Sport trims are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 148 horsepower and has a five-speed manual transmission as standard, but can have a five-speed automatic as an option.  It can do 0-60 in 9.9 seconds and will give you 25/33 mpg.

The 3i Touring and Grand Touring has a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that gives you 155 horsepower with a six-speed manual as standard.  It can do 0-60 in 8.5 seconds and EPA is 28/40 when paired with the automatic transmission.

There is also another engine option, namely the 2.5-liter four-cylinder good for 167 horsepower and a six-speed manual transmission as standard, doing 0-60 in 8.1 seconds.

Safety is guaranteed by antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control and brake assist.

The 3i SV and Sport trims come only in a sedan.  All other trims come in a sedan or hatchback.  Standard equipment includes 16-inch wheels, cruise control,  a trip computer and a six-speaker sound system.  Upgrades are many and too numerous to mention.

We have always been big fans of the Mazda 3.  We find it handles as though it were European in design, and it is full of pep and quite responsive.  It might be described as the perfect car for a college student but we have seen quite a few retired folks putting a 3 through its paces.  This is just a fun car to own for anyone under any conditions.

As for replacement parts, you know as well as we do that the best deals for car parts is at your local salvage yard.  There you can find quality recycled parts for your Mazda 3 and they will all come with a limited warranty and at a great discount.  During these tough economic times, isn’t that worth considering?