Mazda struck a chord in my heart when it released the 3 hatchback.
It blended impressive features, decent power, and an attractive look into a single package.
In South Africa, however, it faces stiff competition from Toyota and its new Corolla Hatch.
As it stands, less than R2,000 separates their starting prices, their outputs are almost matched, and they’re both high-volume sellers in the segment – according to the NAAMSA sales reports.
The choice of which car to pick will then likely come down to which one you think looks better, which company you like more, or which one managed to squeeze in more features at this price point.
To see how the two cars compare, we have looked at the Mazda 3 1.5L Active and Toyota Corolla Hatch 1.2T Xs.
Both the Mazda and Toyota have impressive specs, which range from a push-button start fitted as standard, to leather finishes inside the Corolla Hatch.
Their instrument clusters have multi-information displays to check up on the status of your car, and another screen is mounted on top of the dash where the infotainment and various other features can be controlled.
The Mazda is treated to the MZD Connect system, which features an 8.8-inch screen that is Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capable, offers USB and Bluetooth inputs, and is controlled through a commander dial on the centre console.
On the Toyota you will find their Display Audio system which is Toyota Connect enabled, and features a 7-inch display which also offers Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, USB, and Bluetooth capabilities – while being controlled through several dials on the dash.
Two additional features that the Corolla boasts is a standard reverse camera and a wireless charging pad in front of the gear lever.
Mazda then regains some ground through the standard installation of a heads-up display and electronic parking brake across the line-up.
The Corolla Hatch does not offer this on any time level.
More notable features that both share include a multifunction steering wheel and all-round electric windows.
The Corolla gains another point as it has dual-zone automatic climate control, while the air-conditioning system on the Mazda 3 is only manually-adjustable.
Mazda catches up again, however, as it has two more speakers – delivering a total of eight.
As safety features go, you would be happy to learn that neither manufacturer skimped here.
Both cars have been filled with an array of systems to keep its driver and passengers safe:
- Stability control
- Hill assist control
- Electronic brake force distribution
- Driver, passenger, knee, side, and curtain airbags
Additionally, the Mazda 3 gets two more features in this department to make it stand out, namely emergency brake assist and auto hold.
The former helps you brake in case of an emergency, and is available on higher trim levels of the Corolla Hatch.
The latter then serves to keep your car at a standstill after you have taken your foot off the brake pedal – even on an incline – and will only let it move once you press the accelerator pedal.
Auto hold is not available on any Corolla Hatch.
It is also worth noting that both vehicles received a 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating.
Looks and performance
Although you won’t easily confuse a Corolla for a 3, both of these cars are quite good-looking in their own way – with stylish lines, sizeable grilles, low rooflines, and short overhangs.
Both sit on 16-inch wheels and both are equipped with LED lights – with the Corolla featuring daytime running lights.
They keep trading blows as the wing mirrors on the Toyota are heated and electrically adjustable, whereas this is not the case on the Mazda.
However, the 3 has rain-sensing front wipers – something that is not available on the Corolla Hatch.
The Mazda 3 then has a slightly wider and longer body, and makes use of this by beating the Corolla in luggage capacity by 1 litre – offering 295 litres.
For its power, the Mazda is fitted with a 1.5-litre NA engine that generates a reasonable 88kW of power and 153Nm of torque – with more powerful engine options higher up in the range.
The Toyota, on the other hand, receives a 1.2-litre turbocharged engine which generates 85kW and 185Nm – fitted across the Corolla Hatch range.
The Mazda 3 Hatch 1.5L Active is the entry-level model and starts at R374,600.
With this you get all the features mentioned above, as well as a 3-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, service plan, and roadside assistance.
The Toyota Corolla Hatch 1.2T Xs has a starting price of R376,500.
With this you receive an extensive list of standard features, along with a 3-year/100,000km warranty, and a 6-services/90,000km service plan.
Which hatchback is best? It’s too close to call.