Mazda3

With its Alfa-like hatchback shape (there's also a sedan), impressive cabin tech, and sharp handling, the redesigned 3 is the star entertainer among affordable cars. Those with the 155-horsepower, 2.0-liter 4 deliver a solid-citizen 40 mpg. To pin the fun meter, head for the 2.5-liter 4 with 184 horsepower. [$16,945 (Skyactiv-MT)/$17,995 (Skyactiv-D AT); mazdausa.com]