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.
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.
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.
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.
|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|
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.
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