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While both the 2023 Mazda3 and Hyundai Elantra are off-beat choices in the compact sedan space, both are gaining ground as other models fall off the map. So how do do these two compact cars compare when pitted against each other? At first glance, the Mazda3 is more impressive, but a deeper look reveals that the Elantra has a few more tricks up its sleeve.

The 2023 Hyundai Elantra shown from the front
Hyundai Elantra | Hyundai

Performance and Fuel Economy

Under the hood, the 2023 Mazda3 offers two different powertrain options. The standard kit is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, while the upgrade is a turbocharged version of that same setup. With the base setup the Mazda compact makes 191 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque, while returning 28 mpg city and 37 mpg on the highway. Meanwhile, the turbocharged 3 offers 250 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque with all-wheel drive. Efficiency with this setup is 23 mpg city and 32 mpg on the open road.

A new Mazda3 sedan on a dirt road
Mazda3 sedan | Mazda

Jumping over to the Korean contender, things are quite a bit different. Here, base power comes from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder offering just 147 horsepower and 132 pound-feet of torque. Like the Mazda, there is an optional turbocharged engine, this time  a 1.6-liter four-pot turbo. Here the Elantra makes 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque, but it still pales in comparison to the Japanese competitor.

The new Hyundai Elantra in the city
Hyundai Elantra | Hyundai

What you lose in fun you gain in efficiency though, as the base Elantra returns 33 mpg city and 43 mpg highway. Switching to the turbo will still give you 28 mpg city and 36 mpg highway, figures that nearly match the base Mazda3’s efficiency.

Tech and comfort features of the Mazda3 and Hyundai Elantra

Frankly, the tech in the new Mazda3 isn’t nearly as impressive as what comes in the Elantra. The 8.8-inch infotainment display feels both too small and too far from the driver to really feel like a useful screen while on the road. Meanwhile, the Elantra offers a slightly smaller standard design, but a pair of 10.5-inch screens are available to upgrade the tech experience. No such upgrade is available in the Mazda, making the Elantra a more modern choice.

Regarding amenities, the price point of the priciest Elantra puts it ahead of the more comfortable Mazda3. For both you’ll be ranging through the trim levels to find leather upholstery and heated seats, but that top spec will cost you a full $10,000 less in the Korean compact.

Interior and cargo space

Inside, the Hyundai Elantra charts a clear advantage over the Mazda3. Up front, Elantra riders will have 40.6 inches of headroom and 42.3 inches of legroom, according to Edmunds. Legroom is matched in the Mazda model, but taller drivers will appreciate the extra two inches of space in the Hyundai.

In the rear seats, the Hyundai Elantra pulls ahead even further. While headroom tips into the Korean’s favor by just 0.1 inches, there are nearly three extra inches of legroom when compared to the Mazda. Shoulder room also goes to the Korean compact at 55.6 inches vs 53.5 for the Japanese model.

Even with the larger passenger area, the cargo space of the 2023 Elantra is more plentiful than in the Mazda3. With a full cubic foot more space to work with, packing holiday gifts or road-trip luggage will be a touch easier in the Hyundai.

Mazda3 and Hyundai Elantra safety and driver assistance tech

Regarding driver assistance technology, both the Mazda3 and Hyundai Elantra are matched blow for blow. Both come with forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, and automatic emergency braking. Furthermore, both models offer standard lane departure warning and lane keep assist. And both make their respective radar cruise features optional extras with trim level upgrades.

The Mazda3 parked on a cobblestone street
Mazda3 sedan | Mazda
Related 4 Reasons Why U.S. News Likes the 2023 Mazda3

4 Reasons Why U.S. News Likes the 2023 Mazda3

The verdict

If performance and style are what matter, the Mazda3 is clearly the better choice of these two. Of course, that doesn’t account for the red-hot Hyundai Elantra N, but we believe that Hyundai’s track-ready tourer is in a class of its own.

On tech, comfort, and cargo though, the Elantra lineup pulls itself clear of the Mazda3 with some conviction. So the real question is, what matters more: style or substance?