The compact car market is hotter than ever. Sales figures are at an unprecedented peak, undoubtedly bolstered by small cars. Every car manufacturer is in the game with models including the likes of the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Ford Focus and the Nissan Sentra. We can’t forget about two of the top competitors in this arena, however: the Chevrolet Cruze and the Mazda3. Lets compare the Mazda 3 vs Chevy Cruze.

Chevrolet Cruze Highlights

Chevy has a hot little number in the Cruze. While it’s not the least expensive vehicle in their lineup, it’s close.

It’s the perfect size for nearly everyone, from the family of four that goes to every soccer and baseball game to the city commuter, from college student to country-crossing retirees. The Chevrolet Cruze is spacious, sexy, and is packed full of technology and features.

Powerful Yet Efficient

The Chevrolet Cruze comes standard with a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It pounds out 153 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque. That’s the only engine option for the compact sedan, which is fine – that’s plenty of power to perform in virtually any condition.

Continuously variable valve timing is found in all Cruze models, seeking out the best performance without dragging down fuel economy.

The biggest powertrain option you get is in the gearbox; select either a 6-speed manual transmission to row your own gears or pick the six-speed automatic for a comfortable, smooth shift pattern.

With either transmission, you can expect phenomenal fuel efficiency. Manual transmission models achieve 29 MPG city/41 MPG highway while automatic versions manage 30 MPG city/40 MPG highway. Yes, it really is that close, so it’s more about driving preference than fuel efficiency.

And if you can wait, there’s a diesel Chevrolet Cruze due later in 2017. It will be one of the few diesel cars out there.

All the Amenities

Inside the Cruze, you can choose from a stripped-down L trim level or a full-featured Premium trim. Basic features include power locks and windows, Bluetooth, OnStar, a rearview camera, air conditioning,and 4G LTE and WiFi hotspot, so even the Cruze L is well-equipped. Step up to the Premium and you can choose a sunroof, Keyless Start, heated front and rear seats, MyLink infotainment and premium 9-speaker audio, and automatic climate control.

All-new Hot Hatch

New for 2017 is the Chevrolet Cruze hatchback. It steps up to the plate as direct competition for the Mazda3, and boy, does it ever compete. The appearance is remarkably unique despite being so similar in size and configuration to the Mazda3 5-door and the front-end is unmistakably Chevrolet. That’s special because this segment is dominated by import models primarily.

The hatchback has 47.2 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded flat so you can fit virtually everything – a bicycle, a drum set, or small furniture – in the back.

Mazda3 Highlights

This has been Mazda’s bread and butter for years. It’s an entry-level market with value at the forefront. The Mazda3 fits the bill, demonstrating why Japanese cars have dominated the compact car segment. With versions all the way from stripped down to luxurious, the Mazda3 appeals to everyone, but is especially popular among the extremely budget-conscious shopper. And those looking for a good commuter car.

Fun and Frugal

When you choose the Mazda3, you get engine options. You can pick from either the 2.0-liter SkyActiv four-cylinder with a sufficient 155 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque or you can select the 2.5-liter SkyActive four-cylinder with 184 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque. Beware, though – you only get the 2.5-liter engine in the s Touring and s Grand Touring trim lines and you pay a premium to make that leap. Should you choose the 2.5-liter model, you’ll get the inspired drive you’re looking for. You may even discover why “Zoom Zoom” is the slogan.

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Wide Range of Features

The Mazda3 wasn’t always well-equipped at the base level. However, now the i Sport comes standard with power locks, windows, remote keyless entry with “answer back” feature, Bluetooth, the Mazda CONNECT infotainment system with 7-inch display, and Pandora and Stitcher integration capability. The leap to s Grand Touring includes all that plus push button start, Blind Spot Monitoring, navigation, rain-sensing wipers, moonroof, and more.

The 2016 Mazda3 is a little subdued in appearance compared with some of the competitors in its class. That being said, it is distinctly Mazda with the wide front grille and rounded, sweeping body lines.

So Which One is Better – Mazda 3 vs Chevy Cruze?

When it comes to performance, the Mazda3 and Chevrolet Cruze are virtually neck and neck…until you look into the S trim lines from Mazda. The extra 30 horsepower makes a difference in performance and it’s not so slight. So the edge in performance goes to the Mazda3.

Looking inside, both vehicles come well equipped from the base model right through to the fully-loaded trims. The Cruze does something that the Mazda3 doesn’t however – it appeals to the most advanced, techy family with 4G LTE and WiFi hotspot as standard equipment on all models. That revolutionary feature sets it apart in its class, giving it the edge in technology.

Appearance is so subjective. Both are sharp and attractive in their own way, yet the Mazda3 tends to lean more toward the bland than the bold. The Cruze, though, grabs bold by the horns and rides that rodeo hard. Sharp angles, a mean front face, and distinct lines are what you’ll get, along with stares from bystanders. Appearance leans in favor of the Chevrolet Cruze. What is your pick when it comes to the Mazda 3 vs Chevy Cruze?

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