2019 was a great year for the automobile. That said, it wasn’t a particularly surprising one.

Mercedes-AMG released the rousingly rapid A45 hyper-hatch which, in spite of its innovative pretensions still managed to come across as a little one-dimensional. And while drift mode sounds exciting, it doesn’t give the people what they really want: the ability to disengage the front driveshafts à la E63 S. It is staggeringly quick, but it doesn’t bring anything new to the table.

Porsche also had a bumper year, releasing the all-new 992 iteration of its famed 911 alongside the new the 718 Cayman GT4, and perhaps most notably, the all-electric Taycan. All of which were brilliant. Though I expected nothing less from the world’s most prolific sports car manufacturer.

Ferrari unveiled the Roma which is, undoubtedly, the best-looking Ferrari in 25 years. It could have won were it not for the fact that by the time it came round Ferrari had already shown off what felt like several hundred other new models, leaving the Roma looking a little generic. Seems like there’s a Ferrari for everyone these days. Is that unfair? Maybe.

Then there was the Mazda 3 hatch. No, it didn’t break any records, nor did it carve out a new niche. But – and this is important – it did surprise me. Not least because it was one of the prettiest cars released in recent times.

The 3’s real genius is it proves that everyday transportation doesn’t have to be boring.

W​ho could've guessed?

It’s not perfect, mind. The rear looks a little top-heavy, and the enormous C-pillar could hide a cruise-ship behind it, however, in terms of criticisms, that’s about it. It is an impressively graceful piece of design. If the last Mazda 3 was a prom queen, then the new one is a Miss Universe contestant.

The interior is equally elegant. It captures some of the class from the upper echelons of the automotive kingdom and makes it accessible to the everyday person. Yes, that means the 3 is a little more expensive than it was before, but it also comes loaded with kit. Standard equipment includes a 22cm display, satellite navigation, daytime running lights, auto-fold mirrors, Apple CarPlay, reverse camera, DAB, keyless push-button start and driver attention alert, among others.

It’s even properly innovative. In certain specifications, the 3 comes with a revolutionary 2.0 ‘Skyactiv-X’ engine which runs on compression ignition in order to deliver “the power of a high-revving gasoline engine and the fuel efficiency of a diesel” (Mazda’s words). I’ve not the slightest idea how it manages this, but it’s a staggering achievement nonetheless.

The 3’s real genius, however, is that it proves what I’ve long maintained to be true: that everyday transportation doesn’t have to be boring. Hyundai’s i30 and Volkswagen’s Golf are perfectly adept forms of transportation, however, they feel like white-goods. The Mazda comes across as something more: a machine to be proud of.

I doubt the younger generation of automotive enthusiasts will be pinning photos of Mazda’s top-selling hatchback on their walls, but those that buy one – petrolhead or not – will love it.

Which is why I have decided to award the Mazda 3 as my car of the year.

Surprised? Me too.

W​hat do you think? Get shouting in the comments!

P​hotography Credits: Manufacturers

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