I recently got the i touring hatchback version of the mazda3. The steering is very precise, unlike a lot of other cars. Skyactiv is a must. The improvement in performance and fuel economy is worth the extra cash. Stay away from the base trim for the 4 door. The car is pretty fun to drive even at low speeds.
I traded my '13 Ford Focus (that I bought brand new), for my brand new Mazda3. Let me tell you this car is better in all aspects. The Focus was very nice, but could not get used to the Dual Clutch transmission. I was in heaven when I test drove my Mazda, it drives better then the Focus, it shifts better, handles better. Everyone says how the Mazda3 has hard plastic all over the place on the inside, I don't know about you but I don't drive and tap my fingers on the dashboard at the sometime. Yes, somethings could of been made and/or placed different, but I've never seen a car where everything is perfect, but the Mazda3 comes pretty darn close.
I recently bought this car used, having searched for a GT with manual transmission. I had bought a 2012 Skyactive GT with auto since the manual was not available. Wow! What a difference the transmission makes. Drivability is greatly improved with such a slick shifter and smooth clutch. It's the best manual I've driven, having previously owned 06 and 09 Mazda 3's with manual. Engine power is modest but made more than bearable due to excellent handling and truly outstanding gas mileage. Add to that a fully functional in-dash touchscreen navigation, blind spot monitoring, keyless entry and ignition, auto wipers, and articulating headlights and you have a great automobile.