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2016 Honda Civic vs. 2016 Mazda3: Which Is Better?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro April 2016

If you're interested in a new compact car, we have no doubt that the 2016 Honda Civic and the 2016 Mazda3 are on your shopping list. Both models tout excellent fuel economy, reasonable pricing, a lot of equipment and brand-new redesigns -- and both are among our favorite small cars on the market. But which one is better? And which one should you buy? To help you find out, we've created a close comparison between the Civic and the Mazda3. But first, let's take a look at changes to both small cars for the 2016 model year.

2016 Honda Civic

The Civic is fully redesigned for the 2016 model year. Changes include a totally new look inside and out, along with an updated powertrain lineup, extended dimensions for more interior room and a lot of new technology.

2016 Mazda3

Fully redesigned for 2014, the Mazda3 sees only minor changes this year, including a newly standard backup camera, a slightly revised trim level lineup and more standard equipment on Touring and Grand Touring models.

Reliability

According to reliability experts at J.D. Power, the Mazda3 earned an Above Average rating for reliability. While the latest Civic is still too new to earn a reliability score, it's worth noting that J.D. Power's latest "Vehicle Dependability Study" places Honda in the top quarter of automakers, suggesting that we should expect good things from the Civic.

As for warranty coverage, the Civic and the Mazda3 are the same: each one touts 3 years or 36,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage, along with 5 years or 60,000 miles of powertrain protection. In other words: With identical warranties and strong marks from J.D. Power, this category is too close to call -- but we suspect shoppers interested in reliability will be happy with either model.

Fuel Economy

The Civic offers two powertrains. Base models use a 158-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, which boasts up to 31 miles per gallon in the city and 41 mpg on the highway. Drivers looking for more power can upgrade to a 174-hp 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which touts fuel economy ratings of up to 31 mpg city and 42 mpg hwy.

Meanwhile, the Mazda3 also offers two engines. Base models use a 155-hp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, which boasts fuel economy ratings of 29 mpg city and 41 mpg hwy -- just shy of the base-level Civic's numbers. The more powerful Mazda3s uses a 184-hp 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, which boasts up to 28 mpg city and 39 mpg hwy -- also shy of the Civic's numbers.

As a result, we think drivers who especially prioritize gas mileage should go with the Civic -- though the Mazda3 isn't too far behind.

Safety

In crash test ratings carried out by the federal government, the Mazda3 earned a perfect 5-star overall rating. The Civic has not yet been rated. However, both models earned a coveted Top Safety Pick+ score from the non-profit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

As for safety features, both the Civic and the Mazda3 are among the best models in the compact car segment. Of course, both tout all the standard equipment you'd expect, such as side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes and a backup camera. But the two models also offer an extensive list of safety options that includes lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning with automatic braking, a blind spot monitor and more.

Admittedly, there are some unique features -- like the fact that the Civic offers an available LaneWatch blind spot camera, and the Mazda3 touts rear cross-traffic alert -- but generally, these two models offer just about every cutting-edge safety item. As a result, it's impossible to pick a winner in safety between the Mazda3 and the Honda Civic -- but we suspect safety-minded drivers will distinctly appreciate both models.

Technology

As you might expect from reading the safety section, the Mazda3 and Honda Civic are above average when it comes to technology. In addition to the plethora of safety features offered by both cars, they also tout a long list of gadgets, including push-button starting, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated seats, high-intensity headlights (LEDs in the Civic, xenons in the Mazda), voice-controlled infotainment systems and more.

Of course, there are some differences between the two cars (only the Mazda3 offers a heads-up display, for instance, while only the Civic touts its excellent LaneWatch camera), but in general, we think technophiles will appreciate the Civic and Mazda3 -- especially compared to most other, less advanced compact car rivals.

Value

Although both the Civic and the Mazda3 are excellent compact cars, the Mazda3 has the advantage over the Civic in terms of pricing. Base-level Mazda3 models start at around $1,000 cheaper than the base-level Civic (around $18,500 compared to the Civic's $19,500). That difference increases to around $2,000 when you compare top-end versions of both models.

While we might normally say that the Civic deserves the extra cost due to its larger interior and brand-new styling, the Mazda3 has an ace up its sleeve: driving experience. It offers sharper handling and more engaging steering compared to the Civic -- and it also stands out by offering a hatchback variant. These advantages, combined with its more affordable pricing, give the Mazda the edge in terms of value.

Autotrader's Advice

Choosing between the 2016 Honda Civic and the 2016 Mazda3 is difficult, because both models are among the best choices in the compact car segments. But if you're looking for the best choice, it's the Civic. It offers a roomy interior, amazing technology, excellent gas mileage and virtually every modern safety feature you can think of. With that said, the Mazda3 is nipping at the Civic's heels -- so it's hard to go wrong here with either model.

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2016 Honda Civic vs. 2016 Mazda3: Which Is Better? - Autotrader