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If you are considering a new compact car this year, the 2019 Mazda3 stands well above the economy competition.

PORTLAND TRIBUNE: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The Mazda3 has been compleltely redesigned and is available with front-wheel-drive or optional all-wheel-drive.

Mazda has completely revised its Mazda3 compact sedan and hatchback models for 2019, placing the vehicle on a new platform and adding all-wheel-drive capability. The new Mazda3 is the latest expression of Mazda's effort to be recognized as a premium brand, and there's a lot to like in this small car.

The new Mazda3 is available as an attractive sedan or a boldly-styled hatchback. The sedan body is one of the most generally handsome compact cars on the market at any price, reflecting Mazda's obsession with design and craftsmanship. Compared to the often bland stylings of compact economy cars, the Mazda offers flowing lines and athletic proportions. The hatchback is potentially more polarizing, resembling European sport coupes of the 1960s, but no one can accuse Mazda of playing it safe.

PORTLAND TRIBUNE: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The Mazda3 is available for 2019 as a boldly styled hatchback (foreground) or a handsome sedan.

Under the hood, the Mazda3 is powered by a 2.5-liter direct-injected engine that produces a healthy 186 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. Buyers may choose a 6-speed manual transmission with front-wheel-drive, or a crisp 6-speed automatic with front-wheel or all-wheel-drive.

The AWD is Mazda's i-ACTIV system borrowed from its SUV line, and it works seamlessly to deliver excellent traction on snow or on dry pavement, while preserving fuel economy. Mazda also includes its industry-unique G Vectoring Control Plus system, which has been updated for the new Mazda3. GVC+ improves steering response by slightly reducing engine torque when the driver turns the wheel. The effect shifts weight forward onto the front wheels, improving grip.

PORTLAND TRIBUNE: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - Mazda has improved the quality of the materials in the Mazda3 for 2019 to make the compact car more upscale.

Inside, the new Mazda3 is all about luxury. In the top Premium trim, the Mazda3 offers heated seats made with fine leather, hand-stitched leather trim, and an advanced Bose audio and infotainment system displayed on a wide 8.8-inch screen. There's also a head-up display projected onto the windshield to deliver driving information without requiring the driver to glance away from the road. Advanced safety features like adaptive cruise control, smart braking support, automatic high beams, lane keeping, and blind spot monitoring are included at most trim levels.

We drove the Mazda3 in the mountains to experience its snow capabilities. Even on all-season tires with front-wheel-drive, the Mazda3's traction and stability controls were impressive. On real winter tires with all-wheel-drive, the Mazda3 is as stable as any car on the market. Out on dry pavement, Mazda's reputation as a driver's brand stands out with excellent road manners and handling. There's plenty of power from the engine, because the Mazda3 carries a light curb weight just over 3,000 pounds.

PORTLAND TRIBUNE: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - Premium leather is available for the front bucket seats in the 2019 Mazda3.

If you are considering a new compact car this year, the 2019 Mazda3 stands well above the economy competition. You'll get premium brand performance and features without the premium brand price tag.

2019 Mazda Mazda3

Base price: $21,895

Price as tested: $29,415

Type: Compact sedan or hatchback

Engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder (186 hp, 186 lbs-ft)

Transmissions: 6-speed automatic; 6 speed manual

EPA estimated mileage: 25/33

Overall length: 183.5 inches

Curb weight: 3,022 to 3,255 pounds

Final assembly: Hofu, Japan

PORTLAND TRIBUNE: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - Buyers can choose between the convnetional truck on the sedan or the Mazda3 hatchback.

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