Mazda3 hatchback. Photo: Mazda

This week I'm driving the 2019 Mazda3 hatchback, which starts at $23,600, but with the premium all-wheel-drive package, sells for $28,900.

What's new: The hatchback's Polymetal Gray is a newly developed exterior paint option that fuses the hard appearance of metal with the glossy smoothness of plastic for a unique look.

  • Inside, the red and black interior's soft-touch materials gives this compact car a real premium feel.
  • It's available with a manual transmission, but my test vehicle had an automatic mated to the standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine.

Overall impressions: Like all Mazdas, it's fun to drive and high quality, but the back seat is cramped, rear visibility is limited and the infotainment system is difficult to use, with many tasks requiring at least two steps.

Advanced safety stuff: Mazda's i-ActiveSense suite of advanced safety features is standard on most versions, including a driver attention alert, blind spot warning, and rear cross traffic warning.

  • Yes, but: The base Mazda3 doesn't even come with standard automatic emergency braking, which, through a voluntary industry agreement, should be standard in virtually all cars by 2022.

The bottom line: I've always been a Mazda fan, and the Mazda3 is excellent, but a handful of disappointments, like the clunky infotainment system, could cause me to choose another model.

Go deeper

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U.S. policy shift will allow taxpayer funding for projects in West Bank settlements

Friedman (L) with Netanyahu. Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. and Israel will announce tomorrow that they are expanding three agreements on scientific cooperation to include Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Israeli and U.S. officials tell me.

Why it matters: This is a substantial policy shift for the U.S., which did not previously allow its taxpayers' money to be spent in the Israeli settlements.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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  3. Business: Winter threat spurs new surge of startup activity.
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  5. States: Nearly two dozen Minnesota cases traced to three Trump campaign events.
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McConnell: Confirming Amy Coney Barrett will help GOP retain Senate

Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) expressed no regrets about Judge Amy Coney Barrett's controversial confirmation, telling Politico in an interview that he believes the decision to place her on the Supreme Court just a week before the election will help Republicans retain the Senate.

Why it matters: With a week to go until Election Day, many Republicans are concerned that President Trump's unpopularity could cost them the Senate. McConnell has long viewed the transformation of the federal judiciary through the confirmation of young conservative judges as his defining legacy.