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The Mazda3 has become a mainstay among compact cars. Still, it doesn’t enjoy the same level of popularity as its biggest rivals: the Honda Civic and Hyundai Elantra. They’re solid cars, but the 2024 Mazda3 meets or beats both in most ways. So, you’d think Mazda3 sales would be brisker than the competition. However, that isn’t the case.

Here’s why the 2024 Mazda3 is a worthy contender and why people might be picking other small cars instead.

The 2024 Mazda3 has zippy handling and quick acceleration

The cheapest 2024 Mazda3 in gray
2024 Mazda 3 sedan | Mazda

The Japanese automaker doesn’t appear to be doing a great job of marketing the 2024 Mazda3’s performance chops. This zippy car packs a 2.5-liter four-cylider engine, either naturally aspirated or turbocharged. The naturally aspirated version makes 191 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque. This engine pairs with front- or all-wheel-drive and a six-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission. Its acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds isn’t anything to brag about. Still, it boasts Mazda’s signature zoom-zoom handling.

Meanwhile, the 2024 Mazda3’s turbocharged powerplant produces 227 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. The only drawback to this version is the lack of a manual gearbox option. However, this car easily tops many of its more popular rivals in acceleration, launching from 0 to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds.

So, it’s easy to see that performance isn’t a reason that Mazda3 sales are slower than the competition.

Red 2024 Honda Civic small car driving on a street
2024 Honda Civic | Honda

Fuel economy could be one reason for lower Mazda3 sales. Its hatchback version with the base engine, automatic transmission, and FWD gets an EPA-estimated 27 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway.

Meanwhile, a similarly equipped 2024 Honda Civic averages 31 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway.

But the most fuel-efficient of the three is the Elantra. Hyundai’s compact car achieves 32 mpg in the city and 41 mpg on the highway.

None of the three performs poorly in gas mileage. However, shoppers looking to pinch pennies at the pump probably wouldn’t pick the Mazda.

Front view of 2023 Hyundai Elantra Hybrid, U.S. News best hybrid car for the money, not 2023 Toyota Prius
2023 Hyundai Elantra Hybrid | Hyundai

Another area that might affect Mazda3 sales is the infotainment system. The 2024 Mazda3 has an 8.8-inch center display as standard equipment, beating the size of the Civic’s 7.0-inch standard unit. However, Mazda’s center display has a dial and buttons, not touchscreen controls like in the Civic. According to Mazda, buyers must upgrade to a turbocharged 2024 Mazda3 to get a 10.3-inch touchscreen.

Meanwhile, the Hyundai Elantra has a standard touchscreen, measuring 8.0 inches diagonally. Plus, buyers can upgrade to a 10.3-inch touchscreen.

Are Mazda3 sales lower because it’s more expensive than the competition?

The Mazda3 is an excellent compact car, but its MSRP is higher than its more popular rivals. The 2024 Mazda3 starts at $24,170 for the sedan and $25,690 for the hatchback. Meanwhile, the Civic’s base MSRP is $23,950 for the sedan and $24,950 for the hatchback. But the Elantra sedan boasts the lowest starting price of $21,475 (Hyundai doesn’t offer a hatchback). Of course, upgrading to a higher trim or adding options to any of these models would increase the price.

Also noteworthy are the Honda Civic’s higher J.D. Power ratings. The Mazda has an “average” overall 79 out of 100, whereas the Civic has a “great” 83. Notably, the Mazda3 ties with the Elantra. Still, owners say they mostly like Mazda’s compact car after driving it for an extended period. However, its heftier price tag and lower fuel economy could dampen the appeal and cause Mazda3 sales to be lower than expected.

Regarding the sales, Mazda sold only 2,205 Mazda3 units last month. That’s down more than 20% from the same time last year. However, recent reports also indicate the Mazda3 has sold 22,758 units so far this year, up by 12.4% over the same period last year. Still, the Elantra has sold 116,759 units this year, up by almost 24%. And Honda Civic has sold 164,109 units for a 52.5% gain.