Hyundai Elantra GT GLS, Mazda3 GS-Sky, Chevrolet Cruze Eco
Hyundai Elantra GT GLS, Mazda3 GS-Sky, Chevrolet Cruze Eco. Click image to enlarge
Comparison Test: Compact cars

By Mike Schlee
Photos by Mike Schlee and Jonathan Yarkony

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Compact cars, version 2.0

In the spring we performed a mammoth nine-vehicle Compact Car Comparison Test. In that field of vehicles, the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze LT Turbo squeaked out a narrow victory over the 2012 Mazda3 GS-Sky. As can be expected, debates got pretty heated in our online forum as to why other vehicles should have won, didn’t win, and why did our test not include X car equipped with Y trim. Once the dust settled, we landed on the notion that a rematch between the Mazda3 and Chevrolet Cruze was needed, but not until a new player came along to vie for the crown. Cue the 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT.

New for 2013, the Elantra family has grown to include two new models: a coupe and a hatchback. Dubbed the GT, the hatchback Elantra features new dampers front and rear as well as a revised suspension underneath the new 5-door body. Stuffed full of the most content in this group, the as-tested price for our GLS model rang in at $22,944—middle of the pack. In fact, the field of three vehicles here was separated by a mere $405 after destination fees.

Hyundai Elantra GT GLS, Mazda3 GS-Sky, Chevrolet Cruze Eco
Hyundai Elantra GT GLS, Mazda3 GS-Sky, Chevrolet Cruze Eco
Hyundai Elantra GT GLS, Mazda3 GS-Sky, Chevrolet Cruze Eco. Click image to enlarge

Taking on the new Elantra GT GLS was our returning champion, the Chevrolet Cruze. For this test however, we wanted to focus more on fuel mileage and economy. A Consumer Reports study found that 37 percent of those surveyed put fuel economy as the top priority for their next vehicle purchase. That is more than twice the next top consideration, which was quality, at 17 percent. With that in mind, we brought along the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze Eco, a fuel-efficient trim package that reduces weight, rolling resistance and adds a few trick features all in the name of parsimonious fuel consumption.

Rounding out this grouping of three was the 2012 Mazda3 Sport GS-Sky. Normally we would not invite back a vehicle that lost in a previous comparison test, but the results were so close between the Mazda3 and Cruze last time around that it was hard not include it again — especially in a comparison test emphasizing fuel economy. Of the nine vehicles tested in our last compact comparison test, the Mazda3 blew the competition away with a highly efficient 7.2 L/100 km during our testing period.

It is important to note one fuel efficient compact vehicle that is missing from this test, the Volkswagen Golf TDI. To take home a TDI Golf with similar options to the vehicles tested here would run the sticker price up to $27,695. After delivery charges, that would put it $4,600 to $5,000 more than the rest of the competition. Besides, we have a better comparison test slated for this fuel-sipping Golf later this summer.

To make things a little different this time, and to maximize efficiency, all three cars were equipped with 6-speed manuals; yeah, those three-pedal thingys. The funny thing is, after days of tests, deliberating, scoring, and totaling up the scores, the results were nearly a wash. On our 290-point rating system, the three vehicles were separated by 1 point each, finishing with 230, 229, and 228. What does that mean? Well, any of these three vehicles would make a great vehicle purchase, but for very different reasons, and the compact car segment has never been better or more closely contested. So, without further ado, read on to see how they placed.

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