The Golf edges the Mazda3 with its spacious cargo room. You can fit an extra 5.6 cubic feet of gear in the back of a Golf. That said, the Mazda3 offers a much more substantial suite of active safety features than the Golf. Unfortunately they’re limited to the Mazda3’s top Grand Touring trim level, which starts at a pricey $23,145 ($23,895, hatchbacks). Both earn great safety scores, though the Mazda3 does net the higher Top Safety Pick+ designation from the IIHS.
Much like the Honda Civic above, you really can’t go wrong with either the Golf or the Mazda3. They’re both high in fun and relatively low in price. But if you’re pinching pennies, you can buy the Mazda3 for less. And that’s a good enough reason to get one.