The photos above of the 2018 Mazda 3 5-door Grand Touring, like the photos that accompany almost every Left Lane review, were taken by professional photographers, and for a very good reason.

I don’t take the photos myself because, most importantly, I can’t see the trees for the forest. Or the forest. Or the dirt. Or the leaves. In fact, all I can see is the dog poo I just stepped in because I didn’t originally see the pile.

Though I have the photography skills of Ray Charles with a dry plate camera, even I could bring out the beauty of the Mazda 3 5-door in a photograph. And if a photo is worth a thousand words, a photo of the 5-door is worth easily a thousand moans of pleasure and guttural “ah’s.”

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Mazda 3 is damn good looking. It’s the kind of car that, if this were a video review, I’d have to stand behind it to block my obvious state of excitement.

I will argue that the hatchback version is in the running for the best-looking car on sale today, no matter the price.

The slopes of the hood and roofline are in perfect harmony down to Mazda’s attractive grille accompanied by razor-thin headlights. In profile, two curves run ever closer together from the A-pillar to the rear door, giving the Mazda a sense of movement even at a standstill.

The rear is highlighted by a low deck, headlights that have the appearance of the chef’s blade, and the rear bodywork expands over the wheel wells to give the 3 an attractive squat. Dual exhausts and 18-inch alloys only add to the attractiveness.

The optional Appearance Package ($1,600) adds a front air dam, rear hatch spoiler, side sill extensions and a rear bumper skirt to complete the look.

All these elements are attractive on their own, but they have pieced together brilliantly to give the Mazda 3 a homogenous, balanced beauty.

But perhaps the best part of 5-door is the fact that it doesn’t have the appearance of Kate Upton with the personality of wallpaper paste. No, it will win your heart over with its personality as well.

The 3 provides an enjoyable, fun and memorable drive whether you are attacking the Monday commute or a bit of undulant backroad.

In normal mode, the 3 smooths out pockmarked thoroughfares. It’s also quiet with seats that are comfortable and supportive.

Press the sport mode button, however, and the Mazda goes from comfortable and practical grocery-getter into a potent tarmac slasher.

The Grand Touring version Left Lane tested comes with a 185-horsepower 2.5-liter four cylinder (base and Sport trims are fitted with a 155-horsepower 2.0-liter). The 2.5-liter is perky and responds quickly to acceleration from 2,000 RPM all the way to the top of the tach.

The steering is extremely communicative no matter the speed, but especially adept on twisty tarmac. The steering weight harmoniously balances the tautness needed for immediate feedback but not to the point where you can’t fling the wheel quickly and accurately through switchbacks.

The SkyActive-Drive six-speed automatic is respondent and unflustered in spirited driving and allows for nearly imperceptible shifts in normal mode. A six-speed manual transmission is also offered, my usual preference, but the Mazda’s automatic supplied no headaches and did not give the impression that I was missing out by not doing the shifting myself. 

When combined, these aspects can put some sport sedans to shame. The Mazda is feisty, well-composed and, best of all, fun.

It is also well-equipped in lower trims (Sport versions with a manual transmission start at $18,095) and opting for the top-tier Grand Touring won’t overstretch the wallet. The Grand Touring Left Lane tested came with aforementioned Appearance Package and the Premium Equipment Package ($1,600) which adds — among other additions — paddle shifters, radar cruise control, heated steering wheel, lane departure warning and lane keep assist. Even with the optional equipment, the 3 came in at $29,785 with delivery fee.

The interior surpasses expectations for such a price tag with a sturdy and well-engineered feel. While Mazda’s infotainment system is a bit sluggish, it’s a breeze to use.

The 5-door is rather spacious in the front, though things are a bit more confined in the rear where leg and headroom are concerned. The cargo area provides sufficient room for everyday needs and loading is made easier by the Mazda’s low profile.

To take a comprehensive look, the Mazda 3 5-door is a hell of a looker, practical, fun to drive, well-appointed and affordable. Did I mention it’s extremely attractive?

Left Lane does not assign numerical or “star” ratings to cars reviewed because these systems can be arbitrary, or take too much of a hardline on numbers, forgoing the fact that cars are also about feel and how they stir emotion.

But if I were to assign a rating to the Mazda 3, it would be just a hair below my daily driver (which would be arbitrary). That’s because, frankly, it’s pretty much the only argument I would have for not having one in my garage.

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