2013 Mazda3 Hatchback vs 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT

High MPG Hatchbacks Face Off

2013 Mazda3 Hatchback vs 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT

Hatchbacks are a tough sell in America, but a swath of the population still appreciates the added practicality a fifth door brings. For those few and proud who don’t care for sedan styling, there are some spectacular, budget-minded options and topping the list are the Mazda3 hatchback and Hyundai Elantra GT.

Both cars are fuel efficient, practical choices that merit consideration. And while they might seem remarkably similar on paper, a little time behind the wheel proves otherwise.

Despite having its Skyactiv engine line, the 2012 Mazda3 keeps much of its “zoom-zoom” spirit while forgoing much of the fancier feature feeling Hyundai strives for.


2013 mazda3 alone

The Mazda has a more powerful engine with 155 hp compared to 148 for the Hyundai, but strangely it doesn’t feel that way around town. In fact, the Elantra will fool you into seeming like the more powerful of the two. Much of the reason for this is the Hyundai’s touchy throttle, meaning it wants to lurch forward at the slightest touch, though lacks any real power beyond that. The Mazda is the opposite and begs to be strung out in order to have any fun.

In every other way, the Mazda feels better. It’s more nimble. Step on the gas pedal and you’ll see the tach leap to meet a downshift. And those shifts feel buttery smooth next to the Hyundai’s imprecise gearbox. Grinding gears is darn near impossible in the Mazda, which isn’t the case with the Hyundai.

elantra gt front three quarterIn fact, finding first gear from a stop sign was strangely difficult on more than one occasion in the Elantra. The stick gets stuck sometimes and doesn’t want to shift smoothly — a problem further aggravated by the fact that, like the gas, the clutch is extra touchy.

That, combined with a comparatively sky-high seating position and long gear throws mean driving the Hyundai feels more designed for the average commuter than for anyone who enjoys driving.

In the past we praised the Elantra GT’s gearbox, though when tested head-to-head with the Mazda3, which employs one of the best units in the business, its faults show through.

What the Elantra GT does offer is a three-mode driver selectable steering system, with settings for comfort, normal and sport. Perhaps more of a gimmick that people won’t actually use, the Sport setting is an improvement, and along with making the Elantra more responsive, also makes steering feel more consistent.

Neither car is fast enough to feign any real sports performance, but at least the Mazda will hit its limits with glee during a highway cloverleaf. It’s just not the same in the Hyundai.

Compare Specs

2013 Mazda3 Hatchback
2013 Hyundai Elantra GT
Vehicle 2013 Mazda3 Hatchback Advantage 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT
Engine 2.0L I4 - 1.8L I4
Horsepower 155 Mazda3 148
Max. Torque 148 Mazda3 131
Fuel Economy 27 MPG city / 38 MPG hwy - 27 MPG city / 39 MPG hwy
Cargo Room 17 cu. in. Elantra GT 23 cu. in.
Total Cargo Room 42 cu. in. Elantra GT 51 cu. in.
Transmission 6-Speed Manual - 6-Speed Manual
Front-Row Head Room 38.9 in. Elantra GT 40.1 in.
Front-Row Leg Room 42 in. - 42 in.
Rear Seat Head Room 38.0 in. Mazda3 37.9 in.
Rear Seat Leg Room 36.2 in. Mazda3 34.6 in.
Starting Price $19,300 Elantra GT $18,395


If you’re really considering a homely hatchback like one of these, you don’t have any business expecting thrills. Still, equipped with a six-speed, both cars can keep their drivers feeling engaged.

2013 Mazda3 5 door interior 02Where the Mazda wins with youthful energy in the driving experience, it’s the opposite when it comes to the interior and in-car technology. Rife with mundane plastic that looks a decade-dated at least (the monotone look isn’t doing Mazda any favors), there aren’t any surprises in how the Mazda3’s button-rich center stack works. People picking the Hyundai get a more styling and technologically apt experience, but one that takes a little getting used to, especially for anyone transplanting from an older vehicle.

Despite being less inspiring to drive, the Hyundai’s seats are better bolstered and more lower back friendly. Hopping from one to the other, the difference is impossible to ignore. The optional panoramic moon roof also lends the Elantra a more expensive feel. Its cloth cover opens from both the front and back to reveal a massive glass roof that lets light flood in much better than the Mazda.

elantra gt interior

Some, however, will feel less bullish on the new-school Hyundai’s faux-fancy feel. With the Hyundai doing a better job at looking higher grade than actually being higher grade, the Mazda’s components might not have much flare but are quality bits. And their simplicity lets you feel at home quickly.

Regardless, the fact remains that you’ll be able to grow accustomed to either car quickly. Buying a hatchback means more than caring about how the car feels. You probably care about cargo capacity, and that’s where Hyundai shines brightest.


Both have plenty of space to store a solid haul from Wal-Mart, but the Elantra offers 23 cubic feet with the seats up and a whopping 51 with them folded. Mazda buyers have to make do with slightly less at 17 cubic feet with back seat passengers and only 42 with the rear seatbacks folded.

Apart from cargo hauling, taller drivers will enjoy an extra inch of headroom in the Hyundai. An important factor, depending on how you intend to use those rear seats and who you put back there, rear seat passengers in the Mazda3 will actually enjoy more legroom with 36.2 inches to the Hyundai’s 34.6.


Drivers aren’t likely to notice any difference between the Mazda’s 27/38 mpg (city/highway) and the Hyundai’s 27/39 in the same test cycles. Differences in individual driving styles are easily enough to negate that difference. However, during our testing the Mazda3 delivered superior fuel economy numbers with an average of 33 mpg compared to just 28 mpg in the Elantra GT.

Of note, our test cars both came equipped with manual transmissions. With each car equipped with an available six-speed automatic both are rated slightly higher at 28/39 mpg.

What drivers will notice is that the Mazda3’s 14.5-gallon fuel tank has a half a gallon advantage on the Mazda, meaning during highway driving it delivers roughly 20 extra miles of range.

What Hyundai can offer is a more attractive starting price. At $18,395, you’ll be able to save almost $1,000 over the Mazda3 hatchback, which costs a minimum of $19,300. Of note, base Elantras also get a significantly different suspension setup that is certain to further detract from the level of driving enjoyment.


2013 mazda3 and 2013 elantra gt

With minimal differences on paper, testing these two high-mpg hatchbacks together brought to light significantly different driving experiences. While nearly identical in functionality, a week spent testing both cars showed the Mazda to have superior real world fuel economy while also being more fun to drive.


  • mike no

    I have a 2013 GT I bought new and now have 48,000 miles on it. I have not had the first problem with this car and it drives like a race car if you push it. You must have gotten a lemon, every car company makes them. I would not trade my GT for a new M3but then I have a good one.

  • mike no

    Have the GT and put 48,000 miles on it. I would not take any other car over it.

  • Kevin

    well had you spelled MANUAL correct we might, i personally prefer my 2011 mazda 3 hatch I have the 2.5L motor which has 17 more hp then the one compare here and about 20 more ft pounds of torque which gives the 3 much more get up and go then the elantra gt’s i tested. I agree with the article in that the clutch in the elantra feels very commuter car/honda civic like and has no feel, sorry but you must not have driven MANUAL very much or in many cars because the mazda’s clutch feel is far superior, its great to know the catch point of your clutch not just mash it and hope like the elantra feels like where as the mazda lets you feel the engagement and modulate better

  • Kevin

    i know its old, but get the mazda better long term reliability and more power, better clutch and interior materials yeah its buttons and looks are dated but it was in the middle of a generation whereas the hyundai was new comparing the 2014 3 and 2014 elantra gt gives a better perspective as the 2012 or 13 3 was designed in 09 whereas the elantra gt here was obvioulsy years later so comparing the new in 2013 as a 2014 model 3 against the 2014 elantra gt gets a better head to head as the 3 in this review was already aged and being replaced due to age and new skyactiv engines

  • Kevin

    yeah same here, you hear the road (different tires help cooper rs3-a are grippy and very quiet on this gen 3) and it rides rough but in a cheap sporty compact hatch its not going to be a mercedes ride, ill take the predictable handling of my 3 over a smooth ride with no good handling, the GT trim has leather and the seats are great and so is the bose system

  • Kevin

    yes you must break in an engine to get real world mpg, and yes most professionally reviewed cars will have been professionally broken in, either in a shop or by careful steps in driving. if you have the non skyactiv hatch then thats normal mpg i have a 2011 3 hatch with the non skyactiv (2.5l) and get 26-29mpg average with my current average sitting right above 27mpg overall and i do about 70% freeway 30% city/sitting in traffic

  • Kevin

    you sure? you can get 40+ more hp and torque on a 2017 3 hatch with the larger motor led lights with active levelling and afs (headlights turn with steering) even my 2011 has HID lights factory that do this (its a top of the line GT trim with every option, i bought used) my 2011 has bluetooth, navi, sunroof 270 watt bose 10 speaker (incl built in sub) amplified audio system (new ones have close to 400 watts) my 2011 is not skyactiv(2.5l) but has 19 more hp and almost 20 more foot pounds of torque than your GT yes you have a slightly larger hatch but I also have leather seats, heated seats, 2 power outlets (2012+ 3s have usb ports 2011 back dont) plus the stronger handling finesse mazda is known for

  • mike no

    My reply is a year old, now the car has 68,000 miles and has not had any problems. Kevin, the car is a great car. It has everything I need. Maybe you need something it or nothing else has, but plenty of power, good stopping, and enough sounds so I can’t hear anything I don’t want to. Yep I would not trade it today.