2015 Ford Focus vs Mazda3

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Last year we pitted the Ford Focus against the Mazda3, and the Mazda came out on top.

At the time, we thought the Ford Focus was starting to feel a little old and rough around the edges. But this year, it received a mid-cycle refresh that includes a new face and new safety technology. Is it enough to reverse last year’s decision?

Crammed Full of Technology

The Focus and the Mazda3 are two of the most technologically advanced compact cars in their price range. The Focus is available with active lane keeping, blind spot monitoring, a slew of cameras and rear cross-traffic alert. Heck, the little Ford even has the ability to park itself.

SEE ALSO: 2014 Ford Focus vs 2014 Mazda3

Mazda counters with premium features like adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, a head-up display, lane departure warning, rear-cross traffic alert and the company’s i-ELOOP energy recovery system. Of course you pay for what you get and although both cars do start under $18,000 after destination charges, a loaded up Focus will break the $29,000 mark. The Mazda3 gets even pricier as one equipped with the i-ELOOP system can crest $33,000.

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Stylish, Inside and Out

To match the premium price tags, both the Focus and the Mazda3 look and feel somewhat upscale. Exterior styling for the Focus has continually improved over the years and although the 2015 refresh continues the trend, we still prefer the looks of the Mazda. Although we prefer the looks of the Mazda3 hatchback, even the uglier step-sister sedan looks great.

Comfort for the driver in the Mazda is very good. We like the front seat position better than the Focus and the center armrest in the Mazda3 extends forward enough to be used by the driver, unlike the one in the Focus. Rearward visibility isn’t great in the Mazda because the steeply raked rear window blocks some of the view directly behind the car.

Ford-Focus-vs-Mazda3-4 Ford-Focus-vs-Mazda3-23

Still Don’t Like MyFord Touch

The interior of the Focus is familiar and is aging well except for MyFord Touch. It still suffers from connectivity issues and long delays between menus. Ford’s new Sync3 infotainment system can’t come soon enough.

The Mazda interior is simple, clean and modern. Not everyone likes the tablet style center screen, but it does make the dashboard feel new. The usability of the center knob and dial design between the seats is great, especially compared to MyFord touch.

Ford-Focus-vs-Mazda3-13

Fun Behind the Wheel

The Ford Focus and Mazda3 are two of the sportiest cars in the segment. The chassis and steering settings in the 3 are a near perfect balance of comfort and handling. The steering always lets you know what the car is doing without being uncomfortably heavy and the car responds quickly to driver inputs. Even with the smaller base engine, the car is still a blast to drive on a twisting road. But the Mazda3 is more than a sporty special. It’s still reasonably comfortable over potholes and able to swallow speed bumps with ease.

The Focus is engaging to drive, but we’re torn over whether or not it can equal the Mazda3.. Handling and steering in the Focus are dialed in and the Focus has no problems with corners. Powering the Focus is a 2.0-liter engine that makes 160 HP and 146 lb-ft. of torque, which is five more horsepower than the Mazda3’s 2.0-liter engine, but down four pound feet of torque.

SEE ALSO: AutoGuide.com 2014 Car of the Year Award Winner – 2014 Mazda3

Despite the similar numbers, the Focus feels faster than the Mazda3, which feels somewhat reluctant to accelerate at times. It`s not all good news for the Focus’ drivetrain, though. Some of us still experienced slow speed shudder – a long time issue plaguing the power shift dual-clutch automatic transmission. And in terms of efficiency, the Mazda3 with a conventional six-speed automatic, returned a better observed fuel economy average of 33.6 MPG vs the Ford’s 31.0 MPG.

Compare Specs

2015 Ford Focus
vs
2015 Mazda3
Vehicle 2015 Ford Focus Advantage 2015 Mazda3
Engine 2.0L 4-cyl - 2.0L 4-cyl
Transmission 6-speed DCT - 6-speed automatic
Horsepower 160 HP Focus 155 HP
Torque 146 lb-ft Mazda3 150 lb-ft
Rear seat legroom 33.2 inches Mazda3 35.8 inches
Trunk space 13.2 to 23.8 cubic feet Focus 12.4-20.2 cubic feet
Estimated MPG (US) 26 MPG city, 38 MPG hwy Mazda3 30 MPG city, 41 MPG hwy
Estimated MPG (CDN) 9.1 l/100km city, 6.3 l/100 km hwy Mazda3 7.9 l/100km city 5.7l/100km hwy
Observed MPG (US) 31 MPG Mazda 3 33.6 MPG
Starting price (US) $17,995 - $17,765
Starting price (CDN) $$18,464 Mazda3 $17,690
Top trim (US) $27,500 Focus $32,990
Top trim (CDN) $29,480 Focus $33,250

Ford-Focus-vs-Mazda3-35Ford-Focus-vs-Mazda3-29

Slightly Cramped

On paper, the Focus has the least amount of legroom amongst the big compact car players, but the Mazda3 isn’t much better. The Ford does offer a nicely inclined rear seat cushion that allows larger passengers to fit. Headroom in both cars is good for a compact car, but there is a strange, undeniable claustrophobic feeling in the back of the Focus. Almost like the roof is caving in on you. Mazda’s rear seat also has faults. For example, the door mounted armrests are hard plastic and not very inviting.

Things behind the passenger compartment don’t get any better for the Mazda3 as it has one of the smallest trunks and cargo hatches in the segment. The Focus’ isn’t exactly a U-Haul truck, but the sedan does offer almost a cubic foot more storage than the Mazda3 sedan and the hatchback Ford can stuff over 3.5 cubic feet more gear than the Mazda3 Sport.

Ford-Focus-vs-Mazda3-16

The Verdict: 2015 Ford Focus vs Mazda3

But a slightly smaller cargo area isn’t enough to make us condemn the Mazda3. These are two well built, well equipped compact cars that focus more on comfort, technology and driving enjoyment than passenger and cargo space. Although the updated Focus has improved, the Mazda3 is still the better all-around package. It’s the car that we would be more inclined to spend our own money on and the winner of this comparison.

2015 Ford Focus

2015 Mazda3

  • Steve C

    One issue not mentioned is wind, road and cabin noise. The new Focus 2015 is supposed to be much quieter than the Mazda3. I know this may not be an issue for most drivers but this is a consideration for me. Another issue for the Mazda3 hatchback is the poor rearward visibility, to me a serious negative. However a plus for the Mazda would be long term reliability.

  • kaesden

    Having owned both a 2013 focus, and now a 2014 mazda 3, i can say with authority to avoid the focus at all costs unless you get a manual transmission. Do your research, the transmission in the focus is a nightmare that ford can’t fix. It shudders at low speed, grinds gears shifting from 1st to 2nd, bucks like a mule, etc… I’m familiar with dual clutch transmissions and their characteristics(VW/Audi DSG’s are generally quite good) but the Ford unit is just poorly designed and/or programmed. Everything about the focus is actually quite good and if you get it with a 5 speed manual, it would be a great car. However for an automatic daily driver, the mazda wins by a landslide. Better real world fuel economy, better performance, much nicer interior materials quality, the list goes on and on. The only thing the Focus had that is significantly better than the 3 is the Sony stereo system. The sub makes it worlds better than the bose system in the 3 that is lacking a sub.(this is somewhat made up for by not having trunk space eaten up by that sub, though it is quite compact.)

  • ZX-10R

    Oh boy Mike Schlee pretending yet again to be a writer and critic. Next time put them up against each other apples to apples buddy.

    Looks wise the ford has aged well and improved well…The Mazda id you don’t know how to look at profiles has a longish nose that every mag and site has mentioned but you Mike…Call out on YOU Mike. It is disproportionate by quite a bit and thus has not gotten the adoption as the old 3 did. You really are a troubled writer when you start making fantastic NON-observations like that Mike.

    Power wise the Ford does feel faster and though the tranny issue is still there the way around it is accelerating like it was a manual…Works for us. I’ll take that versus the slower feeling 3 all day…Another NON issue you make Mike is the interior Sync in Focus…Though not perfect it is wonderful to use if you have savvy…I can operate it very well and do not have issues like most of the other challenged people do…You know how to use a cell phone..Same thing – BTW it is not that slow – Oh yeah the Mazda doesn’t have a longinsh nose (whatever Mike).

    MPG? You okay or you just trying to fanboy a little…I get 34 pg with our 2013 Focus Titanium…Yeah I live in an area with hills (Pleasanton, CA) So if you are calling out 31mpg I am calling BS on your usual BS writing.

    Mazda had to go all out to make even with the Focus when the new one came out…It did not really go out for the knockout…Just as this Focus didn’t either. It pulled even in a way but this is still a close match that I would consider a draw.

    Lastly, space aside…This was not a comparison and room for both cars in hatchback form (which you of course FAIL to compare) are very comparable…The rear seating in the focus is small but so are all the other cars including the 3 in this segment. The only thing that is small is the effort you put into these reviews.

    This was a draw…If you think smallish rear is not a hit on the 3 then the ugly proportion should be.

    Crap review again Mike…Keep trying kid.

  • Shiratori90

    Troll harder opie……

  • ZX-10R

    Nice try Civic owning Shitaki. You think the Mazda is better? I am sure you will say a civic is…Which would make your name appropriate.