Compact sedans and hatchbacks provide a great ride on a budget, with the evolution from a stodgy, unattractive exterior (and interior!) to a more fully-featured trim set and exterior design. Driving enjoyment is improved throughout the class, which are known to be commuter cars and are often chosen for younger drivers.
While the Focus is a bit more eye-catching from a design perspective, the Mazda 3 has some slick curves that provide an overall neat, sophisticated, and athletic profile. The Mazda’s interior stays true to the newer European look and feel; while the Focus feels sporty and obsessively detailed throughout the interior which brings it up a class in terms of feel and look.
Ford loses out a bit on the interior design because, while sporty, it leaves something to be desired in terms of spacing for the driver and front-seat passenger as the dash is taking up a great deal of room. The interior of the Ford is sculpted and tailored, while the Mazda is slightly more utilitarian.
The sportier feel that you’ll get from both vehicles puts other sedans and hatchbacks to shame, but the Mazda 3 gives a better and kickier performance regardless of the similar stats. You’ll get a more effective powertrain and better responsiveness from the Mazda 3 no matter if you go for the six-speed automatic or the six-speed manual gearbox. Smooth and even acceleration and confident braking provide the Mazda with class- leading performance, while the Ford is simply acceptable.
The Focus falls a bit shy again in terms of ratings when compared to the Mazda 3. While both are Top Safety Picks by the IIHS, the Mazda is the only one to get 5 stars from the NHTSA for frontal-impact test, while the Ford gets 4 stars. Mazda 3 has a blind spot warning system and several other active safety features that the Ford just doesn’t offer.
The Ford gives you a few bonuses on the base model such as parking assistance and MyFord Touch connectivity; which is matched by the Mazda Connect system. You’ll find adaptive lighting, blind-spot monitoring, memory power seats, and premium sound in both options.
If you’re looking for a vehicle you will love to drive and that will be stingy with the gas, then the Mazda 3 may be your option. However, with the upgrade package the Ford Focus is one of the best-driving small cars that is on the market for this year.