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Virtual Adviser's™ opinion
Two significantly similar cars, no doubt about that. Still, each one has something different to offer. Having both cars powered by petrol engines and utilizing the 5-door hatchback body style within the same 'Small family car' segment, the only major difference here really is their wheel drive configuration (front for the Mazda and rear in the case of the BMW). The first one has a Mazda-engineered powertrain under the hood, a 4-cylinder, 16-valves 260hp unit, while the other one gets its power and torque from a 4-cylinder, 16-valves 150hp engine designed by BMW.Safety
A starting point here would be to take a look at the results from European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) tests which were performed on both of the cars, with the BMW being a slightly better choice apparently. Still, apart from the official crash test results there are other things we need to be aware of. Both vehicles belong to the small family car segment, which is generally classifying them somewhere in the middle safety-wise, but that fact doesn't break the tie between the two cars. Furthermore, when it comes to weight, a factor that most people underestimate, the Japanese car offers a considerable difference of 12% more metal.Reliability
Reliability is not the best thing to consider on the make level, but it is worth mentioning that Mazda as a brand displays somewhat better results, all the models observed together. That's the official data, while our visitors describe reliability of Mazda with an average rating of 4.5, and models under the BMW badge with 4.3 out of 5. The same official information place 3 28% above average, and 1 Series 42% below the first one. That apart, owners of different cars powered by the same engine as the Japanese car rank it on average as 4.7, while the one under the competitor's bonnet gets 4.3 out of 5.Performance & Fuel economy
Mazda is undoubtly more agile, reaching 100km/h in 2.3 seconds less than its competitor. In addition to that it accelerates all the way to 250 kilometers per hour, 33km/h more than the other car. When it comes to fuel economy an obvious choice would be the German car, averaging around 7.4 liters of fuel per 100 kilometers (38 mpg), in combined cycle. That's 31% difference compared to the Japanese car!
Mazda is apparently more reliable, not too much, but just enough. The most important thing when deciding between any two vehicles should always be safety, both passive and active. In this case though, it seems that both cars show similar levels of passenger protection all together, so that won't break a tie. But one thing that actually could is the performance, with Mazda being considerably quicker, thus putting more smile on driver's face. It does come at a cost though, and that's the fuel consumption... No mistake, whatever you decide here, but I'd still go for the BMW. In any case that's my personal view, built upon all the data available to me. What should decide here though is the way you feel about the two vehicles, and I hope you'll find my guidelines useful in the process. In case you have two minutes to spare I invite you to define your needs, desires and budget and see which car would be chosen by the virtual adviser™, among thousands of similar, yet so different vehicles.