Like to drive, but live on a budget? We have good news. Compact sedan and hatchback models have quickly evolved recently, shedding their staid appearance and miserly demeanor for something much more interesting—including better-trimmed interiors, and feature sets appealing for long-distance commuters. And the Mazda 3 and Ford Focus are at the head of that pack for those who put the priority on driving enjoyment.
Both models are offered in a choice of four-door sedan or five-door hatchback body styles. At least in profile, these two vehicles look quite different, with the Focus (which was all-new for 2011) a little more rakish and the Mazda 3, which was just redesigned for 2014, is decidedly curvier. All around, from the long, finely detailed headlamps, along the creased flanks and all the way to the equally stretched taillamps, the Focus offers a little more to catch the eye inside and out. On the other hand, the Mazda3 has the more adventurous profile, with details that are both neat, athletic, and sophisticated.