Auto review 2018 hyundai elantra gt sport vs. 2018 mazda3 grand touring electricity and water

##

The Hyundai wins in this department, with a more roomy and comfortable rear seat, allowing passengers more comfort than the Mazda3 would offer (technically, both vehicles can fit 2 up front and three in back; though it’s a tight squeeze with a packed house, especially in the Mazda).

Seats are comfy in the Elantra, but the battle for best overall interior design goes to the Mazda3. Mazda outdoes itself consistently in the interior design department, including many upscale touches and superbly comfortable front seats you would expect on more pricey vehicles.

The Mazda3 Grand Touring featured a 2.5-liter four cylinder engine, with 184 horsepower and 185 lb.-ft. of torque. Its engine was also a bit whiny (similar to the Hyundai), but not to the point where it got annoying. You can choose from a 6-speed manual or 6-speed auto trans with paddle shifters.

While it’s a tight battle, I’ll give the advantage on overall driving fun to the Mazda3, which was just an awesome experience. You can feel the instant reaction from the vehicle, especially when you’re lucky enough to find an open road and some twists and turns. It almost makes you want to drive just for the sake of driving, with no destination in particular.

Comparing the Infotainment system inside the vehicles, I’m going to give this nod to the Elantra. Its controls proved to be simple to use via touch and voice, even for beginners. It features USB ports, AUX connection, wireless phone charging, plus some safety feature options (auto emergency braking, etc.)

Mazda’s infotainment setup looks nicer than Hyundai’s, but is more of a pain to operate, and also doesn’t work as a touchscreen (it’s all controlled via a dial in the center console. The dial works fine, but there are too many steps to do what you want to do. The system is due for an overhaul.

Mazda does offer a package featuring a 9-speaker Bose system, four months of satellite radio and a moonroof. And for a small car they offer a lot more safety features than the Hyundai and most of the rest of its competitors — including Lane Departure Warning System, Lane Keep Assist, Radar Cruise Control, Smart Brake Support and traffic sign recognition. Standard safety features are forward collision warning and low-speed auto emergency braking, and the safety ratings are very high on the Mazda3.

The Elantra GT Sport is in similar territory, starting at $23,250 with manual transmission, $24,350 with automatic; my decked-out tester topped $29K with added features. Going to a lower trim level, the Elantra GT starts at $19,350 ($20,350 with auto), but you lose some power. Hyundai is also very aggressive with their incentives so in the end the Elantra will likely end up more affordable than the Mazda3.

Those seeking the most complete driving experience and a more upscale interior should opt for the Mazda3 Grand Touring, but if you’re more concerned with having a bit more room in the back seat and more user-friendly tech experience, the Elantra GT Sport may win you over — as the dropoff in drive quality from the Mazda is not large.