2021 Kia Forte vs Mazda3: An Epic Drag Race of the Underdogs

Although SUVs and trucks currently reign supreme in the automotive landscape, there’s still some room for small compact cars. Anyone looking for an affordable and practical car that’s more budget-friendly than a Civic or Corolla can turn to cars like the Kia Forte and the Mazda3 hatchback.

In some ways, the Forte and Mazda3 can be considered underdogs as the Kia is less well-known in the compact segment and the higher-trim Mazda3 Turbo takes some of the spotlight off of the less-powerful non-turbo Mazda3 models. That being said, Sam – from the YouTube channel Sam CarLegion – put these two underdogs in an epic drag race. But which one won?

2021 Kia Forte versus 2021 Mazda3 (non-turbo)

2021 Forte GT Sport
2021 Forte GT Sport | Kia

Before we get into the drag race, we need to look at how the cars stack up against each other. The 2021 Kia Forte 5 that was used in the video isn’t available here in the U.S., but the Forte sedan is. Both iterations of the Forte carry the same specs, including a GT trim level with a turbocharged engine that’s connected to a manual transmission (shown in the video).

Underneath the hood of the Kia Forte GT is a 201-hp, turbocharged 1.6-liter engine that also puts out 195 lb-ft of torque. It’s front-wheel-drive and isn’t exactly a sports car, but that kind of power it gets off the line pretty quickly.

The 2021 Mazda3, on the other hand, utilizes a naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter engine that produces 186 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque and is mated to a six-speed manual transmission as well. Sure, there is a Mazda3 Turbo iteration, but using that car would be like bringing a machine gun to a knife fight. Instead, the race between the Kia Forte GT and Mazda3 seemed like a fair matchup.

Turbochargers help a lot in a drag race

Even just by looking at the specs of these cars, you can tell which one is more likely to win the race. The video shows four different drag races between the Forte and Mazda3, with Sam CarLegion driving the latter. The first two races weren’t very close as the Forte handily beat the Mazda from the get-go.

The next two races from a standstill were interesting as the Mazda3 beat the Forte off the line. However, a lot of that could have been attributed to driver error as drag racing with manual transmissions can lead to varying results. At one point, the drivers even switched cars to get a fair comparison, and in that race, the Mazda3 lost again.

Next up were a few roll races starting from 50 km/h. The Mazda3 ended up losing again, which was visually and verbally illustrated by Sam’s cries of stressful excitement during the race. “C’mon Mazda!” Sam yells. “It gets to 4,000 rpm and it doesn’t go fast, c’mon!” He followed that up stating that Kia’s turbocharger helps a lot, which definitely seemed to be the case.

“This is probably the slowest race I’ve been in”

2021 Mazda3
2021 Mazda3 | Mazda

In the end, it’s clear that neither car is meant for drag racing by any means. And if we had to be stern critics, the drivers weren’t built for drag racing either, at least in cars equipped with manual transmissions.

Does this mean that the Mazda3 is not a good buy over the Kia Forte GT? No, it’s still a great car. But if you want more power, or the ability to beat a Kia, then make sure and buy the turbocharged Mazda3.

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