I traded my 2016 Mazda 6 touring in for the 19 3 hatch with the premium package and even drive a 2019 6 before deciding and big yes on the 3 being more refined. This car in no way was made to compete with the Toyota better think Mercedes,Audi Acura etc.
That is indeed odd. I agree with a few criticisms. Mainly the lane keep assist function. If you look at it as a system designed to keep you from driving off the road it works fine. If you expect it can drive for you then sadly it's accurate to say it doesn't deliver.
Other point is the infotainment system Sirius radio channel selection. While I have used it a few times I tend to prefer Spotify, but when using it was a pain to change channels. Infotainment system works perfect in Android auto though. I couldn't imagine a simpler to use system to control it.
Cramped interior is not very accurate. I am 6'1" and 240 and have more than enough room. I think the 3 would comfortably fit someone a few inches taller.
Last note is the brakes. I have no idea what the magazine is talking about in regards to an "Oh shit" moment. Car stops on a dime. Even in their testing the 3 stops faster than the Corolla (117 vs 119 feet)?
All that being said I didn't cross shop the Mazda 3 with the Corolla.