ANSWER - BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS:
All of the cars you mention are strong choices, but our pick for reasons of driving comfort and pleasure, affordability, and resale value is the Mazda3 Touring - the cheapest version with climate control functionality. It starts at $24,790 plus on-road costs (ORC) for the six-speed manual or $26,790 plus ORC for the six-speed automatic, making it slightly cheaper than the next car you mention, the Hyundai i30 SR with standard climate control ($26,550 manual/$28,850 auto).
The Hyundai Elantra Elite auto with standard climate control is $26,490 plus ORC, while the only Kia Cerato with climate control in the top-of-the-range SLi auto is at $31,990 plus ORC, or $32,490 drive away as advertised.
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Please consider, too, that while the Mazda has the lowest warranty period (three years/unlimited kilometres), compared to the Hyundai (five-years/unlimited) and Kia (a generous seven-years/unlimited), the 3 Touring has a superior resale value rating, at over 60 percent over a three-year period, against 57 percent for the i30 SR, 53 percent for the Cerato SLI, and 51 percent for the Elantra Elite.
Please keep in mind that these are the manufacturers’ recommended retail price, and that many do advertise lower priced specials on a regular basis. And we do recommend that you drive each car as well to find out which one you prefer, as each does offer a different experience from behind the wheel.