The 2012 Mazda3 sedan, and the hatchback especially, have a very attractive form from the outside. And to that, they match a relatively well-designed, very functional interior. Like most cars of this side, you'll find plenty of legroom in front, but rear accommodations aren't really adult-sized.
The front seats are generously sized, as well as a little better-bolstered than most in this class; and we like the driving position. We have one caution for taller folks: skip the sunroof, as the Mazda3 has compromised headroom that might get in the way for anyone over six feet or so. In back, the accommodations aren't bad; headroom is adequate for six-footers, but legroom is a bit tight and the smallish doors offer a rather narrow entryway. Fold the backseats down, and they form a low, flat floor large enough in hatchbacks to swallow weekend finds.
Up close, the Mazda3's cabin can still be a little disappointing in the details, especially if you've been cross-shopping with the likes of the Hyundai Elantra, Chevrolet Cruze, or Ford Focus. The nice hooded gauges are great, and with the fat, small-diameter steering wheel give the 3 a little bit of sports-car feel. Readouts for the audio and climate controls are up high, however changing the climate controls still involves looking far downward. For 2012, Mazda has upgraded the two display screens (one for trip meter functions or navi, the other for audio) so that they're now the same pale-blueish hue, though the plastics and surfaces remain unimpressive.
With the redesign a couple of years ago, as well as the slight retune of the suspension for this year, Mazda has made progress in quelling one of this model's most significant drawbacks: cabin noise. Although it's still a bit more than you hear in the Cruze or Elantra (the price for crisper handling), it's no longer overwhelming on the highway.