Mazda3 vs. Toyota Corolla: Which Compact Sedan Does Consumer Reports Recommend?

When comparing compact sedans, the Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla come head to head as two of the best small cars in the segment. With each of the new sedans carrying a starting price hovering around the $21,000 price point, it will take more than budget considerations to choose one or the other. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of each to decide which new car is right for you.

The pros of the Mazda3

A 2022 Mazda3 sedan Carbon Edition parked in a storage garage as light from windows streams through dust
2022 Mazda3 Carbon Edition | MAZDA NORTH AMERICAN OPERATIONS

From the first glance of the Mazda3, its stance and overall body sculpture convey the Mazda3’s sporty nature, especially compared to the Toyota Corolla’s functional styling. However, it’s not just for show. The Mazda3’s 2.5-liter engine and six-speed transmission work together to provide 0 to 60 mph acceleration in just over 7.5 seconds. The Mazda3 also outperformed the Corolla in Consumer Reports (CR) braking tests and is “more enjoyable to drive.”

Inside the Mazda3, you’ll find comfortable padded touchpoints, including its armrests and the steering wheel, along with what CR calls “high-quality trim, buttons, and knobs throughout.”

Consumer Reports reviewers also found the Mazda3’s low levels of interior noise added to its “premium” feel but noted that in lower trim levels, “neither the Mazda nor the Toyota has great seats.” However, the Mazda3 still edges out the Corolla slightly.

If you prefer a sedan with all-wheel drive (AWD), it’s available on the automatic-transmission-equipped Mazda3 but not on the Corolla. 

Manufacturer warranties are similar for both cars, but Mazda has three years or 36,000 miles of roadside assistance compared to Toyota’s two years or unlimited miles. You’ll have to choose which one fits your driving needs better. 

The pros of the Toyota Corolla

As is typical in most cases, the Toyota Corolla gives up the edge in sportiness with its 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission (CVT) to gain the advantage in fuel economy by more than a few mpg in base form. Toyota offers the Corolla Hybrid for up to 53 EPA-estimated mpg if you want even better fuel economy. In comparison, there isn’t a hybrid option available for the Mazda3. Where the Mazda3 offers a firm ride and responsive handling worthy of track days, the Corolla exhibits competent handling of its own and maintains a “very good ride quality” that soaks up bumps on uneven pavement. 

Inside the Corolla, its controls are well laid out and easy to use. Each selection provides positive feedback allowing easier adjustment with minimal distraction while driving. As a result, Corolla gets the nod in this category over the Mazda3’s sometimes difficult-to-decipher controls.

Where Mazda and Toyota offer differing solutions for roadside assistance, Toyota wins this round with two years or up to 25,000 miles of regularly scheduled maintenance, which Mazda does not provide. 

The Toyota Corolla also outperformed the Mazda3 in CR’s annual surveys, where owners report their vehicle’s reliability. However, both groups of owners reported similar satisfaction with their cars

Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla similarities

Both cars will benefit from additional options available at higher trim levels. Everything from improved seat comfort to advanced driver safety assistance, some of which aren’t available on base models at all, are standard or at least an option the higher you go. 

Both vehicles suffer from low roof lines that limit entry access. Another consequence of the low roofline is that short windows and windshield pillars are too close, limiting visibility. 

Consumer Reports narrows down the choices to the sport-minded or the budget conscious. The sport-minded driver will likely enjoy the “fun to drive” Mazda3. Still, they’ll need to pay extra to get the forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking standard on lower-trim Corollas. Corolla buyers will get a reliable, safe, and practical car with lower annual fuel costs, but it won’t be as much fun to drive, depending on how you measure fun.

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