There are only two cars worthy of the "best buy" label this year. They are the Mazda3 1.5 Deluxe (from $128,800) and Toyota Corolla Altis 1.6 ($123,888)
ST-Torque Best Buys of 2014 - Compact saloon Mazda3 1.5 Deluxe (from $128,800, above). -- PHOTO: ST FILE

There are only two cars worthy of the "best buy" label this year. They are the Mazda3 1.5 Deluxe (from $128,800) and Toyota Corolla Altis 1.6 ($123,888).

The Mazda3 is more striking than the Corolla. It appears more broad-shouldered and sportier. While both have a wheelbase of 2,700mm, the Corolla has more legroom because of a flatter floor. It also has slightly more headroom.

In terms of features, the Mazda3 is slightly ahead. As for look and feel, its cabin is a tinge more plasticky than the Corolla's. But the made-in-Japan Mazda impresses more with its completely rattle-free interior.

Otherwise, both cars are quite close in terms of comfort. The Corolla, however, pips its rival in performance and efficiency. It is also less expensive than the Mazda3. Toyota's reputation for dependability is another plus. These last few elements make the Corolla the better choice.