Both are available as a sedan or a hatchback and the Civic has a coupe option.
Two of the most competitive compact cars on the market today are the Honda Civic and the Mazda3. They both have a fun-to-drive factor that very few other players in this segment can match while also being safe, reliable and practical. Let’s take a look at the similarities and differences between the Civic and the Mazda3 and see which is better.
The Mazda3 and the Civic are arguably two of the sharpest-looking compact cars available today. The Mazda has that premium design language that’s been spreading through the brand and it works really well on this compact. The Honda just got a slight facelift in 2019 to keep its look modern and competitive. See the 2020 Honda Civic models for sale near you
The Mazda3 has two available body styles and the Civic has three. Both cars are available as a sedan or a hatchback with very similar styling and the Civic is also available as a sporty coupe. The styling of the Civic hatchback is a little controversial, so if you’re one of the people who hates the unique look of the Civic hatch, then you’ll probably appreciate the more conservatively styled Mazda3 hatchback. See the 2020 Mazda3 models for sale near you
The premium look of the recently redesigned Mazda3 continues on the inside, where it feels like a more expensive car. The interior design is modern and elegant and it uses some really nice materials, especially in the higher trims. The interior design of the Civic is a little more traditional but certainly not cheap-feeling. One notable difference: The Mazda3 uses analog gauges and the Civic has a digital gauge cluster. Which display is better is up to personal preference.
As for interior space, this is one of the few weaknesses of the Mazda3. The Mazda is a little cramped in the back seats and the Civic’s back seats are pretty generous. If you’re shopping for a small family car, your passengers will appreciate the roomier back seat of the Civic and you’ll appreciate not getting your seat kicked as much. However, if you’re not planning on having back-seat passengers often, the front seats of the Mazda are roomy and comfortable.
Mazda has promised more engine options for the Mazda3 coming soon, but as of this writing, there’s only one available. The Honda has two engines available and we’re not counting the ones in the Civic Si or Civic Type R since those are technically different models and don’t really have a Mazda equivalent.
2019 Honda Civic Engines
2.0-liter inline-four; 158 horsepower, 138 lb-ft of torque; 30 mpg city/38 mpg hwy
1.5-liter turbocharged inline-four; 174 hp, 167 lb-ft of torque; 32 mpg city/42 mpg hwy
2019 Mazda3 Engines
2.5-liter inline-four; 186 hp, 186 lb-ft of torque; up to 27 mpg city/36 mpg hwy
As you can see by the numbers, the Civic puts a little more of a priority on efficiency while the sole engine in the Mazda is willing to sacrifice some fuel economy for strong performance. In the Civic, we strongly recommend upgrading to the optional turbocharged engine, which improves both the performance and the fuel economy of the car. If you’re more concerned about performance, consider the Mazda or upgrading to the Civic Si.
It’s worth noting that every 2020 Civic has front-wheel drive while the Mazda3 is available with all-wheel drive. AWD is a rare feature in this segment, giving the Mazda an advantage over many of its competitors in snowy climates.
The Mazda3 gains some newly standard safety features for 2020, probably in an effort to compete with the likes of the Civic. Safety tech like adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, automatic high beams and driver attention monitoring all come standard in every trim of both the sedan and hatchback variants. Both styles get a great 8.8-in infotainment system controlled with a rotary knob as standard equipment. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard on every model except the base sedan.
Every 2020 Civic comes standard with the Honda Sensing safety tech suite, which includes automatic high beams, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, road departure mitigation, forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking. The standard infotainment system is a 5-in unit, which is a bit dated, but every Civic except the base model gets a nicer 7-in touchscreen that comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
The Honda Civic is a little more affordable than the Mazda3. The Civic has a starting MSRP of $19,750 and the Mazda3 starts at $21,500. Both cars can get close to the $30k mark in the upper trims. AWD is a $1,400 option in the Mazda3.
With a lower starting price, a roomier back seat, better fuel economy and more variety in engines and body styles, we think the Honda Civic is a better choice for most compact car shoppers. However, if you like the premium interior and lively performance of the Mazda and don’t mind tight legroom in the back seats and more frequent trips to the gas station, then the Mazda3 might be more your speed. Also, if you insist on having AWD, then the Mazda is the clear choice over the Honda.