by Tony West
Late last year we reviewed the 2016 Mazda 3 against the 2016 Toyota Corolla iM – the repackaged Scion IM. The two whips have a fresh hatchback design with advanced powertrain and suspension.
The compact car segment is more competitive as millennials opt for a smaller more efficient hatchback design that’s easy to maintenance. Manufacturers like Chevrolet, Toyota, Volkswagen and even Mercedes-Benz have pushed new compact vehicles with sticker prices under $25k and some a with a turbo engine. The Volkswagen Golf remains the powertrain leader with a 170 horsepower 1.8 liter I4 engine. But Toyota’s Corolla iM and the Mazda 3 are popping up everywhere in Chicago, especially in the transportation sector.
The 2017 Mazda 3 has a youthful design with leatherette seats, two engine options, LED lights and add-ons like 16 inch alloy wheels, and smart city brake support. While the new Toyota Corolla iM has standard 17 inch alloy wheels, LED taillights and turn signals, plus advanced infotainment and safety features – all standard.
The base 2017 Mazda 3 Sport 6AT is priced at $20,145 with less standard features. Mazda’s Preferred Package is priced around $1,000 which would add some sporty exterior features and interior flair. But the Corolla iM is priced at $19,490 with way more standard features.
The two hatchbacks are neck-and-neck on efficiency both with a combined EPA of 31 mpg’s. The 2017 Mazda 3 has a 27 mpg city and 37 mpg highway EPA, compared to the 2017 Corolla iM with the automatic transmission’s 36 mpg highway and 28 mpg city EPA.
Both the Mazda 3 and the Toyota Corolla iM boasts peppy powertrains. But the Mazda 3 offers more options. The Mazda 3 Sport has a 2.0 liter 4 cylinder with 155 horsepower. And the Mazda 3 Grand Touring boasts a 2.5 liter 4 cylinder with 184 horsepower and 155 lb-ft of torque.
For the first time the Mazda 3 offers both engines a choice of their Skyactiv 6-speed manual transmission or Skyactiv 6-speed automatic transmission and standard G-Vectoring Control. And the manual transmission Mazda 3 is now optional with the Premium Package and iActivsense advanced safety technology.
The Corolla iM offers a 6-speed manual or 7-speed automatic transmission with its 1.8 liter 4-cylinder. I expect since the iM is fresh into the segment, the lineup will likely expand in the next few years.
The Corolla iM has the Mazda 3 beat with standard vehicle dynamics its Toyota Safety Sense technology. Along with MacPherson strut front and double wishbone rear suspension, all-season tires and 11-inch front and rear disc brakes, the Safety Sense package includes Lane Departure Alert, Automatic High Beams and a Pre-Collision System. The Corolla iM’s standard Star Safety system technology includes Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, ABS, EBD, Brake Assist and Smart Stop Technology.
To get similar safety tech along with Blind Spot Monitoring with rear cross traffic alert and Smart City Brake Support with the Mazda 3 buyers have to pay $1-1.5k for the Preferred Equipment Package.
Score so Far
Toyota’s Corolla iM scores higher with more standard design features and more standard safety technology. But Mazda scores higher with more drivetrain options and a more robust performance.
The two cabins go head-to-head with the Corolla iM boasting a more classic Toyota interior-less frills but with a 4.2 inch color TFT digital dash and a 7-inch touch screen and a 6-speaker sound system , all-standard. The Corolla iM also has standard leather steering wheel, Remote Keyless entry, dual-zone climate control and a standard back-up camera.
The 2017 Mazda 3 offers all that and more, but for another $7,000. If Mazda 3 buyers want standard features like leather-trimmed sport seats, push button start, leather steering wheel a 7 inch screen with Mazda Connect and a Command Controller, a Bose 9 speaker sound system, navigation and a backup camera they have to get the Mazda 3 Grand Touring for $26,495.
The final score nearly a tie. The 2017 Mazda 3 GT fully loaded nearly crushes the Corolla iM in terms exterior and interior flair and tech. But the Corolla iM offers much more inside and out, standard for nearly $10k less than the Mazda 3 GT. Both cars hold up great over time with efficiency and low maintenance. We whipped both 2016 vehicles. But if we had to choose, we’d pick the 2017 Mazda 3 because of its more customizable trim options and more tech advanced interior with its Heads-up-Display, leather seats and banging sound system.
But if you don’t want to pay the extra $7k-$10k for add-ons, the 2017 Corolla iM is the better option.
This year though, the Golf still leads the hatch-pack. The Volkswagen Golf offers an expanded lineup including a high-performance AWD Golf R with a turbo 242 horsepower I4 and a 115 horsepower electric e-Golf. But the 2017 Corolla iM and Mazda 3 aren’t too far behind.