2012 Mazda MAZDA3 vs. Its Competition

2012 Mazda MAZDA3 with SkyActiv
Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Senior Editor

The rivals keep getting better, but for those who enjoy driving, the Mazda3 remains at the top of the small-car class—thanks most to its great steering and suspension tuning, but also now to its new fuel-efficient yet responsive powertrains.

The new Ford Focus is probably the closest rival to the Mazda3, but its steering isn't quite as nicely tuned and weighted, and its PowerShift automatic transmission isn't as deft and refined.

The Honda Civic used to be more of a rival, but it's been redesigned for 2012 as a softer and more plainly-styled model.

The Chevrolet Cruze is about as far from the Mazda3 in look, feel, and purpose as you could get; it's only offered as a sedan so far and rides more like a smaller version of a large sedan than a nimble small car.

The Corolla and Elantra are also at the soft end of the scale, but it's the Elantra that's the current class standout; for those who don't value excitement behind the wheel, the Hyundai simply offers the most car for the money.

2012 Mazda MAZDA3 with SkyActiv2012 Mazda MAZDA3
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2012 Chevrolet Cruze 4-door Sedan LTZ Angular Front Exterior View2012 Chevrolet Cruze
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2012 Ford Focus2012 Ford Focus
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2012 Honda Civic Sedan 4-door Auto LX Angular Front Exterior View2012 Honda Civic
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2012 Hyundai Elantra 4-door Sedan Auto GLS (Alabama Plant) Angular Front Exterior View2012 Hyundai Elantra
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2011 Toyota Corolla 4-door Sedan Auto S (Natl) Angular Front Exterior View2012 Toyota Corolla
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Quick Specs
With its new Skyactive powertrains, the 2012 Mazda3 is the eco-conscious choice that sure doesn't drive like one.
The 2012 Chevrolet Cruze is a practical, comfortable, fuel-efficient, and a strong value, but it does lack the nimble, tossable feel that some small-car fans appreciate.
With the 2012 Focus, Ford shows that small cars don't have to feel so banal, with charismatic compacts that are more satisfying to drive, more luxurious, and better-equipped.
The 2012 Honda Civic is a little more spacious, comfortable, and economical, but it's now one of the blandest of the bunch.
The 2012 Hyundai Elantra has officially left the Civic and Corolla in the dust, thanks to a 38-mpg gas mileage rating, a sleek look, and tremendous value for the money.
For those who want frugal, trouble-free transportation but have no want of excitement, the 2012 Toyota Corolla fits the bill.
MSRP From     
Gas Mileage     
18 MPG City / 40 MPG Hwy25 MPG City / 42 MPG Hwy26 MPG City / 38 MPG Hwy22 MPG City / 44 MPG Hwy23 MPG City / 38 MPG Hwy26 MPG City / 34 MPG Hwy
Gas I4Gas I4Gas I4Gas I4Gas I4Gas I4
EPA Class     
CompactMidsize CarCompactCompactMidsize carsCompact
Style Name     
4-Door Sedan Manual i SV4-Door Sedan LS4-Door Sedan S2-Door Manual DX4-Door Sedan Manual GLS (Alabama Plant)4-Door Sedan Manual L (Natl)
Front Wheel DriveFront Wheel DriveFront Wheel DriveFront Wheel DriveFront Wheel DriveFront Wheel Drive
Passenger Capacity     
Passenger Doors     
Body Style     
4 Door SedanSedan4 Door Sedan2 Door Coupe4 Door Sedan4 Door Sedan
Detailed Spec Comparison
 2012 Mazda MAZDA3 vs. 2012 Chevrolet Cruze2012 Mazda MAZDA3 vs. 2012 Ford Focus2012 Mazda MAZDA3 vs. 2012 Honda Civic2012 Mazda MAZDA3 vs. 2012 Hyundai Elantra2012 Mazda MAZDA3 vs. 2012 Toyota Corolla