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2021 Kia Forte5 vs. 2021 Mazda Mazda3 Sport

There’s more to the 5-passenger, front-wheel-drive 2021 Kia Forte5 hatchback, see how it compares with the sporty Mazda3.

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2021 Kia Forte5 


Starting Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $22,295 CAD

Pros

  • Roomy for a compact hatchback
  • Fuel-efficient engines
  • Generous 5-year/100,000-km bumper-to-bumper warranty

Cons

  • The cabin has a few hard plastics
  • No manual gearbox is available with the base engine
  • All-wheel-drive not available

 

2021 Kia Forte5 Highlights

There’s more to the 5-passenger, front-wheel-drive 2021 Kia Forte5 hatchback than its basic description of “reasonably priced compact” might suggest. Cheap, small cars have historically cut corners on levels of standard equipment and things like sound insulation or the amount of seat cushioning. The Forte5 provides a civilized driving experience right from the entry-level EX trim, starting with a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price in Canadian dollars of $22,295.

Standard Fotre5 gear includes a 147-horsepower 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine with a continuously variable automatic transmission, plus goodies like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, forward collision avoidance assist, lane keep assist, blind-spot detection system and wireless phone charger. The base Forte5 powertrain also offers better fuel economy than the base Mazda3 Sport. The next-rung-up Forte5 GT trim gains a 201-horsepower turbocharged 1.6-litre 4-cylinder engine, with either a 6-speed manual transmission ($25,895) or a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic ($27,995).

Inside, the compact Kia hatch’s dash houses neat circular vents and the standard-issue 8-inch touchscreen. Materials and fit and finish are good, if not on par with the Mazda. There’s more room overall for passengers in the Forte5 than the Mazda3 Sport, plus 741 litres of cargo space behind the rear seats compared to only 569 in the Mazda.

In general, the 2021 Forte drives in a pleasant, refined, and somewhat nimble manner. The steering gives some idea of what the front wheels are up to. Throttle response is prompt but not overly sharp, and the brakes feel confident. The GT trim has a healthy amount of muscle for a compact hatch and a more sophisticated multi-link rear suspension instead of the simpler (and cheaper) torsion beam setup found in the other Forte variants. Plus, there’s Kia’s generous 5-year/100,000-kilometre comprehensive warranty, compared to Mazda’s 3-year/unlimited-kilometre program.

 

2021 Mazda Mazda3 Sport 

Starting Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $22,050 CAD

Pros

  • Luxury-car level details
  • Available all-wheel-drive
  • New turbocharged engine


Cons

  • Tight cabin and cargo space
  • Compromise efficiency for power
  • Manual transmission can’t be had with AWD

 

2021 Mazda Mazda3 Sport - Highlights

Like the Kia, the 2021 Mazda3 Sport is directly aimed at buyers looking for a small but feature-filled 5-passenger compact hatchback. Prices start at $ 21,600 for the base FWD GX trim, with its 155-horsepower 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine. A 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine with 186 horsepower is available, beginning with the $24,300 GS trim. Either a manual or automatic transmission with six gears is available on these first two engines. 

Unlike the Kia, all-wheel-drive (AWD) is available on the Mazda, starting with the GS trim with the mandatory auto gearbox. However, the big news for 2021 is the availability of a 227-horsepower (250-hp with 93 octane) turbocharged version of the same engine, starting on the GT trim as a $4,400 option that includes AWD and automatic transmission.

One look inside the 2021 Mazda3 Sport’s cabin, and you’ll realize this is no ordinary small car. The Mazda’s driver’s seat is snug but comfortable, providing a good driving position regardless of the driver’s height. Most other trims get a convincing synthetic leatherette, while top-line trims get the real thing. Soft-touch materials abound, covering the dash, door panels, and center armrest. White light illuminates the gauges and switchgear, while a bright 8.8-inch view screen is controlled via a console-mounted rotary knob very similar to Audi’s MMI and BMW’s iDrive.

The Mazda3 Sport remains one of the most athletic cars in its class, aided by a tight chassis and excellent steering feel. All the while, this compact but agile Mazda has the hushed interior noise levels and comfortable ride of a luxury car. The Mazda3 Sport’s 6-speed automatic is sublime. Switch into Sport mode and start attacking corners, and the system knows exactly when to downshift or hold gears. Unfortunately, you cannot combine the manual gearbox and turbo engine or AWD.

 

Final Recommendation

Although the 2021 Kia Forte5 and 2021 Mazda Mazda3 Sport are priced like rival mainstream-brand hatches, they both exude a premium feel, apparent attention to detail inside their respective cabins and offer warm- if not hot-hatch levels of performance.

You’ll like the Kia hatchback if you need a roomy cabin for passengers and their gear, want to save at the pumps and get the confidence of Kia’s extended factory warranty.

However, we feel the Mazda3 Sport with a broader choice of powertrain options (including AWD), luxury-brand-like interior and details is the better choice between this pair of compact hatchbacks.

 

Specs

2021 Kia Forte5

2021 Mazda Mazda3 Sport

Engine(s)

2.0-litre I4

1.6-litre I4 Turbocharged
 

2.0-litre I4

2.5-litre I4

2.5-litre I4 Turbocharged
 

Horsepower

2.0 - 147 hp @ 6,200 rpm

1.6T - 201 hp @ 6,000 rpm
 

2.0 - 155 hp @ 6,000 rpm

2.5 - 186 hp @ 6,000 rpm

2.5T – 227-250 hp @ 6,000 rpm

Torque

2.0 - 132 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm

1.6T - 195 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm

2.0 - 150 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm

2.5 - 186 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm

2.5T – 310-320 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm

Transmission(s)

2.0 -  Continuously variable automatic

1.6T - 6-speed manual/ 7-speed automatic

6-speed manual

6-speed automatic

Fuel Economy

2.0 CVT – 7.1 L/100 km (8.0 city, 6.0 hwy)

1.6T 7A – 8.0 L/100 km (8.9 city, 6.9 hwy)

1.6T 6M – 8.8 L/100 km (8.0 city, 6.0 hwy)

2.0 6A – 7.7 L/100 km (8.6 city, 6.7 hwy)

2.0 6M – 7.8 L/100 km (8.7 city, 6.6 hwy)

2.5 6A AWD – 8.5 L/100 km (9.5 city, 7.4 hwy)

2.5T AWD  – 8.9 L/100 km (10.1 city, 7.5 hwy)

Warranty

5 years/100,000 km

3-years/Unlimited km

Max Seating Capacity

5

5

Wheelbase

2,700 mm

2,726 mm

Overall Length

4,510 mm

4,459 mm

Width

1,800 mm

2,028 mm

Height

1,440 mm

1,440 mm

Curb Weight

1,404-1,415 kg

N/A

Headroom, Front

985 mm

952 mm

Headroom, Rear

960 mm

928 mm

Legroom, Front

1,073 mm

1,075 mm

Legroom, Rear

906 mm

891 mm

Shoulder Room, Front

1,425 mm

1,414 mm

Shoulder Room, Rear

1,405 mm

1,356 mm

Cargo Volume Behind Rear Seats

741 L

569 L

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