Civic vs. Corolla vs. Dart vs. Elantra vs. Jetta vs. Mazda3 vs. Forte
In our most recent small sedan tests, we reported on the class’ progress in overtaking midsize sedans to become the best-selling car segment, opining that perhaps this signaled a convergence in North American and European tastes. C-cars rule over there, and wouldn’t we feel that much more virtuous, parsimonious, and efficient if we’d all just squish into smaller cars? Nah. Our roomy parking lots and boulevards fit bigger cars, and bigger cars fit us better. Besides, newfound energy reserves have brought our nation closer than ever to energy independence, and with gas prices still a fraction of Europe’s, we feel less compelled to downsize. Nevertheless, the compact C segment grew 7.8 percent last year, while midsize C/D sales barely wiggled. Might stylish, highly equipped, great-driving compact cars now be making the grade on their merits and features, rather than on moral or fiscal imperatives?
To wit: Today’s compacts offer S-Class-worthy gear such as adaptive cruise control, collision warning, blind-spot monitoring, all-LED headlamps, and full telematics connectivity. For this gathering we aimed for the heart of the segment, establishing a $22,500 base-price ceiling, with an as-tested price target of $25K. The guest list started with the defending champ Kia Forte (EX), to which we added the all-new Mazda3 (i Touring) and Toyota Corolla (LE Eco Plus), the freshened Hyundai Elantra (Limited—restyled, upgraded nav, infotainment, and telematics) and Honda Civic (EX—new CVT, user interface), and VW Jetta (SE—new 1.8-liter turbo). Then, because our last Dodge Dart finished third despite our carping about its 1.4T engine and dry dual-clutch tranny, we invited a 2.4-liter GT with a regular six-speed automatic. We also invited a Ford Focus, because its maligned DDTC trans has since been reprogrammed, but none was available.
Before we strapped into the left-front chairs, we spent an afternoon grading rear-seat room, comfort, and cargo friendliness. We installed forward and rear-facing child seats into the back seats, then assessed the remaining space for Uncle Frank to sit between them as he used to do when accompanying his twin niece and nephew in Sis’ 2000 Corolla. We also assembled reams of data on safety, ownership costs, performance, and fuel economy. Then all voters piloted each car around a loop involving 7 miles of city driving, 12 miles of freeway, and 7 miles of twisty canyon roads. Read on to see how the top five fared.
Ride & Handling
The Mazda3’s in-town ride quality is a tad sharper-edged than that of the others, but mass-reduction efforts clearly left some sound-deadeners behind, as it seemed to be the loudest freeway cruiser. On the twisties, however, this engine’s snarl, the chassis’ agility, the best-in-test steering feel, and the well-bolstered seats earn straight As and encourage miscreant cornering behavior. Testing director Kim Reynolds was surprised the Mazda felt “nose-heavy, yawing at a noticeably slower natural frequency” on the figure-eight course, but it managed to edge out the much quicker and more powerful Jetta by a precious tenth to win that test. And the spry Mazda3 truly shone on Mulholland Highway, prompting executive editor Ron Kiino to declare it the “best driver here—great steering, nice ride, fun and sporty handling.” Most of us agreed.
The zippy little Forte also acquitted itself well on the curves of Mulholland Highway, with a ride that managed to feel firm and well-buttoned, without jiggling our giblets over the rough stuff. The Forte impressed Reynolds on the figure-eight course, demonstrating “the Forte’s solidity and refinement with a slightly nimbler feel and tremendously improved steering,” though its performance in that test was mid-pack, partly because of its lateral grip of 0.80 g, which put it in last place.
The Jetta’s ride quality struck many as a bit abrupt, but the payoff is delightful handling on the twisty roads. Kiino dubbed it “a GLI light.” Evans found it to be “the most solid and confident all-around handler here. Not playful like the Mazda, but locked down like the Dodge, with less head toss and gut-shake.” Febbo lauded its chassis refinement and powertrain — and accommodation for his taller-than-average frame — declaring it the car in this test he would buy for himself.
The Dart GT certainly hangs on tight in the turns, but provides minimal feedback through wheel. Wearing the group’s only 18-inch rubber, it clamped the road with a best-in-test 0.85g of max-lateral grip and logged a second-best stopping distance of 117 feet from 60 mph. Figure-eight performance trailed only the Jetta and Kia. Mike Febbo declared the Dart to have “the worst ride quality of the group. The Dart bottomed and topped out on the canyon section.” He also found the quickest-in-test 12.8:1 steering to be “way too fast. Like they are shooting for that Mini Cooper quickness, but without the subtlety that lets you drive with your palms in a Mini.” A less punishing option for those smitten with the looks and feature richness might be to order this drivetrain in an SXT.
The Civic’s steering feels feathery light, and its highway ride is fairly plush and quiet. While it has a light, nimble feeling on twisty roads, associate editor Mike Febbo found that “it kind of pogos around on the four corners. I want it to settle down and feel like a bigger car.” It did stop shortest, in just 116 feet from 60 mph. The car doesn’t encourage aggressive cornering (as its slowest-in-test figure-eight performance attests), but it obliges competently if you insist. Associate online editor Benson Kong dubbed it “the hands-down snoozer of this septet.”
Hyundai‘s Elantra feels heftier and more substantial than the Civic. The sport steering felt overly heavy in town, but on the road it behaved well, requiring far less “herding” than we have noted in the past and displaying less body roll than we recall. It has none of the overt personality traits present in the Dart and Jetta, projecting more of a solid-citizen persona instead. Referring to its ability to do everything acceptably, and nothing exceptionally, Febbo opined, “This would be an ideal autonomous car.”
As with the Civic and Elantra, the Corolla lets the driver know it’s not looking forward to Mulholland Highway, but it begrudgingly goes along, with just a few peccadillos. Febbo noted, “The rear axle steers the car on bumpy pavement—like having a back-seat driver who has a few degrees of control.” The steering lacks feel, and Kiino found it a bit wandery on the freeway. The fact that it’s the lone entry with drum brakes says much about Toyota‘s dynamic aspirations for the Corolla, which Kong believes is aimed at folks who eat in their cars. “The 17.8:1 steering ratio (what is this, a pickup?) makes the car feel mushy, but the slow inputs are helpful when fishing around for a dropped salad fork.” Reynolds managed to overheat the CVT, prompting a brief limp mode after a few laps of the figure eight.
If your prime objective is finding a compact that will ensure victory in stoplight grands prix, look no further than VW‘s turbo Jetta. As associate editor Scott Evans noted, “All the money is under the hood,” and it dashes from naught to 60 in 7.3 seconds. Just be aware that its turbocharged power delivery feels non-linear, and the car is prone to easy wheelspin in town. At some load/speed conditions there’s a guttural noise and vibration. Sadly, the second-heaviest car in the test also logged the worst braking performance at 124 feet from 60 mph, which, along with mid-pack lateral grip (0.82 g) allowed the Mazda to triumph on the figure-eight course.
Among the better-rounded finalists, the Forte is quickest, producing 3 more hp than the VW, but 30 fewer lb-ft. With gearing that ranks second or third shortest in most ratios, it scoots to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds, but does so with the exhaust note of a clogged Dyson vacuum.
That the Mazda3 i accelerates just a tenth or two slower than the Kia—despite its 18-horse power deficit and gearing that averages 16 percent taller—while acing the fuel-economy tests is testament to the Skyactiv engineering team. Evans credits the transmission: “It’s eager to drop a gear and get you going when you want, though it doesn’t always shift as smoothly as the Hyundai’s or Kia’s.”
Relative to the 1.4-liter we tested in our last Dart, the 2.4-liter’s engine note is far more pleasing, and the conventional automatic performs well. Dodge sells its performance and mass at the lowest rates: $137/hp and $7.63/lb. Its weight-to-power ratio ranks third best, and Febbo declared the Tigershark “probably the best naturally aspirated engine in the group. Never really feels like it’s struggling,” though he took issue with its overly aggressive throttle tip-in and the lack of a transmission sport mode. “Anything trying this hard to be sporty needs a sport mode and shift paddles.” Despite gearing that’s about neck and neck with the Jetta for shortest, acceleration ends up mid-pack, with the 60-mph dash taking 8.7 seconds. Basically, this is a horses-up-high engine, as opposed to the torque-down-low turbo approach VW offers in our Jetta. Kong noted, “Good power for the class with a lot of engine noise thrown in for free,” and Evans noted some driveline lash in on/off throttle conditions in town.
Laying claim to one of the best transmissions in the test is the Honda, which Evans declared “the best front-drive CVT on the market,” praising its responsive tuning, good kick-down for freeway merging, and its S-mode ability to maintain about 3300 rpm for most of the Mulholland Highway run.
Febbo was less taken with the engine bolted next to the transmission, lamenting the fact that it lacked “that high-end VTEC surge I associate with fun Hondas.” The Civic’s 9.0-second 0-60-mph ranked midpack. That’s disappointing for the lightest car in the test (2802 pounds), but its braking led all others at 116 feet from 60 mph.
The Elantra’s 1.8-liter port-injected engine runs a bit coarse, vibrating the steering wheel at certain engine speeds, and it labors hard against the second-highest burden per horsepower (20 pounds, trailing only the Corolla). So it’s no surprise that its acceleration trails the pack, with a poky 9.6-second 0-60-mph run. At least, the six-speed automatic impressed us with its seamless shifting.
The Corolla’s sole performance brag is this: Despite having the least power and torque and the tallest gearing, it outdragged the Elantra with a 9.3-second 0-60 time, all the while broadcasting an anemic and pitiful exhaust note. Toyota could learn a lot from Honda about CVT tuning if/when delighting drivers becomes a corporate priority. Maximizing fuel economy was the apparent goal here, as the tall gearing and broadest ratio spread attest. Evans found the Corolla’s CVT to change ratios less smoothly than the Honda’s. At least the CVT is an immense improvement over the hoary four-speed auto it replaces.
The undisputed valedictorian of this class is the Mazda3, which earns the highest EPA and Real MPG ratings with no dramatic hybridization, downsizing and turbocharging, CVT or nine-speed transmission. Our i model test car didn’t even feature the i-ELOOP smart-charging regenerative-energy storage capacitor. Its Skyactiv suite of technologies is centered around direct fuel injection and a 13:1 compression ratio, plus a holistic focus on all drivetrain components to eliminate friction, optimize combustion, and maximize operating efficiency. That, plus slick aerodynamics, the tallest gearing of the conventional automatics (by about 15 percent), and a curb weight below 2900 pounds produce 34 mpg combined EPA economy that our Real MPG testing bested with 36 mpg. Second- and third-place rankings go to the similarly spec’d Toyota and Honda, which both feature 1.8-liter port-injected engines of similar output driving through continuously variable transmissions. The Civic boasts eco-coaching color bars flanking the speedometer that glow green during good behavior, blue otherwise. As noted, its 2802-pound curb weight is lightest in this group, with the Toyota ranking next at 2887.
The Toyota edges out the Honda by a single combined mpg, both on the EPA dynos and on our Real MPG test loop (34 to 33 mpg), thanks to the reduced pumping losses and improved breathing afforded by its Valvematic dual-variable valve timing and lift valvetrain. (The Honda makes do with VTEC on a single cam.) The Toyota’s overall gearing is about 7 percent taller than the Honda’s, which trades away a few precious tenths of acceleration for fuel economy.
Despite MultiAir II valvetrain magic, the 3293-pound Dart ranked last, both with EPA (26 combined) and Real MPG (27), but it demonstrated less thirst during our drive-loop flogging than the 1.4T we caned last June. The turbo Jetta surprised us with a 32-mpg combined rating on Real MPG. That ranked VW fourth and handily outperformed the EPA’s 29 mpg.
The multiport-injected 1.8-liter Hyundai and the perkier direct-injected 2.0-liter Kia brought up the rear of the finalists with EPA ratings of 31 and 28 mpg, respectively, and Real MPG figures of 30 and 31 mpg. Between these two similarly priced offerings, we vastly prefer the Kia’s larger 2.0-liter direct-injected engine for its ability to deliver noticeably better real-world fuel economy when driven conservatively, then provide superior performance should you need to drop the hammer. It should be noted that all seven contestants—even the turbo Vee-Dub—require only regular unleaded fuel.
From the driver’s seat, Mazda’s state-of-the-art user interface was deemed best in test, offering easy Bluetooth phone pairing with full Pandora/Aha/Stitcher control. Everything looks upscale in the BMW 3 Series-inspired cockpit, though Kiino questioned the LCD tach, which he found “so small, it borders on humorous.” Associate online editor Nate Martinez lamented the lack of storage for loose items, and our shortest voter, copy chief Emiliana Sandoval, couldn’t get comfortable in the too-low seat, with the headrest thrusting her head forward. Next best was the Kia, which Kong proclaimed “the most premium-feeling car present,” lauding “the weight of the rotary knobs on the center stack and the heft of the shifter.” He may have also been wowed by its feature content, which also sold some on the Elantra. The Hyundai also boasts the roomiest front seats. Honda’s fancy HDMI connection requires a brand-new smartphone and Honda Link app to access the features, and the stereo desperately needs a volume knob, but the hi-def screens look fancy. The vaguely retro Corolla dash pleased voters with its interesting use of contrast and the metallic root-beer brown accent encircling the passengers, but Kiino dinged its low-mounted center screen and our tallest voter, Febbo, found its seat too small and utterly lacking in support.
The Jetta’s Bluetooth connection was unintuitive to establish, and its old-style iPhone/iPod cable doesn’t support an iPhone 4S. What’s more, there’s no USB jack—just an old-timey aux jack. How ya gonna attract the cool kids with outdated connectivity? The Dart’s seat feels pillowy compared with the Jetta’s, but its stitched soft-touch dash looks expensive, and the heated steering wheel is a plus. Febbo wondered aloud, “Why are the door pulls coated in the same material I dip pliers’ handles in?” And Sandoval declared it to be a “masculine car. Like being in a man cave with a big screen TV.”
The back-seat champ is the Corolla, with 41.4 inches of rear-seat legroom—3.3 more than the next best Jetta—it’s a compact limo with a nearly flat floor, but there are no feature frills, not even a center armrest. VW took the two-aboard comfort prize, boasting nearly as much space as the Toyota and slightly comfier cushions, plus the group’s only rear-compartment 12-volt socket and handy coathooks on the B-pillars for stashing that sport coat. A rearward-jutting center console crowds the third rider, however. The headrests don’t come out, complicating attachment of upper child-seat tethers, but Uncle Frank fits between two kiddie seats almost comfortably.
The Kia cleverly thrusts middle-seat adult riders forward far enough to prevent their shoulders from resting on those of the outboard occupants, and with a low tunnel, the Forte ranked highly for three passengers. Hyundai did not copy this feature, and hence three abreast overlap a lot, but they all enjoy more headroom. The Elantra’s lower child-seat LATCH hooks were deemed easiest to find and use.
The Dodge feels extremely roomy and features a higher, more upright seat with better toe room under the front chairs than most, but the plunging window line compromises visibility and ingress/egress, and our center-seat tester’s head touched the ceiling. The Dart’s rear doors don’t open as far as in the other cars’, which makes child-seat maneuvering trickier, and this was one of only three cars in which the rear-facing child seat did not fit behind a 5-foot-10-inch driver’s seating position. Non-removable headrests further complicate attachment of the upper LATCH tether.
The Honda’s nearly flat floor was best for three-aboard foot room, but smallest-in-test dimensions cramped us everywhere else, our rear-facing child seat didn’t fit behind the driver’s position (nor did it in the Mazda), and this was the only car into which Uncle Frank was absolutely unwilling to jam between two carseats for a ride to the bounce-house emporium. The Mazda rear seat feels lowest, at least relative to the windows, so smaller people may not see out as well, but it ranks as third roomiest overall and features deeper bucketing.
|Features and Amenities|
|Model||wt||Dodge Dart GT||Honda Civic EX||Hyundai Elantra Limited||Kia Forte EX||Mazda3 i Touring||Toyota Corolla LE Eco Plus|| Volkswagen Jetta SE
|Heated steering wheel||3||1||1|
|Cooled front seat||2||1|
|Heated front seats||3||1||1||1||1|
|Heated rear seats||3||1||1|
|Automatic temp control ATC||3||1||1||1||1.5||1.5||1|
|Power folding mirrors||2||1|
|8″ touch screen and 4″ I/P disp||3||1|
|Speed limit info on nav||1|
|Sirius/XM/HD travel link||2||1||1||1||1||1|
|Text message reading||1||1|
|Rear map lights||1||1||1|
|Rear seat vents||1||1|
|Blind spot monitoring||4||1|
|Full-size spare tire||3||1|
|Map pocket behind both seats||1||1|
|Power lock switch in rear||1||1|
|No rear armrest||-1||1|
|Three adjustable rr headrests||1||1||1||1||1||1||1|
|Trunk-mounted seat releases||1||1||1||1||1||1|
|Embroidered cargo mats||1||1||1||1|
The new IIHS small-overlap frontal crash test is certainly sorting out the really new cars and astute engineering teams from the refreshes and the amateurs. Most disconcerting of the crash results was the brand-new Kia Forte. Not only did it get a disappointing “poor” rating on the small-overlap test — a curious two steps down from its Hyundai platform-mate — but it also mustered only three stars in NHTSA’s old tried-and-true full-frontal test. It’s too bad that the lengthy laundry list of features lacks any collision-warning/prevention gizmos, because it appears that occupants could genuinely benefit from them. Perhaps even more concerning is the new Corolla, which just managed a “marginal” rating on the new IIHS test. That’s enough to ruin its chances to earn the Institute’s coveted top-safety pick rating, thereby ranking the all-new Corolla in the bottom 40 percent of all vehicles rated between 2011 and 2014. The world expects better from mighty Toyota, and hence we anticipate a mid-cycle reengineering job to arrive very soon. In the meantime, at least it trumps the rest of the crowd with driver knee and passenger thigh (seat-cushion mounted) airbags. The Elantra’s “acceptable” rating earns it a TSP ranking, and it also gets five stars overall from NHTSA, but the real stars of this test were the Civic and Mazda3, both of which aced the small-offset test with a “good” rating, bringing home Top Safety Pick-Plus kudos. Finally, the Mazda3’s five-star full frontal and overall NHTSA test results trump Civic’s four stars in the full-frontal test, giving us a clear safety winner. Our partners at Informedforlife.org caution that as the Honda and Mazda3 both weigh well under 3200 pounds (as do all finalists), their curb weights incur fatality risk rates 20 and 14 percent worse than average, respectively. Only the Dart weighed in above that figure, which, along with its “acceptable” small-offset rating and a five-star overall NHTSA ranking, puts it among the top-3 percent of safest vehicles, per Informedforlife.org.
The Jetta’s “marginal” IIHS result and four-star frontal NHTSA rating deprive it of TSP status, and its weight adds 10 percent to your fatality likelihood.
Each of these pocket sedans makes a fairly strong value proposition for itself, just tailored to a slightly different set of priorities. Our contenders were loaded with features that only the priciest entry lux cars offered a few short years ago—keyless entry and starting , trip computers, navigation (it’s a $59 add-on at Honda), backup camera, and automatic climate control (VW lacked those last three).
Folks who judge value primarily on a car’s gizmos-and-gadgets count will have little trouble justifying the two priciest cars in this test, which are both Korean. Our plucky little Kia boasts roughly 40 percent more gear for the green than the Hyundai in our value-weighted features tally, at a sticker price just $280 more. And, bonus! It gets 2.0-liters’ worth of direct-injected engine to tow that gear around, whereas the Elantra makes do with 1.8. Tying the Hyundai on the fancy-features count is the dapper Dart, whose red-stitched dash and big-screen TVs suggest class-above status. Sadly, the hard plastic door trim and some areas of indifferent build quality argue against that suggestion, and you’re certainly paying for the features, as this is the third-priciest car in the test (following the Koreans). More gizmos mean more things to go wrong, but the Koreans cover you from bumper to bumper for five years or 60,000 miles (with roadside assistance—the others typically cover 3/36).
Is interior space your thing? Toyota’s selling it at just $186/cubic foot, as it boasts the biggest back seat and largest combined interior and trunk space in the test, at the second-lowest as tested price. Note also that, with the second best EPA and Real MPG ratings, it won’t cost much to move that space around. The Koreans charge the most per cubic foot of space, at $212 for both. The Civic is the smallest inside, cheapest to buy, with meager amenities, but its big high-def screen, HDMI input, savvy CVT, and exceptional build quality make a “more with less” value proposition. Honda’s sterling reliability reputation and safety scores bolster its value bona fides. Driving enthusiasts obviously get the best bang for their buck with the Mazda, which is all the more impressive given its aforementioned petrol parsimony. Just be aware that it ranks fourth in our gizmo tally, and a lack of sound deadening (to save weight) makes it the noisiest highway cruiser.
Cost of Ownership
Toyota aces this one, with the lowest target purchase price, least depreciation, and second-lowest fuel and maintenance tallies, for an overall five-year COO that undercuts the next-best Mazda by $1106. The Mazda undercuts the Honda’s depreciation by 3 percentage points, and the Koreans’ repair costs average a third of those of the rest of the contenders. (Long warranties leave only 10,000 miles of repair exposure, and maintenance items such as brakes and tires cost significantly less.) The Civic is cheapest to maintain despite Toyota and VW covering maintenance for the first two years, but its ownership-cost/target price ratio disappointingly ranked last among our finalists. The Jetta and Dart were eliminated in part because of their sixth- and seventh-place rankings in most of the COO categories, though the Dodge earned the lowest repair-cost rating of the non-Koreans and the Jetta had the third lowest insurance costs.
|Dodge Dart GT||Honda Civic EX||Hyundai Elantra Limited||Kia Forte EX|
|AVG STATE FEES||$398||$386||$405||$405|
|DEPRECIATION||$14,401 (56%)||$11,231 (49%)||$14,176 (53%)||$13,411 (52%)|
|5-YEAR COST OF OWNERSHIP||$36,639||$31,012||$35,350||$34,166|
|INTELLICHOICE Target Purchase Price||$25,848||$23,027||$26,629||$25,604|
|PURCHASE PRICE: Target purchase price includes destination and average applicable state taxes applied to a transaction price between invoice and retail, based on applicable incentives.|
|Mazda3 i Touring||Toyota Corolla LE Eco Plus||Volkswagen Jetta SE|
|AVG STATE FEES||$398||$386||$405|
|DEPRECIATION||$11,022 (46%)||$9313 (41%)||$14,301 (57%)|
|5-YEAR COST OF OWNERSHIP||$30,615||$29,509||$35,646|
|INTELLICHOICE Target Purchase Price||$23,934||$22,810||$25,061|
|PURCHASE PRICE: Target purchase price includes destination and average applicable state taxes applied to a transaction price between invoice and retail, based on applicable incentives.|
Our favorite car to look at was the Home-Depot orange Dart. “Love the exterior lines and sexy shape. It’s arguably the best-looking small car out there,” says Kiino. “I really want to love this car, but I just like it,” says Evans. “Too many drawbacks to really love it, and I’d have to live at the end of a fantastic driving road to make the ride/handling trade-off of this GT pencil out.” That plus those killer ownership costs and a back seat that was carseat unfriendly sealed the Dodge’s last-place fate. Our turbocharged Teutonic torpedo came next, its dynamic pros offset by troublesome safety scores, second-worst ownership costs, and a dearth of doodads. Kong summed it up thusly: “it’s fun to drive, but aside from that and the visibly enormous trunk, there isn’t much else to sell the car.”
Finishing fifth is the smooth, mild-mannered Elantra, which Kong believes “scores well in the immediate gratification areas like styling, features, initial touch and feel, and price point,” but, as Febbo acknowledges, it “is embarrassed by its overachieving little brother.” Kiino succinctly summed up the Toyota’s fourth-place positioning: “If a huge second row is important, the Corolla is your small car. You also get strong value and low COO, but you pay with your soul”…and maybe your life in a nasty small-overlap wreck.
A brilliant new CVT, nicely refreshed cockpit, and impressive safety performance counterbalanced the Civic’s tiny interior and meager feature content to land Honda squarely in third place. Paraphrasing several voters’ sentiments, Sandoval declared, “If I were gonna slap my Hello Kitty license plate holder on any of them, it’d be the Forte. Damn that terrible safety rating.” Damn it, indeed; though even if its crash results matched the Mazda’s, worse ownership cost and fuel economy still earn it a silver medal. And so, again, the Mazda3 is our victor, delighting drivers, safetyniks, gadgetphiles, and fuel-sippers. Plus, Kiino declared it “feels like the most solid, highest quality, all of one piece” car in the group. If ever there was a C-car to buy strictly on its merits, this is it.
7th Place: Dodge Dart
A handsome handler, and you’ll pay less per pound or per pony, but it costs the most in the long run.
6th Place: Volkswagen Jetta
How many bells and whistles must you trade for big turbo fun? Most of them.
5th Place: Hyundai Elantra
Jack of all compact virtues, master of none — a solid-C all-arounder.
4th Place: Toyota Corolla
You could do yoga in the back seat — and have way more fun than driving the car.
3rd Place: Honda Civic
Great tranny, brakes, and sticker price, but where’s that magic Honda driving joy?
2nd Place: Kia Forte
A fantastic little car let down by a dodgy safety rating and high ownership costs.
1st Place: Mazda3
The Big Test report card with the most As wins.
Afforded Uncle Frank OK center-seat space between child seats (VW Jetta was best.)
Undisputed features champ was alone in offering driver-seat cooling and memory; rear-seat A/C vents.
Honda’s Lane Watch camera deemed a dorky substitute for correct mirror aiming.
Blind-spot monitoring comes standard on i Touring models.
VW boasted biggest trunk, and the only full-size spare. (Honda, Mazda, Toyota offer minis, the rest get fix-a-flat.)
|Informedforlife.org Safety Analysis|
|Model||InformedForLife.org Safety Ranking||NHTSA overall star||NHTSA front star||NHTSA side star||NHTSA roll star||IIHS Top-Safety pick/TSP+?||IIHS front crash prevention?||IIHS Frontal Impact Rating-moderate overlap||IIHS Side Impact Rating||IIHS Rear Impact Rating||IIHS Roof Strength Rating||IIHS Frontal Impact Rating-small overlap||IIHS Roof Strength Test Vehicle Weight (lbs.)||Driver Weight-Effect Fatality Factor*|
|Dodge Dart||Safest 3%||5||5||5||4||yes||n/a||Good||Good||Good||Good||Acceptable||3300||0.95|
|Honda Civic 4dr||NOT RECOMMENDED: [NHTSA frontal impact rating in bottom 73%] [23% higher than average driver fatality risk due to low weight]||5||4||5||4||yes +||basic w/opt equip||Good||Good||Good||Good||Good||2678||1.23|
|Hyundai Elantra||NOT RECOMMENDED: [NHTSA frontal impact rating in bottom 74%] [20% higher than average driver fatality risk due to low weight]||5||4||5||4||yes||n/a||Good||Good||Good||Good||Acceptable||2748||1.20|
|Kia Forte||NOT RECOMMENDED: [IIHS frontal impact-small overlap rating in bottom 22%] [NHTSA overall rating in bottom 65%] [NHTSA frontal impact rating in bottom 17%] [IIHS overall rating in bottom 39%] [17% higher than average driver fatality risk due to low weight]||4||3||5||4||no**||n/a||Good||Good||Good||Good||Poor||2812||1.17|
|Mazda3||NOT RECOMMENDED: [NHTSA ratings incomplete] [14% higher than average driver fatality risk due to low weight]||?||?||?||?||yes +||adv w/opt equp||Good||Good||Good||Good||Good||2866||1.14|
|Toyota Corolla||NOT RECOMMENDED: [IIHS frontal impact-small overlap rating in bottom 60%] [IIHS overall rating in bottom 40%] [16% higher than average driver fatality risk due to low weight]||5||5||5||4||no**||n/a||Good||Good||Good||Good||Marginal||2834||1.16|
|Volkswagen Jetta||NOT RECOMMENDED: [IIHS frontal impact-small overlap rating in bottom 60%] [NHTSA frontal impact rating in bottom 73%] [IIHS overall rating in bottom 40%] [10% higher than average driver fatality risk due to low weight]||5||4||5||4||no**||n/a||Good||Good||Good||Good||Marginal||2963||1.10|
|*This number relates the given car to a 3200 lb. passenger car: 1.23=23% above the average driver death rate; 0.95=5% below avg. driver death rate for a 3200# car|
|**Vehicles that do not qualify as a TOP PICK rank in the bottom 40% of 2011-2014 vehicles rated by IIHS|
|TSP: To qualify for 2014 Top Safety Pick, a vehicle must earn good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests, as well as a good or acceptable rating in the small overlap front test.|
|TSP+: To qualify for 2014 Top Safety Pick+, a vehicle must meet the Top Safety Pick criteria, plus earn a basic, advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.|
|2014 Dodge Dart GT||2014 Honda Civic EX||2014 Hyundai Elantra Limited||2014 Kia Forte EX|
|DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD||Front-engine, FWD||Front-engine, FWD||Front-engine, FWD|
|ENGINE TYPE||I-4, alum block/head||I-4, alum block/head||I-4, alum block/head||I-4, alum block/head|
|VALVETRAIN||SOHC, 4 valves/cyl||SOHC, 4 valves/cyl||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl|
|DISPLACEMENT||144.0 cu in/2360cc||109.8 cu in/1799cc||109.7 cu in/1797cc||122.0 cu in/1999cc|
|POWER (SAE NET)||184 hp @ 6250 rpm||143 hp @ 6500 rpm||145 hp @ 6500 rpm||173 hp @ 6500 rpm|
|TORQUE (SAE NET)||171 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm||129 lb-ft @ 4300 rpm||130 lb-ft @ 4700 rpm||154 lb-ft @ 4700 rpm|
|REDLINE||6200 rpm||6700 rpm||6800 rpm||6750 rpm|
|WEIGHT TO POWER||17.9 lb/hp||19.6 lb/hp||20.0 lb/hp||17.0 lb/hp|
|TRANSMISSION||6-speed automatic||Cont. variable auto||6-speed automatic||6-speed automatic|
|SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR||Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multi-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar||Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multi-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar||Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; torsion beam, coil springs||Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; torsion beam, coil springs|
|BRAKES, F;R||12.0-in vented disc; 10.4-in disc, ABS||11.1-in vented disc; 10.2-in disc, ABS||11.0-in vented disc, 10.3-in disc, ABS||11.0-in vented disc, 10.3-in disc, ABS|
|WHEELS||7.5 x 18-in, cast aluminum||6.5 x 16-in, cast aluminum||7.0 x 17-in, cast aluminum||7.0 x 17-in, cast aluminum|
|TIRES||225/40R18 92V Yokohama AVID S34||205/55R16 89H M+S Continental ContiProContact||215/45R17 87H M+S Hankook Optimo H426||215/45R17 87H M+S Nexen Classe Premiere CP671|
|WHEELBASE||106.4 in||105.1 in||106.3 in||106.3 in|
|TRACK, F/R||61.7/61.6 in||59.0/59.9 in||61.1/61.6 in||61.3/61.8 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||183.9 x 72.0 x 57.7 in||179.4 x 69.0 x 56.5 in||179.1 x 69.9 x 56.3 in||179.5 x 70.1 x 56.5 in|
|TURNING CIRCLE||37.7 ft||35.4 ft||34.8||34.8 ft|
|CURB WEIGHT||3293 lb||2802 lb||2895 lb||2948 lb|
|WEIGHT DIST., F/R||62/38 %||61/39 %||62/38 %||61/39 %|
|HEADROOM, F/R||38.6/37.0 in||37.9/36.2 in||40.0/37.1 in||39.1/37.3 in|
|LEGROOM, F/R||42.2/35.2 in||42.0/36.2 in||43.6/33.1 in||42.2/35.9 in|
|SHOULDER ROOM, F/R||58.2/56.1 in||56.6/53.3 in||55.9/54.8 in||56.1/54.9|
|CARGO VOLUME||13.1 cu ft||12.5 cu ft||14.8 cu ft||14.9 cu ft|
|ACCELERATION TO MPH|
|0-30||2.7 sec||3.5 sec||3.2 sec||2.8 sec|
|PASSING, 45-65 MPH||4.9||4.4||5.3||4.3|
|QUARTER MILE||16.6 sec @ 82.7 mph||16.9 sec @ 84.9 mph||17.2 sec @ 82.0 mph||16.2 sec @ 86.3 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||117 ft||116 ft||119 ft||120 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.85 g (avg)||0.82 g (avg)||0.81 g (avg)||0.80 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.4 sec @ 0.58 g (avg)||28.0 sec @ 0.56 g (avg)||27.9 sec @ 0.55 g (avg)||27.6 sec @ 0.57 g (avg)|
|TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH||2050 rpm||2000 rpm||2000 rpm||1950 rpm|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$25,125||$21,880||$25,335||$25,615|
|AIRBAGS||Dual front, f/r side, f/r curtain, front knee||Dual front, front side, f/r curtain||Dual front, front side, f/r curtain||Dual front, front side, f/r curtain|
|BASIC WARRANTY||3 yrs/36,000 miles||3 yrs/36,000 miles||5 yrs/60,000 miles||5 yrs/60,000 miles|
|POWERTRAIN WARRANTY||5 yrs/100,000 miles||5 yrs/60,000 miles||10 yrs/100,000 miles||10 yrs/100,000 miles|
|ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE||5 yrs/100,000 miles||not offered||5 yrs/Unlimited||5 yrs/60,000 miles|
|FUEL CAPACITY||15.8 gal||13.2 gal||12.8 gal||13.2 gal|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON||22/31/26 mpg||30/39/33 mpg||27/37/31 mpg||24/36/28 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||153/109 kW-hrs/100 miles||112/86 kW-hrs/100 miles||125/91 kW-hrs/100 miles||140/94 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.77 lb/mile||0.58 lb/mile||0.63 lb/mile||0.69 lb/mile|
|REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB||24/31/27 mpg||29/40/33 mpg||26/37/30 mpg||25/44/31 mpg|
|RECOMMENDED FUEL||Unleaded regular||Unleaded regular||Unleaded regular||Unleaded regular|
|2014 Mazda3 i Touring||2014 Toyota Corolla LE Eco Plus||2014 Volkswagen Jetta SE|
|DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD||Front-engine, FWD||front-engine, FWD|
|ENGINE TYPE||I-4, alum block/head||I-4, alum block/head||Turbocharged I-4, iron block/alum head|
|VALVETRAIN||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl|
|DISPLACEMENT||121.9 cu in/1998cc||109.9 cu in/1798cc||109.7 cu in/1798cc|
|POWER (SAE NET)||155 hp @ 6000 rpm||140 hp @ 6100 rpm||170 hp @ 4800 rpm|
|TORQUE (SAE NET)||150 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm||126 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm||184 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm|
|REDLINE||6400 rpm||6400 rpm||6000 rpm|
|WEIGHT TO POWER||18.6 lb/hp||20.6 lb/hp||18.3 lb/hp|
|TRANSMISSION||6-speed automatic||Cont. variable auto||6-speed automatic|
|SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR||Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multi-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar||Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; torsion beam, coil springs||Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multi-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar|
|BRAKES, F;R||11.0-in vented disc; 10.4-in disc, ABS||10.8-in vented disc; 9.0-in drum, ABS||11.3-in vented disc; 10.7-in disc, ABS|
|WHEELS||6.0 x 16-in, cast aluminum||6.5 x 16-in, cast aluminum||6.5 x 16-in, cast aluminum|
|TIRES||205/60R16 91H Yokohama AVD S34||205/55R16 89H Michelin Primacy MXV4||205/55R16 91H M+S Continental ContiProContact|
|WHEELBASE||106.3 in||106.3 in||104.4 in|
|TRACK, F/R||61.2/61.4 in||59.8/59.9 in||60.7/60.3 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||180.3 x 70.7 x 57.3 in||182.6 x 69.9 x 57.3 in||182.2 x 70.0 x 57.2 in|
|TURNING CIRCLE||34.8 ft||35.6 ft||36.4 ft|
|CURB WEIGHT||2889 lb||2887 lb||3103 lb|
|WEIGHT DIST., F/R||61/39 %||61/39 %||60/40 %|
|HEADROOM, F/R||38.6/37.6 in||38.0/37.1 in||38.2/37.1 in|
|LEGROOM, F/R||42.2/35.8 in||42.3/41.4 in||41.2/38.1 in|
|SHOULDER ROOM, F/R||57.2/54.4 in||54.8/54.8 in||55.2/53.6 in|
|CARGO VOLUME||12.4 cu ft||13.0 cu ft||15.5 cu ft|
|ACCELERATION TO MPH|
|0-30||2.8 sec||3.5 sec||2.4 sec|
|PASSING, 45-65 MPH||4.3||4.7||4.0|
|QUARTER MILE||16.4 sec @ 86.4 mph||17.1 sec @ 82.7 mph||15.5 sec @ 90.5 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||122 ft||118 ft||124 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.84 g (avg)||0.83 g (avg)||0.82 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.2 sec @ 0.60 g (avg)||27.6 sec @ 0.57 g (avg)||27.3 sec @ 0.60 g (avg)|
|TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH||1750 rpm||1850 rpm||1950 rpm|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$23,435||$22,994||$24,315|
|AIRBAGS||Dual front, front side, f/r curtain||Dual front, front side, f/r curtain, driver knee, passenger thigh||Dual front, front side, f/r curtain|
|BASIC WARRANTY||3 yrs/36,000 miles||3 yrs/36,000 miles||3 yrs/36,000 miles|
|POWERTRAIN WARRANTY||5 yrs/60,000 miles||5 yrs/60,000 miles||5 yrs/60,000 miles|
|ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE||3 yrs/36,000 miles||2 yrs/25,000 miles||3 yrs/36,000 miles|
|FUEL CAPACITY||13.2 gal||13.2 gal||14.5 gal|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON||30/41/34 mpg||30/40/34 mpg||25/36/29 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||112/82 kW-hrs/100 miles||112/84 kW-hrs/100 miles||135/94 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.57 lb/mile||0.57 lb/mile||0.67 lb/mile|
|REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB||30/46/36 mpg||31/39/34 mpg||28/40/32 mpg|
|RECOMMENDED FUEL||Unleaded regular||Unleaded regular||Unleaded regular|