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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
First the article summary:

AutoGuide said:
There’s little doubt that the small car segment is a shrinking one, though the situation may not be as dire as it seems on the surface.

It’s still responsible for a huge percentage of new car sales in North America each year, proving that not everyone is crazy for crossovers. Sure, it’s given up ground to small CUVs in recent years, a trend that’s likely to continue, but this is a segment still rife with competition. And that’s especially true of the small hatchback subsegment, which has seen a newfound resurgence as of late.

Existing entries like the Mazda3 have been joined by the likes of the five-door Honda Civic as brands look to carve out their respective niches in a segment that caters to many needs. For some it’s all about affordable fun, while for others it’s predicated on practicality. Regardless, there are plenty of reasons to get excited about what this segment has to offer, starting with those aforementioned entries.

Both are new for 2017 — the Civic hatch being all-new, and the Mazda3 receiving a well-deserved refresh — and ready to vie for your hard-earned dollars, bringing with them merits that are each their own. But there can only be one winner in the AutoGuide.com arena, so we put both through their paces in an old-fashioned small-car shootout to see which one reigns supreme.

A Journey Through Design and Space

The newfound resurgence of the compact hatchback segment has seen automakers like Honda get back in the game after years of neglect. When it comes to the Civic, it’s been about 15 years since it was sold in hatchback form in North America, and even longer since a five-door version like this new one was available. (For the last time such a Civic was sold in this part of the world, you’d have to look back to the late 1980s and the so-called Civic Wagon.)

Honda’s taken some flack about the Civic’s design since this new one was introduced back in 2015, but the brand deserves credit for making its compact car stand out. So many cars look the same nowadays, but the new Civic is refreshing at the very least — something that continues with this hatchback version.

Everything from B-pillar back has been replaced compared to Civic sedan, with the car measuring more than four inches (102 millimeters) shorter overall. Despite that lost length, the Civic hatch is still sizeable, measuring 177.9 inches (4,519 mm) from bumper to bumper. It also boasts a decent amount of room inside, with a similar amount of passenger space to the Civic sedan and a ton more cargo volume.

Compare Specs
2017 Mazda3 5-Door
2017 Mazda3 5-Door

Engine 2.5L 4-cylinder - 1.5L turbo 4-cylinder
Horsepower 184 hp Mazda3 174 hp
Torque 185 lb-ft Mazda3 162 lb-ft
Transmission 6-speed manual/auto. Mazda3 6-speed manual; CVT
Cargo Capacity (cu-ft) 20.2; 47.1 Civic 25.7; 46.2
Cargo Capacity (liters) 572; 1,334 Civic 728; 1,308
US Fuel Economy 30 mpg combined Civic 34 mpg combined
CAN Fuel Economy 7.9 L/100 km combined Civic 6.9 L/100 km combined
US Price Starts at $20,145 Civic Starts at $19,700
CAN Price Starts at $19,550 Mazda3 Starts at $21,490
With 25.7 cu-ft (728 liters) of space behind the back seats, the Civic offers way more cargo room than pretty much everything in the segment, including the Mazda3. Folding the second row opens up 46.2 cu-ft (1,308 liters) of space for stuff, which is plenty. The Honda Civic hatchback also has a handy privacy cover that extends out from either side of the cargo area for easy, one-handed operation. But best of all, the entire assembly is only a little larger than a brick, which means it’s out of the way until needed and won’t be forgotten in the garage.

The 2017 Mazda3, meanwhile, has undergone a far more subtle overhaul. In fact, park this 2017 version next to its pre-facelifted predecessor and only the most acutely aware would be able to spot the differences. Compared to the Civic, the Mazda3 is clearly the safer stylistic bet, though it’s certainly far from unattractive. It retains the same flowing lines as before, with only a few minor tweaks to the front and rear fascias and some new wheel designs rounding out the unassuming exterior changes.

Much like the Civic, the hatchback version of the Mazda3 is shorter than the sedan — in this case, about five inches (127 mm) shorter. At 175 inches (4,445 mm) from tip to tail, the Mazda is among the smallest entries in the segment, and comes in at roughly three inches (76 mm) shorter than the Civic hatch. And while that may seem inconsequential, it puts the Mazda at a clear disadvantage, particularly behind the tailgate.

Room behind the rear seats stands at a paltry 20.2 cu-ft (572 liters), which is near the bottom of the small hatch pack. While still offering more than enough room for everyday errands, weekends away may pose a bit of a problem. The Mazda does, however, strike back with the rear seats folded, with its 47.1 cu-ft (1,334 liters) actually putting it near top of segment, and even slightly better than the Civic. It’s a similar story when it comes to passenger room, with the Mazda3 surrendering some space to the segment’s leaders, though not as much as one might suspect.

Opposing Power Sources

When it comes to their powertrains, the Mazda3 and Civic hatch take divergent paths that reflect their age. As a new kid on the block, the Civic is only available with a turbocharged engine, in this case a 1.5-liter four-cylinder. Output varies depending on transmission, but power is plentiful whether it’s going to the front wheels through manual or automatic transmissions.

The engine churns out 174 horsepower to go with 162 lb-ft of torque in cars equipped with the continuously variable transmission or 167 lb-ft of torque with the six-speed manual. Sport models, meanwhile, get a slight bump in output to 180 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque (the same 162 lb-ft is on tap with the CVT). The engine’s full serving of torque kicks in at about 1,800 rpm, providing a decent punch without much room for turbo lag.

When it comes to the Civic’s transmissions, neither are anywhere near the best in the segment. Our tester was fitted with the six-speed manual, which features a feather-light shifter and vague clutch, while the continuously variable automatic has a fair amount of the rubber-banding effect that makes it seem like power’s coming from a pissed-off sewing machine.

While the Civic has been caught up in the turbocharging trend, the Mazda3 sticks with natural aspiration to make power. The compact gets the choice of either 2.0- or 2.5-liter engines under hood, both of which offer pretty good output. The smaller of the two four-cylinders makes 155 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque, while the the 2.5-liter makes 184 horsepower to go along with 185 lb-ft of torque.

Either engine can be mated to the choice of manual or automatic transmissions, both of which feature six forward gears. Both transmissions are better than the ones offered in the Civic, with far more natural feel — especially in the automatic. Like the one in the Civic, the Mazda’s clutch is soft and light, though it’s surprisingly compliant.

No matter which engine-transmission combo the Mazda3 features, its fuel economy isn’t as good as the Civic’s. With the 2.0-liter under the hood, the Mazda gets the same 31 mpg (7.5 L/100 km) combined regardless of gearbox, while the larger engine combined with the manual does slightly worse at 28 mpg (8.3 L/100 km) and 30 mpg (7.9 L/100 km) with the automatic. The Civic, meanwhile, with its much more modern powertrain, gets fuel economy ratings of 33 mpg (7.2 L/100 km) combined with the manual transmission and 34 mpg (6.9 L/100 km) with the CVT. Our actual fuel economy with both cars was closer to their respective city averages during our testing, though conditions were less than optimal and both were clad in winter tires.

A Better Drive

When it comes to the way the two competitors drive, the Mazda3 comes out on top — especially when it comes to sheer engagement. As part of its update for 2017, Mazda revised the compact’s suspension setup to include new dampers at all four corners. While not exactly wholly different than before, they do a nice job of providing a smooth and quiet ride that errs on the sporty side. The same goes for the tight chassis and nicely weighted steering setup, which both make the Mazda fun to drive when called upon.

The Mazda3 also features a new G-Vectoring Control system that uses engine braking to improve cornering performance. Unlike other automakers’ brake-based systems, Mazda’s G-Vectoring reduces engine torque ever so slightly in response to steering input, shifting more of the car’s weight to the front wheels for improved traction and turn-in response. As the car works through the turn the torque that was put on hold is reengaged, shifting the weight back to the rear wheels for improved stability and corner exit. The whole process happens in a split second and is virtually imperceptible while behind the wheel, but that’s the point.

The Civic, however, is no slouch either and can be fun to drive while also smoothing uneven roads with ease. Like the Mazda3, the Civic features front MacPherson struts and a multi-link rear suspension. The Civic’s steering, however, isn’t quite as dialed in as the Mazda’s and it doesn’t provide as much feedback, though the brake-based torque-vectoring system works well to improve the car’s cornering ability even if there’s slightly more body roll.

On its own the Civic hatch seems like a fun car to drive, but compared to the Mazda3 it’s sort of sloppy. And that’s why it’s crucial to test drive at least a couple of cars when shopping for a new one. Even for those folks dead-set on a certain model, driving another one or two competitors before buying can help reinforce strengths and, more importantly, identify weaknesses.

Superior Interior

Inside, both the Mazda3 and Honda Civic have good things going for them. While styling is subjective, the Mazda’s cabin features a design that’s a little easier on the eyes thanks to cleaner, more symmetrical lines and a greater array of materials. That story is certainly true in higher trim grades, with the leather in the Mazda feeling more supple and substantial than the stuff used in the Honda.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the Civic’s cabin, though certain materials aren’t all that nice to the touch — especially on lower grade trims. It is, however, a pretty good package for the price. The Civic hatch starts at $19,700 ($21,490 in Canada), which is slightly more than the Mazda3 hatch though still pretty budget-friendly. That base price doesn’t include a whole lot of desirable features, though they can be added for nominal price increases.

Items like a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, for example, comes into play on the Sport grade, which commands only a $1,600 premium over base versions. (Canadian cars, meanwhile, feature that same touch-sensitive screen as standard fare.)

From there, a whole array of comfort, convenience and — and maybe more importantly — safety features can be added, including heated seats and steering wheel, as well as adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist and forward collision mitigation braking, among others. Those safety features, which make up the Honda Sensing suite, don’t simply cater to demand, but work as well as those offered in much pricier rides.

Shifting to the Mazda’s interior, it’s a similar story to the Honda’s in terms of feature availability, though it still does without those aforementioned smartphone syncing interfaces. The infotainment system, which runs through a seven-inch unit, sits atop the dash and can be operated through the touch of a finger or the console-mounted controller. The interface itself isn’t quite as modern and fluid as Honda’s and looks slightly more juvenile, though it’s easy to adjust to over time.

Like the Civic, the Mazda3 is available with a full suite of safety features, including adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, and forward collision mitigation, all of which work well and offer good value for the money. The safety suite can only be added to the top Grand Touring trim, which command a $4,800 premium over the $20,145 base price ($19,550 in Canada). That price is quite a bit less than the Civic’s peak price of $28,300 ($29,490 in Canada) while offering a better overall atmosphere inside.

The Verdict: 2017 Mazda3 vs Honda Civic Hatchback

There’s a reason the Honda Civic and Mazda3 have proven themselves to be two of our favorite five-doors on the market. Both are practical and fun, but neither will break the bank, with the Mazda doing a slightly better job of saving a few bucks. If it weren’t for the crucially important factors of interior space and infotainment, the Mazda3 would have swept this comparison hands down. The Honda bests it in both of those categories, but it’s just not quite as nice to drive, and that’s what it all boils down to in my books when it comes to commuter-friendly compacts.

The new kid on the block gave the savvy veteran a run for its money in this compact shootout, and while the Mazda3 is beginning to show signs of age, it still has what it takes to hold down the top spot on our list of compact hatchbacks on the market.
Here's the whole article:

2017 Mazda3 vs Honda Civic Hatchback - AutoGuide.com News

And the video comparison:

https://youtu.be/B8h_vwkn_xI
 

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When I initially started looking for my new car, I started with the Honda hatch. (Since I was already coming from an Element.) I was quickly encouraged to look at other options though when I hit two sticking points: A.) No manual transmission in anything but a stripped down version. (I want my sunroof!) B.) I wasn't too keen on the turbo in the Honda. And that's how I came to land on a Mazda. I got a well spec'd car that still came with a manual transmission.
 

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GF has a 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback, we got her the sport version, has the 180hp motor. It's crazy how much more car you get with the Mazda. I got a 2017 hatchback grand touring model for about the same price she paid for the hatchback sport. I will admit the Honda aero kit and 18" wheels do make that car look nice, but the interior is really where it falls short. If you wanted to get a Civic Hatchback Sport loaded it was close to 30K. I don't think either car is a bad choice in the end.
 

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I too started with looking at the Civic hatch when looking to replace my wrecked 2nd gen. Was just thinking if there's something different to try now's the time...

I didn't do anything other than look at it. The styling isn't to my taste, like really wasn't to my taste. 10 years ago maybe... The interior on the face lifted 3 is what really won me over (not to mention how it goes about it's business on the road). That was cemented when looking at the bang for the buck, the 3 just came back out on top with what you get for your hard earned $.

In my humble opinion anyways...
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
The styling of the Honda Civic hatch did not appeal to me, but what the deal breaker was that because we only drive manual trans cars, as noted above, on a Civic that leaves you with only a stripped down car.
 

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An often overlooked point is the good breakover angle https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breakover_angle of Mazda's cars including the Mazda 3. Many cars like the new Civic have a poor ground clearance resulting in a poor breakover angle. I bought a Mazda 3 to handle my steep drive, otherwise I would have to buy a SUV which I hate.
 

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interesting views on how you guys came to the 3. before i looked at the 3, i was looking at an a3 quattro. but the ticking of the options list became a little ridiculous where at that point, i'd be better off getting a rs3 instead. however, there was no rs3 sedan at that point, so i turned to jap models which led me to see that the mazda3 had a euro feel about it's built quality. and everything about it reminded me so fondly of my M3 E90.

the civic at this point in australia is a little irrelevant given that the corolla and the 3 were the top selling cars here with the i30 not far behind. however, there's just something about that civc driver's cockpit that's just off putting. i'm not sure if it's the dash of that it just feels so far away from you...
 

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Although the price difference isn't dramatic, I'm guessing that it would be unusual in the States for a buyer to cross-shop an A3 with an MZ3.
give or take 4 to 6 years ago maybe.. but the germans have been undercutting their cars quite a bit in recent years to compete with the japanese and korean manufacturers. actually i reckon the a3 is a rather common sight, something like but not quite like the golf, a series or 1 series. tell you what, honestly, the normal front wheel drive a3 was cheaper than the mazda 3 sp25 astina/ sGT..
 

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Although the price difference isn't dramatic, I'm guessing that it would be unusual in the States for a buyer to cross-shop an A3 with an MZ3.
Not really when you get into a maxxed out 3.

I have always liked the A3's and took a look there as well (even used). But like louisbosco said when you start comparing apples to apples on the options list the Audi price ramps up quick. Yes, the Audi is more "Premium" in nearly every aspect, but the loaded up 3 pulls it's weight for the $ saved.

Plus, for me, I couldn't bring myself to go with VW after what they did with the whole diesel cheating thing. I just couldn't trust them.

Other cross shops for me from VW were a base GTI and a loaded up Golf wagon - which I would've loved to have stretched myself out for as well and would've won over the A3, but after thinking about it long and hard I didn't want to stretch myself out on a car when I knew I'd be happy with the 3 in the end.

I'm also a high mileage driver with a long commute and sometimes trips between sites at any given time. In Canada Mazda's unlimited km warranty (5 yr power train, 3 yr new car) played a massive role in re-inforcing the added value behind the car I was favoring on other levels.

For the sake of throwing it out there other vehicles I cross shopped once I decided to go more mainstream:

Chevy Cruze hatch: Sporty looking exterior and interior is much better than the old GMs. Some of the best connectivity in the business, but the car behind the bodywork and styling wasn't up to par with the Mazda. Driving dynamics were not comparable for a guy like me who enjoys the drive. The car was smooth and had adequate power, but not as sporting to drive as one would assume by looking at it.

Ford Focus Hatch: Was just a no for me. It scored great points for me in ride and handling. Probably the closest to the 3 from what I drove, but it definitely didn't have the presence of perceived power behind it that the 3 with the 2.5 had. Incentives were good at the time, but where it really lost me was the fit and finish in the interior. Some of it was OK, I thought the electronics were fine and I liked the stereo better (big point for me) but some of the interior panels looked like they were produced or assembled by a 4 year old: visible rough cut edges of fabric @ the sunroof opening / sun shade, the rear trunk carpet was nowhere near a tight fit, panel gaps and hard plastics. The fit and finish just drove me away compared to what you got for the same $ in the Mazda.

Civic hatch: As noted above... it's FUGLY.


Now... if there was a 6 wagon around it would've been a case of "shut up and take my money" for Mazda. I would've made it work to get one of them in a heartbeat. I liked the 6 a lot, but with how much I use the hatch I couldn't go to a conventional trunk.
 
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Ditto @Studum, not going to be a VW for me after their diesel cheat, but not just that they cheated, that they then spent tens of millions advertising their diesel as the clean diesel, cleaner than their competitors.
 

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It's a similar story for me. I wanted a hatch with good reliability, fuel economy, manual transmission, cruise control, and yes a sunroof :)

There were two choices that fit this bill for a reasonable price when I looked. The 3 and the Hyundai elantra gt.

I have nothing against Hyundai, I've owned an accent in the past. I found the gt had sloppy handling and some bad blind spots.

As for the other manufacturers, I'd say to them stop telling me what I want to buy.
 

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An often overlooked point is the good breakover angle https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breakover_angle of Mazda's cars including the Mazda 3. Many cars like the new Civic have a poor ground clearance resulting in a poor breakover angle. I bought a Mazda 3 to handle my steep drive, otherwise I would have to buy a SUV which I hate.
This is something important to me as well. Many areas that I drive have steep inclines on their driveways and I still end up scraping the chin on my 3 (although this has more to do with angle of approach/departure and I don't usually scrape between the front and back wheels). But everything else out there is even lower making it worse for this. I also hate SUVs and prefer smaller and more nimble vehicles. I just feel so bad whenever I scrape pavement from something as stupid as a driveway and there's nothing I can really do to improve that.
 

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I went back to a Mazda3 because of the looks and efficiency. I also really enjoyed this particular automatic transmission. More and more manufacturers are going with turbos but if you drive spirited at all, turbos will kill gas mileage. I can pound on this 2.0 all day and it doesn't cause the mpg's to vary much from just normal driving. Plus I can still get 45mpg's on highway when just cruising. And the soul red stands out from all other reds out on the road. It was a compelling package for $18k
 

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give or take 4 to 6 years ago maybe.. but the germans have been undercutting their cars quite a bit in recent years to compete with the japanese and korean manufacturers. actually i reckon the a3 is a rather common sight, something like but not quite like the golf, a series or 1 series. tell you what, honestly, the normal front wheel drive a3 was cheaper than the mazda 3 sp25 astina/ sGT..
Oz is definitely a different market then. I'm a member of two Audi clubs in the Northeastern US, and the typical member would be very unlikely to consider a Mazda 3 or, say, a Honda Civic. Call it fashion, social stratification, plenty of disposable income, or whatever, they're generally buying A3s for a minimum of 25% more than an MZ3 GT 2.5 costs here. They're also willing to accept the higher running costs that come with German cars.
 

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Its funny, my salesman said they have seen an increase of German car owners coming to Mazda as a cheaper alternative to the expensive Mercs/BMW's ect. Mainly buying Mazda 6's but a few opting for the Mazda 3 too. I echo many of the previous comments, clearance for getting into my garage, the torque from the 2.5L engine, regular fuel versus premium from all the turbo cars. Initially I wanted a Focus Hatch, love the exterior styling of it, but they stopped making it with a manual and the 2.0L engine, that was a deal breaker. Im very happy with my choice in the end, this Mazda 3 has been awesome in every way I could possibly need it to be. My only negative is the clutch is very different than Im used to, but I am adjusting quickly. Might try a stage 2 clutch in a few years, more pedal feel I would imagine.
 

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For me, I chose between these two hatchbacks as well, and it mostly came down to feel--visual and in the seat--which I see as possibly the biggest difference between these two. The Civic, inside and out, has sharp jagged lines, gawdy and in-your-face tech. To me, it looks like a teenagers dream--cheap. On the other hand, the Mazda3, in comparison, is smooth, sexy, conservative and refined (while still not lacking in tech; it's just not trying to scream it out loud). I was also looking for the best drive for my dollar, and the Mazda3 hatchback GT with the manual transmission makes it feel like a $35k car for $25k. Not a teenager car at all. My nephew just got the new Civic. He'll enjoy the techy feeling.
 

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Now... if there was a 6 wagon around it would've been a case of "shut up and take my money" for Mazda. I would've made it work to get one of them in a heartbeat. I liked the 6 a lot, but with how much I use the hatch I couldn't go to a conventional trunk.
there is a 6 wagon. do you not get those in North America?!?!?!
 

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Oz is definitely a different market then. I'm a member of two Audi clubs in the Northeastern US, and the typical member would be very unlikely to consider a Mazda 3 or, say, a Honda Civic. Call it fashion, social stratification, plenty of disposable income, or whatever, they're generally buying A3s for a minimum of 25% more than an MZ3 GT 2.5 costs here. They're also willing to accept the higher running costs that come with German cars.
nah you're definitely right. i've been on a couple different forums and the attitude towards car buying the the US is definitely way different. i mean you guys have such low prices for some and others are way higher than most. for example, once you get above the 80/90k mark (i think?) in australia, there's a 30% 'luxury' car tax. so most manufacturers tend to lower their 'base' model pricing to avoid the tax that's passed onto customers. where else in the world can you get an bmw m3 for under a 100k? probably only the US. where i'd lived before in singapore, the M3 would've cost at least 250k brand new. even in australia, it's around the 150-180k mark.
 

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there is a 6 wagon. do you not get those in North America?!?!?!
I know there is, that's why I want one so bad :)

The Mazda 6 is only available in sedan form here in NA since this current generation was released. 1st gen had a sedan, hatch, and wagon. This gen sedan only here :-(
 
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