Head to Head

Mazda 3 vs Toyota Corolla Altis

With upmarket aspirations and a combination of sleek looks, the latest tech and practicality, the modern C-Segment sedan is far from basic. This segment has grown throughout the years both figurative, and literally. However, being an engineer working on a car in this segment must be difficult, as these cars have to be all things to all men. Here then are two different approaches to the compact sedan. From Aichi, Japan, we have the vanguard of the segment, the Toyota Corolla Altis. Hailing from Hiroshima, Japan, there's the dynamic and sporty Mazda 3. Both were given subtle updates late last year, further cementing their position as two of the prime choices in the class.

Compact sedans are the highlight of this week's Head to Head as we focus on the Mazda 3 and Toyota Corolla Altis. After receiving updates last year, it's time for these two to face off yet again.

Starting with the Corolla Altis, it is available with two engine choices. The range starts with a 1.6 liter Dual VVT-i engine that puts out 122 PS and 154 Nm of torque. Top-spec models meanwhile get a 2.0 liter Dual VVT-i engine with 145 PS and 187 Nm of torque.

Like the Corolla Altis, the Mazda 3 also has two engine options, starting with the 1.5 liter, four cylinder engine with SkyActiv-G technology that puts out 112 PS and 144 Nm of torque. The top spec engine is a 2.0 liter, four cylinder also boasting SkyActiv-G technology. Power for the 2.0 liter engine is rated at 155 PS and 200 Nm of torque.

All Mazda 3 models shift via a six-speed automatic with manual models. The Toyota Corolla Altis meanwhile is still available with a six-speed manual transmission in the entry-level variant. The rest of the range uses a continuously variable transmission with a seven-speed mode.

Moving on to their interiors, both Mazda and Toyota tried to give their compact sedans a bit of a sporting flair. The Mazda 3 gets cues from the company's roadster, the MX-5. Like the roadster, it gets swooping, wraparound dashboard with a sporty theme. In the base models, the seats are trimmed in fabric while the mid-level model gets black leather. The top-spec Mazda 3 gets while leather with contrast stitching. Other sporting elements include a thick, leather trimmed steering wheel and faux carbon-fiber trim on all variants. Automatic climate control and a push-button starter is also standard on all models.

Meanwhile in the Corolla Altis, has a more upright look to the dash which is complemented by circular vents at the corners. Gloss black accents give the Altis a more upmarket look along with silver inlays while the Toyota 86-like center air-conditioning vents give it a sporty flavor. Depending on the trim level, the Altis comes with either fabric or leather seats. 2.0 liter models add power adjustable seats. Automatic climate control is standard on the premium models while the entry-level variant has manual air-conditioning. The instrument cluster is composed of Toyota's signature Optitron gauges with a TFT screen for vehicle status display.

In this segment, it is expected that these cars have top-notch infotainment systems and the two do not disappoint. In the Toyota Corolla Altis, entry-level and mid-spec models come with a 2-DIN audio system with CD and MP3 player. Move up the range and it is upgraded to a touchscreen system that houses all entertainment functions. The touchscreen also houses vehicle status and information, as well as various connectivity options. These include USB-in, Aux-in, Bluetooth and smartphone MirrorLink. All models get a six-speaker sound system.

Not to be outdone, all Mazda 3 variants come with a 7-inch monitor. Taking a page from European cars, it can be accessed via touch or through the scroll wheel on the center console. Mazda's infotainment system accomodates MP3, Aux-in, USB, CD and Bluetooth. Apart from entertainment functions, the screen also displays information such as fuel economy, average speed and more. In the 2.0 liter models, it also comes with a heads-up display to show speed and other related info. Sound is then channeled through six speakers but go for the 2.0 liter models and you get the nine speaker BOSE sound system.

As for their exteriors, each car follows their respective brand's design philosophies. Following its update, the Corolla Altis follows the 'Keen Look' philosophy, giving Toyota's sedan a bolder front fascia. New for 2017 are the front bumpers, headlights and LED daytime running lights for better visibility. Also new is the grill, replacing the old three-bar design with a slimmer, single bar unit. Completing the exterior revisions are the tweaked LED taillights, chrome garnish on the trunk and a new rear bumper. Opt for the top of the line model and it gets a body kit as standard.

The Mazda 3's exterior follows the automaker's Kodo design language. At the front, it features large headlights plus Mazda's current signature grill. The lower half of the bumper is given an aggressive look with sharp lines and defined angles. On to the side, the window line creases upwards all the way to the tail end of the car. At the back, it gets wraparound tail lights that resemble those from the larger Mazda 6. Base models ride on 16-inch wheels while the mid to top of the line models get 18-inch wheels.

Moving on to safety, both come with advanced systems to aid the driver in case of an emergency. Both are equipped with Anti-lock brakes, stability control and traction control. For passive safety, both cars are equipped with front, side and curtain airbags.

Mazda however have added a new system to their cars. Dubbed G-Vector Control or GVC, it effectively shifts power from one front wheel to the other while cornering. When steering into a turn, it sends more power to the outer wheel, then into the inner wheel as it exits the corner. According to Mazda, all this happens within 50 milliseconds.

There are five variants to choose from in the Mazda 3. It starts with the SkyActiv V sedan, SkyActiv V hatch, SkyActiv R sedan, SkyActiv R hatch and Speed hatch.

Meanwhile, the Corolla Altis is available in four variants. The lineup starts with the base 1.6 E M/T, followed by the 1.6 G CVT. More equipment can be seen in the 1.6 V CVT and topping the Altis range is the 2.0 V CVT.

Corolla Altis prices start at Php 894,000, all the way to Php 1,333,000. As for the Mazda 3, it ranges from Php 975,000 to Php 1,308,000.

See video below:

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