If you’re in the market for a 2021 Toyota Corolla and you haven’t given the 2021 Mazda3 a look, you’re doing yourself a disservice. While previous generations of the Mazda were plastic-filled, noisy, and uncomfortable machines, the newest generation is a major leap forward. The Toyota Corolla is a great machine, offering tons of safety equipment, a lower base price, and greater fuel efficiency. However, the Mazda3’s refined interior, greater on-road performance, and available tech make it the one to buy.
The 2021 Mazda3 is the better performer
Under the hood of the 2021 Mazda3’s base trim is a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. The base engine develops 155 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque. In contrast, the base 2021 Toyota Corolla counts on a 1.8-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine. The base powerplant develops 139 hp and 123 lb-ft of torque. While the Mazda3’s standard engine is more powerful than the Toyota’s, both engines are relatively weak. If your budget allows, you’re better off with more powerful options.
The best engine available in the Corolla is the 2.0-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder. The range-topping engine develops 169 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque. The Mazda3’s most compelling engine is a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder. The Mazda outperforms the Toyota by developing 186 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque. The Mazda3’s midrange engine is not only more powerful than the Corolla’s top of the line engine, but it also has greater torque delivery. While the Corolla’s 2.0-liter engine makes peak torque at 4,400 rpm, the Mazda3 produces an additional 35 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. The result is that the Mazda’s engine will feel like the more responsive powerplant while driving in town.
Although the Mazda3 does offer a turbocharged 2.5-liter engine developing 250 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, it pushes the $20,500 base price eerily close to $30,000. At that point, you’re better off with a different model entirely.
The 2021 Toyota Corolla’s interior is covered in hard plastics
One of the best things a cheap car can do is make you feel like you’re driving something slightly more expensive. This is where the Mazda3 truly begins to shine. The flagship Mazda3 Premium and its $26,850 starting price include real leather on both the seats and the steering wheel. While the range-topping Corolla XSE has a lower starting price of $25,825, you can’t option leather seats, only Toyota’s leather-like SofTex material.
Additionally, the Corolla’s dashboard is mostly covered in hard plastics and rubber materials, even in the top trim level. In contrast, the Mazda3’s dashboard and center console feature a leatherette material. Although it is not real leather, the addition of these materials helps the Mazda feel much more expensive by softening all of the surfaces you interact with.
If we’re talking interior tech, the Mazda3 also excels. Higher-trimmed Corollas count on an eight-inch touchscreen that includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa compatibility. To make it easy to use, Toyota had to place the screen right in the dashboard’s center. This way, it’s easy for the driver to reach. In contrast, the Mazda3’s 8.8-inch widescreen lives far away from the driver, embedded into the dash.
According to Auto Deal, the screen placement allows the driver to glance at it without having to take their eyes off the road completely. To control it, the driver utilizes a rotary controller placed directly behind the gear selector. Aside from its physical placement, the Mazda3’s screen’s wider aspect allows it to display greater amounts of information, especially when looking at maps on either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
The Mazda3 is the one to buy, but you’ll be spending more
While the Mazda3 has some clear strengths, it’s higher price over the Toyota Corolla is a drawback. The base Corolla L starts at $19,925 compared to the Mazda3 2.0’s $20,500 base price. The savings continue as you move up the trim levels as well. A top trim Corolla XSE starts at $25,825 and tops out around $28,915 if you don’t include accessories. In contrast, the Mazda3 Premium starts at $26,850 and tops out just under $30,000. It is important to note that the Mazda3 offers all-wheel drive, which pushes its price to around $31,000.
In the end, you can’t go wrong with either of these two sedans. However, if you want the very best, you’ll want to buy the Mazda3.