Mazda 3 is a great car & if you can find that meets your criteria, I'd go for it.
That said, I owned a 2011 Fit in Seattle.They aren't as quick as the Mazda 3 but fast enough to merge on the local freeways. Their rideis louder and rougher (the base model is more comfortable than the Sport),but youcan haul an amazing amount of gear;average over 30 mpg,anditwill last forever.With a little effortyou probably can find a 2011 for under $9,000.I found one that met you criteria on craigslist Seattle.
Since you have had good luck with your Ford Contour (a great, under appreciated car with some mechanical gremilins) you might consider another Ford that sort of flys under the radar. That would be a Ford Focus ZX5 hatchback. They made those till 2007. With some luck & patience you may be able to findone with lessthan 80,000 miles and underprobably under $6K. They generally arereliable, repairs arerelatively low cost.
Best wishes in your car hunt, would appreciate hearing what you end up with.