The 2023 Mazda3 gets the nod for offering two body styles: a four-door sedan and a five-door hatchback, while the Elantra is only made as a sedan. For those who like the idea of a hatchback but don’t want a bulkier crossover or SUV, the 2023 Mazda3 Hatchback is the ideal compromise.
In sedan form, Mazda offers the Mazda3 in five trim levels: S, Select, Preferred, Carbon Edition, and Premium. The hatchback comes in those same trims plus the zippy Turbo edition. The Elantra sedan comes in four trims: SE, SEL, Limited, and N Line. Both cars have high-performance editions (the Mazda3 Turbo Premium Plus and Elantra N), which are detailed below. The Elantra Hybrid is part of a separate discussion.
The base engine for the 2023 Mazda3 is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 191 horsepower, while the default powerplant for the 2023 Elantra is a 2.0-liter engine producing just 147 horsepower. The Elantra N Line gets a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine (making 201 horsepower), putting just that trim slightly over par with the least expensive Mazda3. Meanwhile, the Mazda3 Hatchback Turbo gets a turbocharged 2.5-liter engine that makes a punchy 250 horsepower.\
Front-wheel drive is the standard drivetrain for most 2023 Mazda3 trims, with all-wheel drive optional or standard on select editions. The Elantra is front-wheel drive only; all-wheel drive isn’t available at any price on this Hyundai model.
Both the 2023 Mazda3 and the 2023 Elantra come with a surprising list of standard equipment for small cars. Features like advanced safety technology are installed on every trim. However, the 2023 Mazda3 has several extras that are worth knowing about. To begin with, every Mazda3 is equipped with adaptive cruise control, a major convenience with the stop-and-go traffic that sometimes happens during highway journeys. Plus, all 2023 Mazda3 trims come with push-button start, so there’s no fumbling with the key and an ignition switch. Meanwhile, a slightly larger infotainment touchscreen (8.8 inches versus 8 inches) makes the 2023 Mazda3 that much easier to use. In addition, Mazda makes LED headlights standard, while that safety feature is limited to only the top Elantra trim. Select 2023 Mazda3 trims are also available with premium features that aren’t possible to get on any Elantra – for example, a surround-view monitor for extra safety and confidence.
And while resale value might be the furthest thing from a new-car shopper’s mind, it can make a difference at trade-in time. According to iSeeCars, the Mazda3 retains 62% of its value after five years. After that same period, the Elantra is worth 58.9% of its original MSRP.
Safety matters with every vehicle, but it’s especially important for smaller vehicles. Both cars performed well in testing done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but the 2023 Mazda3 scored 5 out of 5 in frontal and front passenger side crash assessments. The Elantra received a 4 for both of these tests.
In IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) testing, the 2023 Mazda3 and 2023 Elantra (based on the 2022 model year) received a Top Safety Pick designation. However, the Elantra’s ranking only applies to the model’s most expensive trim (the Limited) because less-expensive versions use different headlights lacking some of the available technology. In addition, the 2023 Mazda3 gets the highest (Good) rating for ease of use for child seat anchors; the Elantra was given a rating of Acceptable.
Both automakers deserve credit for offering performance versions of these compact cars. The Mazda3 Turbo Premium Plus is a driving enthusiast’s delight with its turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine making 250 horsepower and 320 lb.-ft. of torque. This exciting version is available in both sedan and hatchback form. The Elantra N takes its own approach to small-car performance with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. With 276 horsepower, it modestly tops the Mazda, but the Elantra N’s 289 lb.-ft. of torque – the force behind acceleration – falls short.
When both cars have an automatic transmission (it’s an option on the Elantra N), their pricing is similar (around $35,000). That said, there’s a difference in the included equipment. Most notably, the 2023 Mazda3 Turbo Premium Plus has standard all-wheel drive, while the 2023 Elantra N is only offered with front-wheel drive.