If you’re looking for an excellent compact car, two of our favorite models available today are the 2017 Hyundai Elantra and the 2016 Mazda3. Both offer recently updated styling, handsome exterior and interior designs and a truly impressive array of today’s latest features and options. But if your shopping list includes both models, you might be wondering which one is better and which one you should get. To help you decide, we’ve created a close comparison of both models. But first, let’s see what’s new with both cars for the latest model year.
2017 Hyundai Elantra Changes
The Hyundai Elantra has been fully redesigned for 2017, making it one of the first vehicles from the upcoming model year on the market today. In addition to a totally new look inside and out, the Elantra sports new equipment and new engines that offer better fuel economy than last year’s powertrains. See all 2017 Hyundai Elantra models available near you
2016 Mazda3 Changes
Like most cars on sale today, the Mazda3 has not yet entered the 2017 model year. The 2016 version presents only a few changes, largely related to reshuffled trim-level features. See all 2016 Mazda3 models available near you
Because it’s so new, the 2017 Elantra has not yet been rated for reliability by the experts at J.D. Power. Meanwhile, the Mazda3 was given a stellar better-than-average score. Overall, the Hyundai and Mazda brands earned roughly the same score in J.D. Power’s Vehicle Dependability Study, which measures automaker reliability rather than specific models.
As for warranty coverage, the Elantra has a big advantage over the Mazda3. While the Mazda3’s warranty is typical of most vehicles — 3 years or 36,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage and 5 years or 60,000 miles of powertrain coverage — the Elantra offers an impressive 5 years or 60,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage and 10 years or 100,000 miles of powertrain protection.
The result: This category is a tossup. Though the Elantra’s reliability is currently unknown, the Mazda3’s is excellent, but the Hyundai has a major advantage in terms of warranty coverage.
Both the Mazda3 and the Hyundai Elantra offer two engine choices. In the Mazda, base models get a 155-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, which returns up to 30 miles per gallon in the city and 41 mpg on the highway. Drivers looking for more power can upgrade to a potent 184-hp 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, which returns an impressive 28 mpg city/39 mpg hwy.
Meanwhile, the Elantra’s standard engine is a 147-hp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, which boasts up to 29 mpg city/38 mpg hwy. While the Elantra doesn’t offer a more powerful engine option, it does offer a more efficient one: a 128-hp 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that returns up to 32 mpg city/40 mpg hwy.
While both cars offer excellent fuel economy, the Mazda3 offers more power and returns gas mileage equal to or better than its Hyundai rival. If power isn’t a major concern, that might not matter to you, but for shoppers who are on the fence, we think the Mazda3’s combination of performance and gas mileage delivers the best of both worlds.
Because it’s so new, the 2017 Hyundai Elantra has not yet been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). We have high hopes for the small sedan, though, as its predecessor earned a perfect 5-star overall rating from the NHTSA. As for the Mazda3, it earned a perfect 5-star safety rating from the NHTSA, along with a coveted Top Safety Pick+ designation from the IIHS.
In terms of safety features, both the Elantra and the Mazda3 offer an impressive array of equipment. Both cars come standard with all of the basics, including side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes and traction control. The available options include an impressive array of the latest safety tech, such as rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, forward-collision alert and automatic braking. With that said, there are some differences: Only the Hyundai offers a lane-keep assist system, for example, while only the Mazda3 offers automatic high beams. And we’re a little disappointed that a backup camera remains optional in the Elantra, while it’s standard in the Mazda3.
Still, this category is too close to call. Assuming the Elantra does well in its upcoming crash tests, these are two of the safest models in the compact-car segment.
As you might have guessed based on their cutting-edge safety features, the Mazda3 and the Hyundai Elantra also deliver a wide array of the latest in-car gadgets. The two models offer an enormous amount of available equipment, ranging from the aforementioned safety tech to large touchscreens, premium sound systems, adaptive cruise control, excellent infotainment systems, leather upholstery, navigation systems and more.
It’s worth noting that only the Elantra offers the highly useful Apple CarPlay and Android Audio systems, which we like. To us, that gives the Hyundai a slight edge over the Mazda3 in terms of technology. But Apple CarPlay or not, these are two of the most high-tech models on the market today.
Comparing the Elantra and Mazda3 on base price alone, the Hyundai is slightly cheaper, starting around $18,000 with shipping compared to the Mazda3’s $18,800. But the base-level Elantra lacks some features the Mazda3 includes as standard equipment, like Bluetooth, a touchscreen and a backup camera. Add those items in, and the Elantra actually becomes more expensive than the Mazda3, since you can’t get those extras without also adding the automatic transmission.
If you’re interested in a well-equipped midlevel version, the two cars are neck and neck in terms of price. The Mazda3 Grand Touring starts at $24,600, while the Elantra Limited is $23,200, but if you add in the Elantra’s missing equipment, those numbers even out. As a result, we think there’s no clear winner here when it comes to value. The exception is if you’re interested in a hatchback, as the Elantra’s hatchback GT version retains its old body style and offers fewer features, while the Mazda3 hatchback comes in the car’s latest body style and includes more equipment.
We think this one goes to the Mazda3, but just barely. We like the Mazda’s strong reliability rating from J.D. Power, its sharp handling and its increased horsepower over the Elantra. We also like the fact that it offers more standard equipment, including Bluetooth and a desirable backup camera. And we like that the Mazda3 offers a handsome, modern hatchback, while the Elantra GT hatchback still uses the outgoing model’s design. With that said, both of these models are among the best in their segment — we just think the 2016 Mazda3 has a slight edge over the 2017 Hyundai Elantra.