The 2021 Mazda3 vs. 2021 Hyundai Elantra—which is better?

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In the competitive compact sedan class, the 2021 Mazda3 and 2021 Hyundai
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Elantra come out swinging, with the Mazda
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available as either a hatchback or a sedan and Hyundai offering everything from a turbo to a hybrid. Let’s compare them.

Above average: Excellent handling; optional all-wheel drive; sedan or hatchback body style; standard driver-assist features; optional turbo engine.

Below average: Manual transmission only available on the Premium hatchback; hatchback body style isn’t for everyone; blind spots.

Consensus: In addition to a choice of engines including a powerful 2.5-liter turbo, the 2021 Mazda 3 also comes as either a sedan or hatchback. The hatchback distinguishes itself with a striking design.

2021 Hyundai Elantra

2021 Hyundai Elantra starting price: $20,645

The 2021 Hyundai Elantra


Hyundai

Above average: Good fuel economy; choice of engines including a hybrid; good rear legroom; good quality materials.

Below average: Base engine is a bit weak; a bit too much hard plastic; seats could use more padding.

Consensus: A stylish compact sedan, the 2021 Hyundai Elantra boasts a choice of engines that range from the base 4-cylinder to a hybrid, and even a turbo to suit all tastes. Even the base Elantra comes well equipped, although some common safety features are available only as options.

Mazda3 vs. Elantra: plenty of choices

Mazda3

The driver’s car of the compact class, the best thing about the 2021 Mazda3 is that it handles incredibly well, and now with the optional 2.5-liter turbo, has the power to compete with the best hot hatchbacks. But even the base Mazda3 is a blast to drive, with a very capable 2.0-liter 4-cylinder hooked to a 6-speed automatic transmission that always knows what gear to be in.

Front-wheel (FWD) drive is standard, although the Mazda3 is one of the rare members of its class that offers all-wheel drive (AWD), which comes standard on the Turbo model.

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The interior of the Mazda3 exudes a premium feel, including the base model with its cloth seats. Other trims get synthetic leather, and the top trims have the real thing.

The Mazda3 boasts plenty of soft-touch materials and a slick-looking 8.8-inch screen for the infotainment center. It is not a touchscreen, however, and is controlled by a rotary knob similar to those found in Audis and BMWs.
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The new 2.0 is considered the base model and is only available as a sedan. While not as well equipped with safety features as the above models, the base trim does include adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking. Slightly longer than the hatchback, the sedan has a useful 13 cubic feet of storage space. The hatchback expands that cargo space to 20 cubic feet.

Hyundai Elantra

Completely redesigned for 2021, the Hyundai Elantra is a well-equipped, comfortable compact sedan that offers buyers numerous choices not only of powertrains but of options.

The base 2.0-liter 4-cylinder is nothing to write home about but provides enough power to keep the Elantra moving and boasts an impressive 43 mpg on the highway. Also on hand is a 4-cylinder hybrid that earns more than 50 mpg combined. For the more sporting driver, a 201-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder in the N Line that is downright quick and fun, and can be had with a manual transmission. Coming later will be the Elantra N, an even higher-performance model.

The interior is modern and stylish, although there’s a bit too much plastic for some tastes. Despite the sloped roof, rear headroom is good, and both rear legroom and shoulder room have been increased over the previous model.

The 14.2 cubic feet of space in the trunk is about standard, and actually slightly bigger than that of the Toyota
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Corolla. Standard features include an 8-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, HD Radio, and wireless Apple
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CarPlay and Android Auto. Standard safety features include automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, and a driver attention monitor.

Similarities

Starting price; base power; choice of engines; optional manual transmission.

2021 Mazda 3 advantages

Choice of body styles; more fun to drive; nicer interior; optional all-wheel drive.

2021 Hyundai Elantra advantages

Longer warranty; fuel economy; optional hybrid.

Which one is right for me?

The 2021 Mazda3 fits the bill if you’re looking for either a sedan or a hatchback that offers optional turbo power and all-wheel drive. A key selling point of all Mazda models, and the Mazda3 is no exception, is its fun-to-drive character.

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The 2021 Hyundai Elantra offers just one body style, but striking styling in a compact sedan. There’s also a wide range of models that includes an affordable base trim, performance-oriented N Line, and a fuel-efficient hybrid.

This story originally ran on KBB.com.



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