Exterior view of the 2016 Mazda3.

Mazda already had a bestseller on its hands with its very popular Mazda3 model. The model has been gaining attention since it was first launched a dozen years ago. Now, Mazda has gone and tried to improve on it even more for the 2016 models, writes our automotive editor Sally Miller Wyatt. (#Siliconeer, @Siliconeer, #2016Mazda3, Lifestyle)

Gaining in popularity is Mazda’s Skyactiv Technology, which made its debut on the Mazda3 models in 2012. Skyactiv Technology is basically a redesign with a focus on fuel savings and performance-oriented driving. Engineers re-tooled engines so that they would get better performance while using less gas and lowering emissions.

They re-examined the frame to cut out pounds here and there. It quickly got noticed for being a sprightly car that can get around 41 miles per gallon at highway speeds. Not bad for something that’s not even a hybrid.

And so for 2016, not interested in leaving well enough alone, Mazda adds a host of updates.

So, what’s new? First off, the Mazda3i had an SV model that has been discontinued, which means the Mazda3i Sport is now the entry-level model. Also discontinued is the six-speed manual transmission on four- and five-door Touring models.

Other changes include a somewhat larger and a more powerful Skyactiv 2.5-liter engine with 184 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque, for starters. There is also a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder version that produces 155 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 150 lb-ft of torque.

Also new for 2016 is a standard rear-view camera on all models, a rear seat armrest with cup holders, rain-sensing wipers, and blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert. This feature, with sensors in the rear of the car, is able to detect when a car is within 13 feet of you to the left or right, or within 26 feet in the rear. When a car enters your blind spot, indicator lamps in the door mirrors light up. If you turn on your turn signal when that car is in the blind spot, the indicators flash and a buzzer warns you of a possible unsafe lane change. There is also Rear Cross Traffic Alert, which is fantastic to have in parking lots. When you put the car in reverse, it sounds an alarm if a car is moving toward you. Also new for 2016 are some enhancements to the Preferred, Popular and Technology Equipment packages.

Interior view of the 2015 Mazda3.

Interior view of the 2015 Mazda3.

There are several models in the line-up: the Sedan, the Sport, and the mid-level Touring and high-end Grand Touring models. The Mazda3 has a base price of $17,845 for the four-door version, and $18,545 for the five-door version.

On the outside, the exterior is still decidedly sporty, and the front fascia and grille are distinctively Mazda.

On the inside, you’re going to find a stylish instrument panel, with satin-polished details to dashboard gauges and ventilation louvers. Seats are sporty and supportive.

Standard safety features include six air bags, anti-lock brakes, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution with Brake Assist, Dynamic Stability Control with a Traction Control System, front and rear stabilizer bars and a “crush-able” brake and accelerator pedal which should help protect the driver during an accident. Also on board are Dynamic Stability Control, Traction Control and anti-lock brakes.

Other features include push button start, a larger, 7-inch full color touch-screen navigation with real time traffic, HD radio, Pandora audio application, Sirius Satellite radio with a four-month subscription, automatic on/off headlights and Bi-xenon headlights with auto-leveling feature. The auto-leveling headlamps give you wider lighting at night, which is especially beneficial while making turns.

While the Mazda 3 is a smaller car, your rear seat passengers won’t feel cramped, nor will your cargo carrying options be reduced. There is a good amount of leg and headroom in the back, and plenty of room in the trunk.

On the road you’re going to find a sprightly, fun to driving experience and good visibility. Whether you’re a commuter, have a small family are or just starting out, the 2016 Mazda3 deserves a closer look.