Mazda focuses on stepping up its main competitors. Starting with the new 3, the brand said it was pursuing premium buyers with better materials and higher price labels.
This is a formula refined by Volkswagen with its Golf, which has always felt like a class over its key rivals. It will soon be replaced, but will still be considered a reference class.
Can the new Mazda break it down? Or both will be overshadowed by the impressive new Ford Focus, which removes the Hyundai i30 and the latest Toyota Corolla when we compare them in January.
VW Golf Trendline
In the past, when small cars felt tin, cheaply furnished and unhappy on the road, Golf shifted expectations with a combination of sophistication of large cars, pseudo-prestigious craftsmanship and cabin materials.
The steps of his doors were sufficient to attract some buyers. But the Golf Mk 7.5 looks a bit clear nowadays – and cool and functional compared to Ford's Focus ST-Line and the ever-growing Mazda3.
There is little to attract the eye into the cabin containing the gray cloth and plastic, except for the eight-inch touchscreen. All three cars here have Apple CarPlay / Android Auto, but only golf comes out without a satnav.
Still, it rises with more careful testing, partly thanks to the practical layout. Boxed and anonymous from outside, Golf is a delight for rear passengers thanks to huge windows, plenty of space for the head and thoughtful inclusions such as rear ventilation holes and an armrest that strangely absent in the Ford Focus.
Its spacious shoe attracts those who are being put off by the small trucks in Mazda3 and Corolla.
Tested in the form of a third-line at $ 27,490 plus travel costs (and priced at $ 28,490), the standard Golf receives autonomous emergency braking, a reversing camera and parking sensors at each end. Additional driver assistance, such as active cruise control, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic warning, are in the $ 1500 option.
Buyers also have to budget more for service costs – golf will refund you about $ 900 more than the rest in the dealer for the first five years of ownership. But they will save money on buses, as VW's fuel economy comfortably undermines competitors here.
The 1.4-liter Golf Turbo is a precious stone. Smooth, quiet and exciting of the three, it drives the lightest car here for easy progress. The 7-speed VW automatic clutch is liquid at cruising speed, but keeps on parking.
Light on your feet, golf feels polished on the road, even with no effort to drive and comfort tires that do not emit sport. Tightening suspension settings can shake dwellers more than you would expect on broken downhill streets but feel planted and built on rural roads.
Ford Focus ST-Line
Sports dynamics, Focus's core, are further enhanced in the ST-Line. Located between the Van's Focus and the Golf GTI-competitive Focus ST, this ST-Line carries a lower and more rigid suspension, along with sports seats, a new steering wheel and added aesthetic touches.
At a price of $ 28,990 plus on the road, Ford offers impressive features like a digital dash and a wide-screen reversing camera – although you have to spend $ 1250 on the safety package with extra features like active cruise control.
His five-year guarantee is equal to the two rivals and, since his compromise is the most expensive on the front, this is the cheapest $ 299 service for a visit for the first four years.
Pull inside, but aimfully on the road, Focus looks good in our eyes and makes it even better – it is capable of delivering a terrible impression of a hot hatch when it moves with pleasure.
Planted and responsive, there is no doubt that the driver is here. Meat management, extreme ergonomics and the desired engine make Focus a driving joy, with caution that prioritizes the balance of driving comfort.
Do not delay the number of Focus cylinders, as the 1.5-liter T-jig pulls hard across the entire range of revs, and the effort is accompanied by a charming melody.
As with Golf, Ford's advanced gearbox works well when you are pushing or moving at speed. But the 8-speed conventional car is hit-and-missed around the city, taking time to move between the drive and the reverse gear before the transmission hit the gear.
Three-point rotation is pain, but not from Focus's new rotation controller. The poorly fitted traction control button is easily disconnected.
Rear passengers receive a rough deal. Supporting seats slightly compensate for missing armrests and air vents, and higher occupants can push heads on the roof.
Mazda3 G20 Evolve
The rear seat may prove to be the Achilles heel for the new Mazda3.
Stylish design means that the roof cover line compromises the height of the rear seats and the window line limits visibility, especially for children. The view over the driver's shoulder is also compromised.
Is the price worth paying for what might be the best-looking car in its class?
Young professionals could say "yes," but families are likely to move in another direction – perhaps the growing range of Mazda SUVs.
The front seats add to the impressive list of standard features including soft touchscreen, headset display and a widescreen package for information and entertainment with the rotary controller that is typically found in European luxury cars.
The safety kit includes autonomous braking (forwards and backwards), active cruise control, ribbon assistance, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic warning.
The manufacturer has drawn a line in the sand with this fourth-generation Mazda3, dropping cheap models to focus on functionally loaded vehicles popular among private buyers.
At a price of $ 27,690 plus a per car journey, the G20 Evolve is an acute value.
Mazda has saved a few dollars with the portable engine from the last generation hatch. The output of 2.0-liter (114kW / 200Nm) looks adequate on paper, but the engine feels breathless compared to turbo-rivals, especially when overtaking or climbing on steep hills.
It's good in the city – the conventional six-speed machine is obviously in low-speed maneuvering – but buyers who want some noise need to sink for 2.5 liters or wait for the Skyactiv-X version.
Mazda3 feels impressively quiet on the road, which leads to a walk that, along with VW, gives priority to tense body control when swallowing pillows. Uninterrupted on the winding roads, the Mazda3 remains great to drive, even if it is not like Focus.
To look at the sport, think about Focus – but its uneasy ride, disappointing transmission and ordinary cabin here earn a bronze medal. Golf, albeit dated, has a lot to do with it – especially for shifting – and is the one who buys if the rear seat is used regularly. A trouble-free drive with features and a premium attraction, Mazda3 leaves a lasting impression and is easy to recommend.
Mazda3 G20 Evolve
Price: $ 27,690 plus on the way
Warranty / Service: 5 years / unlimited mileage, $ 1558 for 5 years
engine: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, 114kW / 200Nm
safety: Not yet rated, 7 airbags, AEB, active cruise, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic warning
thirst: 6.1L / 100km
VW Golf Trendline
Price: $ 27,490 plus on the way
Warranty / Service: 5 years / unlimited mileage, $ 2446 for 5 years
engine: 1.4-liter 4-cylinder turbo, 110kW / 250Nm
safety: 5 stars, 7 airbags, AEB (more than 1,500 safety packages)
thirst: 5.6 l / 100 kilometers
Ford Focus ST-Line
Price: $ 28,990 plus on the way
Warranty / Service: 5 years / unlimited mileage, $ 1541 for 5 years
engine: 1.5-liter 3-cylinder turbo, 134kW / 240Nm
safety: 5 stars, 6 airbags, AEB, canvas maintenance helper (more in the pack for 1250 dollars)
thirst: 6.4L / 100km