Mazda 3 vs Ford Focus Shootout!

JOD

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3,577
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PNW/WA
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.
 
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509
Location
St. Louis, MO.
In most cars a manual transmission isn't very desireable on the resale market, especially for women, but in that class of cars I think it can be an asset. I'd go for the Mazda 3, and if that Ford trans is as bad as you say, that would seal the deal. Good luck with your decision. Zoom, zoom, zoom
 
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13,175
Location
ROCHESTER, NY
Nice Report! I do like the new Focus style better then the Mazda3(both nice looking) but, the style wouldn't be the tie breaker, the performance would be! My daughter has an '06 mazda 3i w/2.0L & 4spd auto. Great little drivetrain. Can bearly feel the auto shifting and it works great with the very smooth & high reving little engine to make it's power. Very nice engine sound too! Though, not known for their supurb MPG's, this example does get wonderful MPG in the real world(>30 city/ ~36-37 hwy). This winter is killing the MPG though compared to other winters.
 
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pbm

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8,832
Location
New York
The Ford has an adaptive AT which gets better with time....my Cruze has the same type and it certainly did.
 
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407
Location
Tampa
Thanks for this. I own the Focus with auto. Being a dual clutch unit it will always feel different than a torque converter auto. But there are good ones and bad ones. Hundreds have posted on focusfanatics.com; some love theirs, many hate theirs. Lots of quality issues. Mine has been good overall but has had its moments and has been in the shop several times. Now at 23k miles it's shifting pretty smooth. Unfortunately being a first-model-year Ford they've had to replace the steering rack and strut mounts in addtion to the clutch pack. Now I have both a slight engine vibration and a weird handling issue. Replaced 2 of the 3 engine mounts and it has helped. Planning to replace the tranny mount before giving up on it. If it works, then I'll look at aftermarket struts and probably summer tires to address the handling issue (feels like it's flexing from side to side - like maybe a loose strut). If that doesn't work, I'm debating just getting rid of it for something like.... the Mazda3. The Dart and Jetta (both with their new for '14 powertrains) are also on the list.
 
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407
Location
Tampa
Originally Posted By: pbm
The Ford has an adaptive AT which gets better with time....my Cruze has the same type and it certainly did.
They may both have adaptive learning but they are fundamentally completely different transmission tecnologies.
 
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689
Location
us
INteresting. I had a Focus rental and the best MPG I got was around 34, very relaxed cruising, maybe 65 mph. It had alloy rims but cheap, very noisy chinese tires. It ran good and had good power, though. I am curious about what you would do to reduce the interior noise? It seems to be a common problem with smaller cars.
 
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3,566
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Somewhere
What year was that Focus? Drove a 2014 with the auto at the car show last week. Granted, it was in a city "loop" but had an area where you could get to highway speed and I thought the trans shifted fine. But I do know some of the DSGs can get weird at times with the shifting.
 
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Tampa
Originally Posted By: Char Baby
First year? 1999! First year of the current gen? 2013! Maybe '12???
2012. Dec '11 build and production of the 3rd gen started around March '11.
 
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407
Location
Tampa
Originally Posted By: itguy08
What year was that Focus? Drove a 2014 with the auto at the car show last week. Granted, it was in a city "loop" but had an area where you could get to highway speed and I thought the trans shifted fine. But I do know some of the DSGs can get weird at times with the shifting.
Exactly - some perform great, others shudder and stumble. I think it depends on a combination of where the adaptive learning is and possible physical defects like leaking seals allowing fluid on the clutches which have been a problem.
 
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11,563
Location
Illinois
Nice write up. Last August I had a Focus rental in Denver. It needed a turbo there as the engine and transmission seemed sluggish at the higher altitude. After reading all the hate on the DCT, I thought I'd hate it. Apparently the one I got wasn't bad. The fuel economy wasn't great, but most of my driving was surface streets. Thanks for the review.
 
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Somewhere
Originally Posted By: kam327
Exactly - some perform great, others shudder and stumble. I think it depends on a combination of where the adaptive learning is and possible physical defects like leaking seals allowing fluid on the clutches which have been a problem.
Aah - sounds like a QC issue or something. Shame cause I love the idea of a DSG.
 
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TEXAS
We have a 2013 Mazda 3 Skyactive and we really like it. In regards to the regular sized American's comfort in relation to the seats...I'm 6'3" 240lbs and I'm comfortable in it.
 
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6,278
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Scruffy City
We drove a Focus when we bought the Jetta. I really wanted to like it, but it was underpowered and the transmission was just a mess, it seemed like it was always in the wrong gear no matter what. Granted it was a short drive. I think Ford has had multiple software updates since though. Also at the time you could not get a manual in the nicer models...
 
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Location
.
Originally Posted By: itguy08
What year was that Focus? Drove a 2014 with the auto at the car show last week. Granted, it was in a city "loop" but had an area where you could get to highway speed and I thought the trans shifted fine. But I do know some of the DSGs can get weird at times with the shifting.
The Focus DCTs have gotten better since the 2012 introduction. But, as Ford has discovered, it's hard to get a DCT to perform well in all situations. One big auto magazine complaint anout the new Mercedes CL250 is its DCT, so it isn't just Ford. It's too bad, because as an owner I can say the Focus is otherwise a terrific car. But I wouldn't buy another DCT of any make.
 
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9,283
Location
Fayetteville, NC
Focus has the most obnoxious dash/console design - Ugh! Looks like 5 yr old kids designed it - busy, cluttered and plain ugly, (IMO). The 3 has a much classier, very Euro-looking, mature dash/cockpit.
 
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.
Originally Posted By: 97tbird
Focus has the most obnoxious dash/console design - Ugh! Looks like 5 yr old kids designed it - busy, cluttered and plain ugly, (IMO). The 3 has a much classier, very Euro-looking, mature dash/cockpit.
Considering the Focus was designed in Germany and the version we have here is cosmetically nearly identical to European models, the Focus has to win the "Euro-looking" category. Because it is, well, European.
 
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9,283
Location
Fayetteville, NC
Well it sure doesn't (win), IMO. The Japanese has done a better job of the Euro - middle console/dash in this case. MUCH cleaner/mature looking, despite the nav sticking up, but everyone does that these days. The Focus has too much weird shaped bling trim. (but this is all subjective/matter of taste, of course)
 
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