The popular small car market has all manufacturers competing for their slice of the pie and the competition is fierce. The current generation Mazda 3 is well established with its combination of great looks, engaging drive, and now with improved safety across the range Mazda put forth a very solid contender.
Honda have studied their rivals well and the tenth generation Civic is prepared to take on the competition with a host of well thought out features and technological advancements. Sporting an aggressive new design and a technological approach to motoring, this Civic is sure to turn heads and put up a real challenge for your hard earned money.
The previous model Mazda 3 had great visual appeal and the facelift model for 2016 continues this trend with smooth flowing lines and the occasional chrome metal highlight. The Civic follows an entirely different styling approach with plenty of sharp angled lines for a more aggressive look overall. The Mazda 3 has already been on our roads for a few years now and while still a great looker, the fresher styling of the Civic held my gaze just that little bit more.
A great body can sometimes be ruined by a complete mess inside. Fortunately, this isn’t the case here with both cars having well thought out interiors.
The inside of the Mazda 3 Maxx we tested felt open and approachable with everything being where you expected it to be. The location of the 7″ display was perfect with it only a quick glance to the left away from the road to get the information you need.
In the Civic the display is mounted lower down, requiring the driver to take their attention off the road to operate and the only method of interaction was via the touch screen display.
The Mazda 3 gives you the option of using the touch screen display or the tactile multi-function commander so your focus can remain on the road. Sound quality from the speakers in the Mazda is superior to the Civics but not by a huge margin. A win for the Civic is the inclusion of both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay which was missing in the Mazda.
Both cars come with integrated steering wheel controls, however the Civic’s felt a little on the cheap side with shallow buttons that have an ambiguous clicky feel to them. Luckily your hands will be on the steering wheel itself rather than the controls for most of the time and the Civic wheel felt great with its leather wrapped wheel whereas the Mazda’s wheel material felt synthetic and cheap.
Seating positions in both cars are excellent and a comfortable position can be easily found after adjustment. Lateral support was better in the Mazda compared to the Civic when pushing through the corners more aggressively, thanks to larger side bolsters.
The biggest difference inside between the two cars was the dash cluster. The Civic comes with a completely digital gauge cluster with angular styling that can display so much more information than the Mazda 3’s cluster. Up top, the Civic’s cluster has a horizontal light that changes from white to green indicating how much fuel you’re currently using which actually makes an impact on how you drive. I constantly found myself applying less throttle to keep it green where possible for better fuel economy.
For practicality, the Civic really shines with a massive 519 litres of boot space, larger than a Commodore’s. The Mazda 3 comes in at 408 litres which is still respectable for a small car but lacking compared to the Civic.
Honda are more generous with their soft plastics inside the Civic, with stitched seams adding to the quality feel throughout the car. And given the choice between the two I’d prefer the interior of the Civic.
When it comes to power and torque the Civic felt more powerful down low, however, the Mazda 3 pulled harder up top.
Surprisingly the 1.8 litre engine in the Civic was more drivable day to day against the 2.0 litre from Mazda. When you mash the go pedal, the power is instantly available and the CVT does a great job of keeping the revs where the power lives. The Mazda 3 delivers power in a linear fashion requiring revs to really hustle the car along but the lack of torque makes accelerating at low revs requiring patience. This extra performance comes at a cost, with the fuel economy of the Civic sitting at 7.7L/100km to the Mazda 3’s 7.2L/100km.
Ride and Handling
When it comes to ride and handling, I was expecting the Mazda 3 to trump the Honda Civic but that wasn’t the case. The Civic has a better initial turn in than the Mazda 3, which gives you the confidence to push the car just that tad bit more in the corners.
Equally impressive was the Civic’s ability to absorb bumps and and poor road conditions with ease. Honda have done an exemplary job on the Civic’s suspension work and it shows in spades with a car and chassis that feels like it wants to be driven hard.
The Mazda 3 still has a great ride that’s enjoyable to drive but the initial turn in isn’t as crisp which is why I’m backing the Civic in this segment as well.
The lack of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay hurt the Mazda 3’s media experience slightly but it’s made up for with a better interface and superior sound system.
For the launch of the new Mazda 3, Mazda placed a large emphasis on the new safety features which come as standard in all Mazda 3’s. The inclusion of Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Smart City Brake Support in both forwards and reverse give the Mazda 3 an edge on the Civic for safety equipment.
Both cars are closely matched in terms of equipment but overall the Mazda 3 provides a better selection.
Both the latest generation Mazda 3 and Honda Civic sit at the top of their game. Deciding between the two mid-spec cars is tricky as the Civic VTi-S we tested comes in at $24,490 and the Mazda 3 Maxx is priced at $22,890. Don’t forget, however, that the Mazda on test here is a manual. Comparing apples with apples, the Mazda 3 automatic carries a sticker of $24,890, that’s a difference of just $400 between the two.
For less money the Civic provides a higher quality interior with a chassis and engine combination that wants to be driven. If you’re someone that enjoys driving rather than treating it as an A to B chore, you’ll be very satisfied with the Civic. However if you value safety and an easy-to-use great sounding infotainment system, or you must have a manual, then the Mazda 3 is for you.
2016 Honda Civic VTi-S
|Price (Excl. on-road costs):||From: $24,490 / As tested: $24,490|
|Warranty:||3 years/100,000 kilometres|
|Warranty Customer Assistance:||N/A|
|Country of Origin:||Japan. Built in Thailand|
|Service Intervals:||12 months/10,000km|
|Engine:||1.8-litre aspirated, multi-point injected in-line 4-cylinder petrol:|
104kW @ 6,500rpm, 174Nm @ 4,300rpm
|Transmission:||Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) Automatic|
|Power to Weight Ratio (W/kg):||82.5|
|Combined Fuel Consumption (L/100km):||Claimed: 6.4 / Tested: 7.7|
|Fuel Capacity (L):||47|
|Body:||4-doors sedan, 5 seats|
|Safety:||5-star ANCAP, ABS, VSA, TCS, EBD, EBA, ESS, HSA, Reversing Camera, Left-hand side blind spot camera, Tyre pressure monitoring system, LED DRL|
|Dimensions (L/W/H/W-B) mm:||4,644/1,799/1,416/2,700|
|Tare Mass (kg):||1,261–1,331|
|Towing Capacity (kg):||Braked: 800 / Unbraked: 500|
|Entertainment:||7-inch colour touchscreen with Bluetooth, DAB+ (VTi-L, RS and VTi-LX), Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, USB, HDMI|
2016 Mazda 3 Maxx
|Price (Excl. on-road costs):||From $22,890 / As tested: $22,890 ($24,890 for automatic)|
|Warranty:||3-year unlimited kilometre and 6-year panel protection|
|Warranty Customer Assistance:||Not available|
|Country of origin:||Japan|
|Service Intervals:||12 months/10,000km|
|Engine:||2.0-litre SkyActive-G aspirated, direct-injected four-cylinder petrol with stop/start:|
114kW @ 6,000rpm, 200Nm @ 4,000rpm
|Power to Weight Ratio (W/kg):||88.3|
|Combined Fuel Consumption (L/100km):||Claimed: 5.7 / Tested: 7.2|
|Fuel Capacity (L):||51|
|Body:||4-door sedan; 5 seats|
|Safety:||5-star ANCAP, 6 airbags, ABS, Blind Spot Monitoring, Traction Control, DSC, EBD, EBA, Emergency Stop Signal, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Smart City Brake Support – Forward and Reverse|
|Dimensions: L/W/H/W-B (mm):||4580/1795/1450/2700|
|Towing Capacity (kg):||Braked: 1,200 / Unbraked: 600|
|Entertainment:||7 inch colour touchscreen with MZD Connect, 6-speaker, Bluetooth/HDMI/USB/Aux input, satellite navigation|
2016 Honda Civic VTi-S vs 2016 Mazda 3 Maxx
2016 Honda Civic VTi-S
2016 Mazda 3 Maxx