Both were given full redesigns for this year—the 2014 Kia Forte becoming swoopier, more stylish and refined, and better equipped than ever; and the 2014 Mazda 3 lineup taking a more premium yet refined direction, with far more attention paid to technology.
While no longer niche offerings, these two models are both picks for new-car shoppers who want something a little bit outside the compact-car norm set by the likes of the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Chevrolet Cruze, and Volkswagen Jetta. There's no doubt that these are two of the best-looking models on the market. And that holds true whether you go for the sedan or hatchback versions of each.
We were fortunate to visit each of these models—in respective builds that could be compared quite well—back-to-back a few weeks ago.
Both around $25k, very well equipped
The two models we drove were remarkably close in equipment and price, and both are very strong values for the money. The Mazda 3i Grand Touring model we drove, at an MSRP of $24,340. Equipping the Mazda 3i with the optional automatic transmission would have resulted in a $25,090 price. In any case, the 'i' Grand Touring includes dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, leatherette upholstery, heated front seats, remote keyless entry, navigation, and Bose Centerpoint audio.
Meanwhile, our 2014 Kia Forte EX, with a bottom-line price of $25,515, arrived with quite a few options, including the Premium Package (sunroof, leather upholstery, power driver's seat, ventilated driver's seat, heated front seats, heated outboard rear seats, a heated steering wheel, push-button start, and additional lighting), as well as the Technology Package (dual-zone climate control, HID headlamps, LED taillamps, an upgraded gauge cluster, navigation with Sirius Traffic data, and HD Radio), and a 17-inch alloy wheel upgrade.