One of our favorite small cars, the Mazda3 has precise, responsive handling and a firm, comfortable ride. Interior quality is very good overall, although the cabin is noisy and the rear seat somewhat tight. For 2012, Mazda added a new 2.0-liter Skyactiv engine and six-speed automatic transmission that boosted fuel economy to an impressive 32 mpg. If you’re shopping for an earlier model, look for one with antilock brakes, stability control, and the available curtain air bags, as the Mazda3 received a Poor rating in the IIHS side-crash test without them. Skip the zippy Mazdaspeed3.