Mazda Mazda3 vs. Ford Focus

By

Automotive Editor

Justin Cupler has specialized as an automotive writer since 2009, and has seen himself published in multiple websites and online magazines. In addition to contributing to CarsDirect, Justin also works as editor in chief for a large performance car online publication. His specialty lays in the high-performance realm, but has a deep love and understanding for all things automotive. Prior to being an automotive writer, he was an automotive technician and manager for six years, but spent the majority of his younger life tinkering with classic muscle cars.

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, Automotive Editor - March 3, 2015

When Ford and Mazda replaced two economy car classics -- the Escort and Protégé in 1999 and 2004, respectively -- they experienced differing results.

See a side-by-side comparison of the Mazda3 & Focus >>

The Escort had been one of the bestselling compacts for many years, mostly due to its reliability and low price, but the Ford Focus ran into some reliability issues pretty quickly, marring its image. The Mazda Mazda3, on the other hand, took over for the Protégé and revived a sportiness the entry-level Mazda had lacked for ages. Additionally, it encountered no reliability issues; if anything, it was far superior to the car that it replaced.

Over the years, Ford has been working hard to repair the Focus's image, but has it done enough to overcome the Mazda3's head start?

What the Mazda3 Gets Right

The Mazda3 starts things off with a sporty body and a chassis that carries the soul of a sports car, giving it unexpectedly precise handling for an economy car. The number of trim levels may seem daunting at first, but after some investigation, you can find a Mazda3 that fits nearly any budget and required level of luxury.

Under its hood, the Mazda3 has a trio of engines to choose from. The base 2-liter four-cylinder is competent at 148 horsepower and up to 33 mpg highway. The optional SkyActiv 2-liter engine offers up a peppy 155 horsepower and up to 40 mpg on the highway. The range-topper is the 2.5-liter four-cylinder that turns its focus toward performance with 167 horsepower and up to 29 mpg highway.

What the Focus Gets Right

The Focus offers nimble handling and upscale style -- an elegant counterpoint to the Mazda3's sportiness. If you opt for the top-spec Titanium trim level, you get one of the best-equipped economy cars on the market today.

Under the hood, the Focus features a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 160 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels. An optional dual-clutch automated manual "Powershift" transmission is something you don't expect at this level. It all contributes to fuel economy ratings of up to 40 mpg on the highway.

Has the Focus Righted its Ship?

The answer to this question depends on whom you ask. Some might find the Focus's new styling excessively derivative. Additionally, reliability remains an issue when compared to the Mazda3.

Our Verdict: Mazda Mazda3

The Focus has made excellent progress, but the Mazda3 continues to wow its owners and critics alike. A lineup of peppy engines, great fuel economy numbers and sporty styling all lead to a compact sedan that economy car buyers are proud to own.

Take a closer look at the Mazda Mazda3 >>

Take a closer look at the Ford Focus >>

Side-by-side comparison of features, pricing, photos and more!

, Automotive Editor

Justin Cupler has specialized as an automotive writer since 2009, and has seen himself published in multiple websites and online magazines. In addition to contributing to CarsDirect, Justin also works as editor in chief for a large performance car online publication. His specialty lays in the high-performance realm, but has a deep love and understanding for all things automotive. Prior to being an automotive writer, he was an automotive technician and manager for six years, but spent the majority of his younger life tinkering with classic muscle cars.

Follow On: Google+ | Website