The Mazda3 replaced the Protege in 2004 as Mazda's compact entry, and the current Mazda3 would be a good starting point in shopping for a new sporty hatchback (or sedan). The Mazda3 is among Cars.com's Best Bets for 2013. It offers sporty road manners, good cargo-carrying versatility in the hatchback and a choice of 2.0- and 2.5-liter four-cylinder engines, including the fuel-efficient SkyActive 2.0-liter.
If you're looking to move beyond the Mazda brand, other good alternatives are available because the auto industry has rediscovered the virtues of smaller hatchbacks and wagons in recent years. Among other compact hatchbacks that were chosen Best Bets are the Honda Fit, which is smaller than the Mazda3 but provides an amazing amount of interior space for its size, and the all-wheel-drive Subaru Impreza.
You might also take a look at the Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra GT, Kia Forte and Volkswagen Golf and GTI — compact hatchbacks with varying degrees of sporting attributes that could fit into your price range and fill other needs. The Cars.com Vehicle Recommender can help you zero in on the models that have the features you desire at a price you can afford.
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