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Fast and affordable don’t often go hand in hand. However, the 2021 Mazda3 Hatchback and the 2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback are some of the most fun-to-drive cars on the market. These budget-friendly cars deliver sporty handling, fuel-efficient engines, and a decent assortment of features for the price.

The Mazda3 and Corolla are two of the most popular compact sedans on the market. However, these models’ hatchback variants deserve more love

If you’re in the market for a fun little hatchback, then you may have some indecision. The industry doesn’t offer too many options, as competitors like the Honda Fit have been discontinued. Thankfully, the 2021 Mazda3 Hatchback and 2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback are more than good enough to fill the void. But how do you decide which one is best for you?

The Corolla may have a bit more name recognition, but that doesn’t mean it’s the better choice. The Mazda3 holds some significant advantages shoppers shouldn’t ignore.

The 2021 Mazda3 Hatchback delivers adrenaline-pumping performance

A grey 2021 Mazda3 Hatchback driving down a highway road
The 2021 Mazda3 Hatchback in action | Photo via Mazda

Who says a little car can’t deliver a whole lot of fun? The 2021 Mazda3 Hatchback generates more power than you’d think, and it has athletic handling that makes it a joy to drive.

Its standard 186-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is livelier than that of most other compacts. This powerplant is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and a front-wheel-drive system. Notably, Mazda makes a manual transmission and all-wheel-drive system available.

Plus, shoppers who choose a 2021 Mazda3 Hatchback 2.5 Turbo trim will harness even more power. These models feature a 250-hp turbocharged engine and an AWD system for extra traction. However, the starting MSRP is a bit high at $30,900.

Meanwhile, the 2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback looks wimpy in comparison. Its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine kicks out 168 hp, and it only comes with FWD. This car may not live up to the high standard of performance set by its rival, but the Corolla Hatch is still pretty thrilling to drive.

The 2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback’s interior underwhelms

A blue 2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback on display next to the water
The 2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback on display | Photo via Toyota

The Corolla Hatch’s low starting MSRP of $20,565 entices many buyers. Plus, its fuel-sipping engine, which gets an EPA-estimated 35 MPG city/highway combined when equipped with the available CVT, makes the car even more alluring.

Budget-conscious shoppers may balk at paying $22,500 for a base Mazda3 that only gets an EPA-estimated 29 MPG combined. However, Mazda’s hatchback is well worth the extra money. It offers more premium materials throughout the cabin and has a much larger standard infotainment display.

Car and Driver’s review of the 2021 Toyota Corolla criticized the hatchback’s small cargo area. In comparison, the 2021 Mazda3 Hatchback offers more than two cubic feet of additional storage space.

Additionally, those whose top priority is safety may feel more at peace driving a 2021 Mazda3 Hatchback. The Mazda3 is extremely safe, having been named an IIHS Top Safety Pick +. The IIHS hasn’t yet tested the 2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback, but the 2020 model earned the lesser distinction of Top Safety Pick.

Which hatchback should you buy?


Car and Driver Isn’t Sold on the 2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

Unless your sole goal is to save money, the 2021 Mazda3 Hatchback is the better option over the 2021 Toyota Corolla Hatchback. Its combination of better driving dynamics, higher interior quality, and advanced safety is well worth the extra money. Plus, its design is sportier and more sophisticated, as well.