The demise of sedans and hatchbacks in the automotive market has become apparent with Ford, Chevrolet, Honda, and Volkswagen discontinuing popular models. As a result, subcompact crossovers have taken their place, leaving only a handful of good hatchbacks left in the US. Among them, the 2020 Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla Hatchback stand out as top contenders. Both vehicles have been individually reviewed, with each receiving high ratings. However, when pitted against each other, it becomes clear that there is no clear winner as both offer exceptional qualities.
The Mazda3 has several standout features, including its attractive design, luxurious cabin, and excellent driving dynamics. Its “Kodo” design language translates well to the hatchback, with sharp LED headlights, a large hexagonal grille, and sleek taillights. The Mazda3’s overall appearance is further enhanced by options such as the Polymetal Grey metallic paint job and 10-spoke gunmetal gray wheels. With the addition of the Appearance package, which includes blacked-out exterior elements, the Mazda3 has a more aggressive look. Overall, the Mazda3 is a visually appealing vehicle.
On the other hand, the Toyota Corolla Hatchback, although not as striking as the Mazda3, still holds its own in terms of appearance. The hook-shaped headlights and taillights provide an interesting contrast to the Mazda’s sleek design. With the silver paint job and black roof, the Corolla Hatchback manages to stand out, especially in the sportier XSE trim. The 10-spoke directional wheels and roof-mounted spoiler further enhance the Corolla’s overall aggressive look. However, the Corolla’s design falls short when compared to the Mazda3’s more mature and sophisticated lines.
Moving on to the interior, the Mazda3 offers a luxurious cabin that could easily be mistaken for a high-end vehicle. The flat, horizontal dash combines red leather and soft black plastic, giving off a premium vibe. The front seats, covered in high-quality red leather, are among the best in terms of comfort and quality. However, passenger space in the front and rear seats is not ideal, especially for taller individuals. Cargo room is also limited, with the trunk offering only 20.1 cubic feet of space. Despite its shortcomings, the Mazda3’s interior exudes elegance and refinement.
In contrast, the Corolla Hatchback’s interior falls short of the Mazda3’s upscale feel. The XSE trim comes with two-tone, leather-trimmed seats and leather accents on the steering wheel and shifter, but the overall design is not as impressive. The Corolla’s dash and door panels feature a combination of rubberized pleather and hard plastic, which pale in comparison to the Mazda’s materials. However, the Corolla does offer better rear headroom and cargo room, making it slightly more comfortable for passengers. Overall, the interior choice ultimately comes down to personal preference – whether one prefers the Mazda’s upscale cabin or the Corolla’s more spacious environment.
In terms of performance, the Mazda3 stands out with its powerful 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, which produces 186 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. Matched with the quick-shifting six-speed automatic transmission and the option for all-wheel drive, the Mazda3 delivers exceptional driving dynamics. Its responsive suspension and well-weighted steering allow for excellent handling and cornering, making it a joy to drive. However, the Mazda3’s suspension is on the harsh side, making even small road imperfections feel like potholes. Additionally, the engine loses power at higher speeds, making highway driving less enjoyable.
On the other hand, the Corolla Hatchback comes with a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter engine, generating 168 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. Unlike the Mazda’s crisp automatic, the Corolla features a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which can be laggy and noisy. However, the Corolla still offers a pleasant driving experience, with the engine delivering power smoothly throughout the rev range. The light steering and firm suspension allow for comfortable and enjoyable handling, although the ride can be rough, similar to the Mazda3. Overall, while the Corolla offers a good driving experience, the Mazda3 is the sportier and more satisfying option.
Moving on to technology, the Mazda3 comes with an 8.8-inch infotainment system that is clean and easy to navigate. Equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the Mazda3’s system is user-friendly and offers a pleasant user experience. The 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster and head-up display further enhance the driving experience. On the other hand, the Corolla Hatchback comes with an 8.0-inch touchscreen that also offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. However, the Corolla’s native Entune infotainment system is not as visually appealing or as user-friendly as Mazda’s system. The Mazda3 takes the lead in terms of technology, offering better usability and aesthetics.
In terms of safety, both the Mazda3 and Corolla Hatchback offer a wide range of standard active safety features. Mazda has equipped the Mazda3 with its i-Activsense safety suite, which includes adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and lane-keep assist. Toyota also includes an extensive list of safety features, known as Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, which includes similar functionalities. While both systems offer advanced safety features, the Mazda3’s active safety suite is slightly more advanced. Its adaptive cruise control with lane-keep assist performs exceptionally well, keeping the car centered and maintaining a safe distance from other vehicles. However, the Corolla Hatchback’s lack of full stop-and-go cruise control on the XSE trim is a notable disadvantage.
Regarding fuel efficiency, the Mazda3 falls short, especially with all-wheel drive. The Mazda3’s all-wheel-drive model achieves 24 mpg in the city, 32 mpg on the highway, and 27 mpg combined. In comparison, the front-wheel-drive version gets a slightly better 30 mpg combined. On the other hand, the Corolla Hatchback offers excellent fuel economy, with the front-wheel-drive model achieving 30 mpg in the city, 38 mpg on the highway, and 33 mpg combined. The base Corolla Hatchback SE gets up to 36 mpg combined, making it the most fuel-efficient option in its class.
In terms of pricing, the Mazda3 starts at $23,700 for a base front-wheel-drive model. The top-trim Premium package, equipped with the optional all-wheel drive, can reach a total cost of $30,710. On the other hand, the Corolla Hatchback starts at a more affordable $20,290 for the base model, with the XSE trim starting at $23,240. With additional options, such as the preferred package, black roof spoiler, and adaptive headlights, the Corolla Hatchback can reach a total of $27,810. Overall, the Corolla Hatchback offers better affordability, making it a more budget-friendly option.
In conclusion, both the Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla Hatchback offer desirable qualities in the hatchback market. While the Corolla Hatchback provides comfort, efficiency, and affordability, the Mazda3 outshines it in terms of design, interior luxury, safety features, technology, and driving performance. Although the Mazda3 comes with a slightly higher price tag, it offers a more premium and enjoyable driving experience. Therefore, if one is seeking the best hatchback available today, the Mazda3 is the top choice.