For the primary time since 2013, Mazda is providing a hopped-up model of its compact hatchback and sedan, the Mazda3. But as an alternative of the rip-snorting “wild baby” of yore, this new 2021 Mazda3 Turbo is designed to supply spectacular efficiency whereas being mature and livable. That sounds quite just like the philosophy behind the ur-hot hatch, the 2021 Volkswagen GTI. Not solely that, however they’ve related efficiency at related costs. And having pushed each pretty just lately, we figured there was no higher time to take a look at their specs, speak about our impressions, and present you ways they examine.

Performance and Driving Impressions

Both the Mazda and the VW come packing turbocharged four-cylinder engines, however going deeper reveals fairly just a few variations. The Mazda, with an additional 500 cc of displacement, makes probably the most energy, and much and away probably the most torque. Its engine has a really completely different character to the VW’s, although. The Mazda builds enhance and energy in an extremely clean and linear method, a lot in order that it virtually looks like a naturally aspirated engine. It’s exact and predictable, although it does lack a sure exhilaration. The GTI has that lacking exhilaration because of a extra noticeable rush of enhance as soon as the turbo is spooled up. It’s a stronger-feeling engine than the numbers recommend, too. If you don’t maintain the revs up, although, you’ll discover the GTI feeling somewhat sluggish at first till you’ve got full enhance.

Both vehicles have very completely different drivetrains. The Volkswagen has the transmission benefit along with your alternative of both a six-speed handbook or seven-speed dual-clutch automated. The handbook is without doubt one of the higher VW models with stable, snickety gates and fairly brief throws. The dual-clutch transmission presents extremely clean and wickedly fast shifts, however there’s clearly much less driver involvement. Both are a step up from the Mazda’s extra standard six-speed automated, the one choice accessible. While it has respectable shift logic, it’s sluggish, significantly in contrast with the VW automated.

The benefit shifts when attending to the drive wheels. The Mazda options all-wheel drive, and it actively adjustments its torque cut up. It makes it straightforward for all that torque to get to the bottom, mitigates torque steer, and helps give the automobile a impartial steadiness even beneath laborious throttle. The GTI is just accessible with front-wheel drive. That’s not essentially a nasty factor and it even features a mechanical limited-slip differential, however it’s not fairly as efficient at placing the facility down because the Mazda’s all-wheel drive. Plus, the front-driving GTI nonetheless displays some understeer when powering by corners.

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As for journey and dealing with, the Mazda leans towards consolation, and the VW towards efficiency. But the GTI has an non-obligatory characteristic that lets it do each extraordinarily nicely. The base and mid-grade GTIs get a hard and fast suspension, however the top-spec mannequin will get adaptive shocks, which is what our check automobile featured. It permits you to select between a firm-but-comfortable “consolation” mode, and a “sport” mode that lives as much as its identify by being stiffer and bumpier. It gives one of the best of each worlds. The GTI additionally has fast, weighty steering and a impartial, communicative chassis.

The Mazda is just accessible with a hard and fast suspension, and it’s tuned a bit softer. It makes it extra comfy, however you do find yourself with a bit extra physique roll than the VW. It’s steering is a bit slower and lighter, however nonetheless very exact and with sufficient suggestions to be fulfilling. And, as beforehand talked about, the all-wheel drive permits you to use the throttle extra in corners, which is enjoyable. Both vehicles are pretty quiet and their engines have a little bit of growl.


Mazda3 Hatch front three quarter

  • Mazda3 Hatch entrance three quarter
  • Image Credit: James Riswick


2019 Mazda3 hatchback

  • 2019 Mazda3 hatchback
  • Premium bundle. Polymetal Gray Mica with crimson inside.
  • Image Credit: James Riswick

Interior and Exterior Design and Dimensions

Both the Mazda and VW have clear and subtly sporty exterior designs. They eschew large wings and vents for small spoilers and splitters, and clear sheet metallic. The Mazda is swoopy and curvy, although, whereas the VW is straight-edged and upright. The Mazda can be notably bigger than the GTI. The hatchback, which is shorter than the also-available sedan, continues to be almost 8 inches longer than the VW. The wheelbase is somewhat over 3 inches longer than that of the GTI, too. Height and width of each are inside an inch of one another.

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Strangely, the Mazda’s additional dimension doesn’t fairly translate to the inside. Both vehicles have almost the identical area for passengers each entrance and rear. In apply, the GTI really feels extra spacious, significantly for rear passengers the place there’s rather more headroom, and a smidgen extra legroom. It’s additionally simpler to get into the VW because of its taller roofline. The Mazda does make up for this considerably by providing extra cargo area within the hatchback than the VW GTI. The Mazda3 sedan has much less, however that’s to be anticipated with a trunk quite than a hatch.

While equally sized inside, the Mazda and VW have very completely different inside designs and driving positions. The Mazda feels way more premium with upholstery-covered sprint panels, a contemporary, minimalist design, and expensive-feeling controls. It additionally has a low, car-like driving place. The GTI, whereas put collectively nicely and that includes respectable plastics, nonetheless has a bland dashboard. The driving place can be uncommon, as you sit fairly excessive, nearer to a crossover than a automobile. The GTI does have nicer, extra supportive seats, they usually’re accessible in an enthralling plaid material. Both vehicles have easy, responsive infotainment techniques, although the Mazda’s is solely managed from a bodily management wheel within the middle console, and the VW’s is a touchscreen system. The latter specifically makes it a greater match for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.


2021 VW GTI

  • 2021 VW GTI


Judging by base costs, the VW GTI has a bonus with a worth about $1,000 lower than the most cost effective Mazda3 Turbo, and even with the automated, it’s about $350 much less. But the Mazda contains extra options as normal. It comes with a sunroof, adaptive LED headlights, energy adjustable driver’s seat, head-up show, adaptive cruise management and lane-keep help. Most of those options space accessible on the GTI, however it’s a must to select costlier trim ranges. The mid-level SE begins at $33,660, and the top-level Autobahn begins at $37,940. The Mazda has just one different trim stage, the Premium Plus, which begins at $33,395 on the sedan, and $34,695 for the hatchback.


Both of those turbocharged compacts are glorious decisions providing nice driving dynamics and delicate sporty styling. And the higher of the 2 is dependent upon what you’re on the lookout for. If you prioritize sporty driving, the VW is a extra partaking and rewarding automobile. But if you’d like a bit extra consolation, worth and premium really feel, the Mazda is the best way to go.

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