Originally Posted by TORQUERULES
My wife just got a new Mazda 3 hatch with the Skyactive engine and auto transmission. I just drove it. Here is how it compares to mine (remember they have the same chassis with evolutionary differences between them):
Engine/power: Smoother at idle than the Focus and very quiet, but very noisy on start up. Power is good, but not as powerful as the Focus. Probably closer to its actual rating where the Focus is underrated.
Transmission: Despite Mazda claiming a sporty feel, it is not as crisp and quick as the DCT, but is smooth. Goes into too high of a gear in town, but usually picks the perfect gear on the open road. DCT=quick and sporty, Skyactiv auto=smooth and non-sporty.
Interior: Roomy, but materials quality and design is not as inviting as the Focus. Instrumentation is lacking. Stereo good and no door rattling from the speakers. A lot more road and wind noise than the Focus. The Mazda lacks the rear inner fender felt, etc. and seems to have less interior insulation to save weight.
Exterior: IMHO, and my wife's, it is not as sharp as the Focus. Fit and finish good and projector lights work great.
Handling: VERY STIFF ride even with its 16" tires. Stiffer than my SEL premium with 2010+ MS3 springs and 17" tires. It must have very stiffly valved dampers.
Body roll is minimal with some under steer. I would rate it between my SEL when stock, and now with the Steeda rear sway bar and MS3 springs.
Fuel mileage: I see no advantage over the Focus yet.
Im going to buy a new hatch soon. I just rented on wed a 2013 Sky hatch to compare it to my 1300 mile Focus ride last Sept and your opinions are spot on and exactly what I was going to write here. Did about 500 miles. Focus is a better car and feel its more refined. The 2014 3 will have to do a better job to compete with the Focus. With more weight being shaved , somehow I can't see the noise problem going away in the Mazda. The cloth seat was utter and pure torture,the Focus seat was better, but not that great , think I will spring for leather no matter what I end up in. My friend hated the Mazda and told me not to buy it. The brakes also were not as good as the Focus, and i knew going in there is not as much HP, seems like those highway passes take just a bit longer. we drove from Whittier to Paso Robles and back. Also drove the Fiesta and Focus St models last Sat at the Rose Bowl Ecoboost challenge and the Fiesta St was awesome. The Focus St was also awesome but so spoiled with great gas mileage in my Escort I just can't stomach premium fuel and barely getting 30MPG. I'd say the Mazda and Camry were the biggest disappointments of driving 8 cars this week. The Camry was godawful ! I'm not really sure why all the fuss about the Mazda 3.