Third time’s a charm?

The compact car segment is kind of like The Bachelor; there is intense competition for that one spot in your driveway. Each candidate -- Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Toyota Corolla, Chevrolet Cruze, VW Jetta, Ford Focus -- offers an attractive package, but one just might have that extra something-something you're looking for.

Keep in mind, every round (or model refresh/redesign) the bar is raised. There really isn't a bad choice.

As mentioned, there could be a better choice for your needs.

This brings me to Round 2 with the all-new 2014 Mazda3.

Our first rendezvous happened in Hollywood, California. Needless to say, that was a memorable event both in and out of the car. This is where I will insert the hashtag used in Mazda's marketing campaign: #gamechanger -- because I believe it is.

The Mazda3 has some great features, the steering feel is fabulous and it's more than a good-looking road companion. Seems like an ideal match. In many ways, it totally is.

According to Mazda, one in every three vehicles sold in its lineup is a Mazda3. Furthermore, the Mazda3 is now in its third generation. Good things come in threes, right?

I'm sure I can say three a few more times, can't I?

Regardless, this hot hatch happened to leave a favourable impression on my mind.
That was further solidified when I got a second date with it.

Frolicking about the Lower Mainland in Vancouver, BC, the five-person, five-door has road manners that are just as polite as its Japanese upbringing.

What's that, you say? There's a manual transmission offered? Yes, there sure is. For me, that's the extra edge.

On the "base" 2.0L, 4-cylinder, you have the ability to shift your own gears with a standard 6-speed manual (note, the last generation only had a 5-speed), and there's also an available 6-speed automatic if that tickles your fancy.

I use the base in bunny ears because you could argue that it's not truly a base model. The 2014 Mazda3 comes with some attractive standard goodies like Bluetooth, a push-button start, 155 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque, and more.

While the more powerful 2.5L (184 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque) only comes with the automatic, I'm hopeful that there will soon be a manual offered in this trim. That would be like going on a date with "Mr. Right" and having him open doors and pay for dinner! Chivalry is not dead.

Transmissions and horsepower aside, if you're lucky enough to experience the West Coast sunshine, I'd advise opening the sunroof and letting a little light shine inside the cabin. It'll be worth it even if it's a little chilly.

For the models equipped with Mazda's HMI (Human Machine Interface), plugging in a destination, listening to various kinds of music or making a phone call is just a button-push away.

I could sing its praises all day long, but I'd rather let you make up your own mind.
Pricing starts at $16,995 for the GX with the 6-speed manual in hatchback form. Take away $1,000 if you're after the sedan.

2014 Mazda3 3/4 view

Photo: Mazda