So, I just spend about 400 rental miles (apiece) in these two cars last week. I was pretty psyched, because I think the hatch version of one of these may be on my 'next car' list. Unfortunately, I had the auto/sedan version and I'd get the hatch/manual, but it was still nice to compare: Mazda3 Skyactive 2.0 6 speed manual -handling: pretty good despite the higher-profile 15" tires. Heavy-weighted steering, which was nice, firm suspension -comfort: seats were great, very firm, good support -fuel economy: WOW! an honest 40mpg @ 70-75 mph. That was the overall hand-calculated total -engine: really nice--smooth, good power when passing -transmission: I normally hate stepped autos, but this one is actually really nice--good shift points, quick shifts and unobtrusive -other: wind and road noise were pretty bad. I'd need to do some serious sound deadening in this car! It's loud, but I can work with it (my current car was pretty noisy when I first bought it, so I'm confident I can fix it--but this was the only real downside to the car). Ford Focus 2.0 6 speed auto -handling: a LOT like the Mazda 3. It had 17" alloys that probably helped, but I liked the handling--firm and responsive, steering was a little lighter than the Mazda but not bad -comfort: seats were almost the same as the Mazda. Interior layout was a little more garish, but not too bad (I liked the more simple Mazda a little more though). -fuel economy: not as good, 34 mpg on the exact same trip -engine: a little rougher, and it didn't seem as responsive; hard to tell though because of... -transmission: horrible. For a new car, I'm pretty amazed this made it into production? It's really bad. I'd buy the manual, so this isn't a deal-breaker for me, but if I were buying an auto, it would be. It's feels like it's constantly flaring, the shift points are poor and it shifts roughly. It pretty much ruins the entire driving experience. -other: more quiet than the Mazda, though the engine is a little more rough. The suspension seems a little more compliant, but handles just as well. The fuel economy and engine smoothness would lead me to the Mazda3, though I'll need to test the actual configuration to see which one I like better. One thing that surprised me with both cars: the seats. I'm a pretty skinny guy and the seats work great. I'm not seeing the average American fitting too well or being very comfortable in either of these cars. They both have plenty of power for my purposes, and the Mazda does an awfully nice job on the power/fuel economy continuum. If I need to run a can of 3M cleaner every 20K to clean up the intake deposits from DI, that's a trade I'm willing to make. It's an impressive little car. Ford, OTOH, has some work to do on that transmission. It's really awful, IMO--but an otherwise nice car as well.