Two of the very best compacts, both the 2021 Honda Civic and 2021 Mazda3 give buyers lots of choices, with numerous engine options, several trim levels, and either sedan or hatchback body styles. Which is better?
- All-new Honda Civic will be unveiled for 2022.
- Neither offers Apple CarPlay or Android Auto on the base trim.
- 2021 Mazda 3 offers all-wheel drive.
2021 Honda Civic
Base price: $22,005 / Read our 2021 Honda Civic Review
What we like: Choice of body styles; reliability; high resale value
What we would change: No optional hybrid; add a sporty version; no Apple CarPlay/Android Auto in base model
Overview: Now in its 10th generation, the 2021 Honda Civic continues to be a rock-solid, well-built compact sedan or hatchback. It’s practical, and with great fuel economy and good resale value. The base four-cylinder engine provides enough power to get it moving, and there’s an optional turbo upgrade if you seek more oomph. Small on the outside, the Civic makes good use of its space, with impressive legroom in the rear and 15.1 cubic feet of trunk space. The hatchback has 42.7 cubes with all seats folded. Standard on every Civic is the Honda Sensing suite of safety features, although the LX bare bones trim does not include Apple CarPlay or Android Auto integration. With its excellent reputation for reliability, the Civic has consistently high resale values.
What’s new for 2021: With an all-new Civic expected in 2022, the changes for this year are modest. The Civic Coupe has been discontinued, and there is no sporty Si model.
Features and technology: There are both a Civic sedan and hatchback as well as an optional turbo, with numerous trim levels for each. The base LX includes 16-inch wheels, the Honda Sensing suite of safety features, and automatic climate control, with an infotainment system consisting of a 5-inch color screen with Bluetooth connectivity and a USB port but neither Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto. The rear seats fold in the hatchback but not the sedan. Next up is the Sport, which will likely be the volume seller. It adds a 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, keyless entry, push-button start, an upgrade audio system, and HondaLink, which allows you to control certain features of the car remotely. On the hatchback, the Sport gets a 6-speed manual and an underbody spoiler kit as well as dual exhausts.
Next is the EX, which adds heated front seats and a power-adjustable driver seat as well as 17-inch wheels and dual-zone climate control. Next up is the EX-L, which adds leather upholstery. The Touring adds LED headlights, a navigation system and heated rear seats, and the Sport Touring adds a 6-speed manual and a 540-watt/12-speaker audio system. The top Type R is in a class by itself, with a turbocharged 306-hp engine, a 6-speed manual, a limited-slip differential for sharper handling, and an adaptive sport suspension.
What does the future hold: A full redesign is expected for 2022. Find a 2021 Honda Civic for sale
Base price: $21,445 / Read our 2021 Mazda3 review
What we like: Excellent handling; sedan or hatchback body style; optional all-wheel drive; optional turbo; standard driver-assist features
What we would change: Manual transmission is only available on the Premium hatchback; body style is a matter of taste; large blind spots
Overview: Offered as both a sedan and a hatchback, the 2021 Mazda3 is considered the driver’s car of the compact class. Handling is exceptional, and the upgrade 2.5-liter turbo gives it the ability to keep up with the best of the hot hatches. However, the base 2.0-liter four-cylinder is plenty powerful, and with a 6-speed automatic that always knows the right gear, it’s a pleasure to drive. It’s front-wheel drive, although all-wheel drive is optional, and standard with the turbo. Inside, the Mazda feels surprisingly luxurious, even the cloth seat base model. The infotainment system is an 8.8-inch screen, powered by a rotary knob, and as with the Civic, neither Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto are available on the base trim. The sedan is longer than the hatchback, and while it has 13 cubic feet of storage, the hatchback has 20. Resale values are about average.
What’s new for 2021: Most notable for the 2021 Mazda3 is the addition of the upgrade turbocharged 2.5-liter engine, with 250 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque with premium fuel. The base 2.0-liter engine is also new, and there are new trim level names.
Features and technology: On top of its two body styles and three engine choices, there are eight trim levels of the 2021 Mazda3. The base 2.0 includes keyless entry, push-button start, and an infotainment system with an 8.8-inch screen, an 8-speaker audio system, two USB ports, and Bluetooth connectivity. Safety features include adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking. Next is the 2.5 S, which includes the bigger 2.5-liter engine and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The 2.5S Select adds to this all-wheel drive, and the 2.5S Preferred adds a power moonroof. Next is the 2.5S Premium, which adds navigation, optional all-wheel drive, a 12-speaker Bose audio system, and XM satellite radio.
The 2.5 Turbo adds the turbo engine, standard all-wheel drive, heated front seats, leatherette seating, and 18-inch alloy wheels, and the 2.5 Turbo Premium adds navigation, a 12-speaker Bose audio system and XM satellite radio. To that, the top Turbo Premium Plus adds leather seating and a 360-degree monitor. All trims are available as either a sedan or a hatchback.
What does the future hold: As the 2021 model year includes new engine choices, we don’t expect too much in terms of significant upgrades, although we would like to see more standard safety features across the board. Find a 2021 Mazda3 for sale near you
Civic vs. Mazda3: Strengths comparison
Civic Benefits: Fuel economy; reputation for reliability; high resale value; bigger trunk.
Mazda3 Benefits: More fun to drive; optional all-wheel drive; more luxurious interior.
2021 Honda Civic vs. 2021 Mazda Mazda3: Which is better?
No one will ever go wrong buying a 2021 Honda Civic, which has had 10 generations to further its already outstanding reputation for reliability. It’s a solid car with plenty of options. But it just doesn’t quite have the sense of occasion of the 2021 Mazda3, with more distinct looks, a more luxurious interior at any trim level, and performance that will just make you want to drive it. Find a 2021 Honda Civic for sale or Find a 2021 Mazda3 for sale
|2021 Honda Civic||2021 Mazda Mazda3|
|Engine||2.0-liter I4||2.0-liter I4|
|Horsepower||158 hp @ 6,500 rpm||155 hp @ 5,000 rpm|
|Torque||138 lb-ft @ 4,200rpm||150 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||33 mpg (30 city/38 highway)||31 mpg (28 city/36 highway)|
|Also Available||1.5-liter turbocharged I4; 6-spd manual||2.5-liter I4; 2.5-liter I4, turbocharged; 6-speed manual|
|Basic warranty||3 years/36,000 miles||3 years/36,000 miles|
|Powertrain Warranty||5 years/60,000 miles||5 years/60,000 miles|
|NHTSA Overall Safety Rating||5 Stars||5 Stars|
|Max Seating Capacity||5||5|
|Wheelbase||106.3 inches||107.3 inches|
|Overall Length||182.7 inches||183.5 inches|
|Width||70.9 inches||70.7 inches|
|Height||55.7 inches||56.9 inches|
|Turning Diameter||35.4 feet||37.3 feet|
|Headroom, Front||39.3 inches||38.0 inches|
|Headroom, Rear||37.1 inches||37.2 inches|
|Legroom, Front||42.3 inches||42.3 inches|
|Legroom, Rear||37.4 inches||35.1 inches|
|Shoulder Room, Front||57.0 inches||55.7 inches|
|Shoulder Room, Rear||55.0 inches||53.5 inches|
|EPA Passenger Volume||97.8 cubic feet||92.8 cubic feet|
|EPA Cargo Volume||15.1 cubic feet||13.2 cubic feet|