Both hatchbacks are worth of praise.

SUVs have the world by storm, getting a second wind after the high-priced fuel crisis of years past, and ultimately forcing automakers to rethink their whole strategy. But, SUVS aren’t the only popular models on the market, as hatchbacks are still a big-ticket item as well. There are so many to choose from – models like the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus, and even the Mini Cooper have found their way into the hearts of many, but there are two other players in this game that are worth your consideration, and those are the Honda Civic Hatchback and the Mazda3. Both offer aggressive styling, decent power output, and the ability to haul a decent amount of cargo or a few friends with ease.

The Honda Civic has been around for a long time, being introduced back in 1972. It was originally offered in a number of configurations, including three- and five-door hatchback form. The Civic itself has survived well over the years with the tenth-gen model being introduced for 2016. The Mazda3, on the other hand, is relatively a baby in comparison, being introduced just back in 2003. It saw its third generational shift for the 2014 model year and went through a minor revision for the 2017 model year. With Mazda’s latest design language and range of SkyActiv engines, the Mazda 3 is always ready to do battle with the other great hatchbacks in the world, but today we’re going to compare it directly to the Civic Hatchback and help you decide which one you should buy when it comes time to pull the trigger on your next big purchase.

With that said, let’s dive on in and take a good look at each one. Both come to the party with a lot to offer, so we’ve got our work cut out for us. Join me down the page, and we’ll get started.


2017 Honda Civic Hatchback
- image 688675
2016 - 2018 Mazda3 High Resolution Exterior
- image 682532

If it’s all about appearances for you, and you’re a big fan of aggressive design, then the Civic Hatchback (left) will probably be for you. But, if you’re more about sleek elegance and curves in all the right places (don’t pretend you don’t like curvy girls,) then you might find yourself happier walking out from a hard day at work and seeing your brand new Mazda 3 waiting for you in the parking lot.

When it comes to the Civic, you’ll actually find just a tad of Acura NSX DNA in things like the headlights and the bar that crosses the grille in between the headlights. What makes the Civic so aggressive, however, are the muscular lines on the outside edges of the hood that accent the flaring on the fenders, and those large cutouts in each corner of the fascia that look like that should channel air to the brakes but are actually blocked off and serve as a mounting location for the circular fog lights. Finally, the small air dam features the same mesh layout of the corner inserts, tying the whole front end together. The Mazda3 takes a different approach and doesn’t want to wow you with fake corner air intakes or sharp, muscular lines. Instead, it rocks Mazda’s most recent grille design that sits low but in your face at the same time. It, in combination with the hood, helps give the Mazda3 a real sense of length that the Civic just can’t compete with. There is a small, functional air dam below the grille that adds a bit of style, but to the sides, you’ll find the fog lights recessed into the fascia. Both models have sleek looking headlights, but most would say that the Honda wins when it comes to headlight design. One can’t argue with the fact that the headlights on the Mazda3 just look right, though, with the lens layout linking to the grille surround in all the right ways.

Looking at the side profile and it really breaks things down to a matter of taste. To be honest, both models have a similar design here. Both feature light flaring around the wheel wells and both feature curvy body lines that work well for the body style. However, you’ll find that the Mazda is just a little sleeker in this department as the body lines are more strategically placed. The front line runs from the headlights and curves up and over the side view mirrors. The rear line takes a similar styling approach, but Mazda was careful not to make the lines to sharp or demanding on the eyes. Down below, a slanted protrusion gives the appearance of a raked look event thought the body sits almost parallel to the ground it rides on. When it comes to the civic, the body lines are sharper and more direct. The side view mirrors sit farther forward on the civic than those of the Mazda 3, and it almost looks like you could slide the Mazda three into the side of the Civic and they would lock together as there is a dip in the body that is almost the exact opposite of the lower protrusion on the Mazda3. The Civic features a little side skirt add-on that adds a small winglet ahead of the rear wheels while the Mazda3 has nothing special down below.

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback High Resolution Exterior
- image 688645
2016 - 2018 Mazda3 High Resolution Exterior
- image 682533

Moving around to the rear of these beautiful cars is really where your own personal taste will come into play. See, the Civic Hatchback (left) has more of a cabin-forward design while the Mazda3 (right) has more of a rearward sitting greenhouse. As such, the rear profile between the two differ greatly. If you like more of the angled hatchback styling, the Civic is where you want to be while those who prefer more up an upright rear hatch and rear-sitting passenger cabin will be more at home with the Mazda. And, aggression comes into play as well. The civic has the angled hatch that makes a near-90-degree dip in the middle so that the lower portion of the hatch sits more upright while the upper portion is much more angles. The taillights on the Civic protrude from the body with sharp character lines and dark accenting on the outside. The rear fascia is pretty aggressive with corner inserts that mirror those of the front fascia and an insert that includes a diffuser-like element with a central exhaust exit. The latter of which gives the civic hatchback more of an exotic look to it. Those who prefer more subtlety will definitely find themselves happier with the design of the Mazda 3. The hatch is more upright, and the taillights are small and sleek, integrating into the body and hatch almost seamlessly. The rear fascia does have some characterizing contours but is rather mild in comparison to the Civic. A single exhaust outlet in each corner is accented by an uneventful insert that does nothing more than add a bit of contrasting color to the rear.

The Numbers

If you’re interested in more than just looks – perhaps tuning, spirited driving, or other modification – the following numbers might be important and carry some weight in your decision of which model to ultimately go for. Despite the fact that the Mazda 3 looks a little bit longer thanks to its overall design, its overall length is actually 2.3 inches shorter than the civic. It does carry the same wheelbase, however, and does sit just a little bit taller. The Civic can be had with 16-, 17-, or 18-inch wheels depending on what trim level you go for, all of which come standard with all-season tires. The Mazda3, on the other hand, comes standard with 16-inch wheels on the entry-level Sport model, while all other trim levels get 18-inch rollers. Honda has yet to provide ground clearance specifications for the Civic, but the Mazda3 sits just 6.1 inches off the ground.

Exterior Dimensions

Honda Civic Mazda3
Wheelbase (Inches) 106.3 106.3
Length (Inches) 177.9 175.6
Height (Inches) 56.5 57.3
Width (Inches) 70.8 70.7
Track front/rear (Inches) 60.9/61.5 61.2/61.4

Interior Technology and Comfort

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback High Resolution Interior
- image 688649
2016 - 2018 Mazda3 High Resolution Interior
- image 682536

Note: Civic Hatchback shown on the left and Mazda3 interior shown on the right
Inside there are a number of things to weight out when trying to decide between these two models. Both offer comfort and a sporty cabin, but you’re going to be driving the model you choose for some time to come, so there is a lot more to take into consideration. In areas of comfort and convenience, you’ll find that both models stack up pretty well with each other. In the Civic, the LX and Sport trim levels have a standard automatic climate control system, while upper trim levels get a dual-zone system. All windows are powered, with the front windows featuring an auto-down system. Other features include power door locks with autolock, illuminated controls for the windows and on the steering wheel, cruise control, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, sliding sun visors, front and rear beverage holders, rear seat heat ducts, and vanity mirrors up front for the passenger and the driver. Sport and EX-L Navi trims get a leather-wrapped steering wheel while EX and above trim levels come standard with push-button start.

On the technology front, the Civic comes standard across all trims with Bluetooth connectivity, Pandora compatibility, SMS text function, radio data system, speed-sensitive volume control and a front USB audio interface that supplies 1.9-Amps of charging in LX and Sport trims and 1.5-amps on EX and EX-L Navi trims. The upper two trims also get a 1.0-amp port in the center console. Lower trim levels get a 160-Watt audio system with four speakers while the two upper trim levels get an eight-speaker system rated at 180 Watts. A 542-Watt premium system with 12 speakers and a subwoofer is optional. The two lower trim levels get a five-inch LCD display screen while the upper trim levels get a seven-inch unit with touchscreen capability and customizable settings. The seven-inch system includes Apply CarPlay, Android Auto, HondaLink, SiriusXM connectivity, and HD radio. Honda’s Navigation can be had in the EX-L Navi trim and includes HD Digital tragic and Song by Voice capability.

Take a seat in the Mazda3, and you’ll find a similar looking cabin with quite a few of the same features. On the comfort and convenience front, you’ll get A/C with pollen filter power windows with auto-down for the driver’s window only, power door locks, cruise control with steering wheel mounted controls, keyless entry, push-button start, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, and front vanity mirrors. The rear seats, like those of the civic, feature a 60/40 fold down for extra cargo room. Lower trim levels get cloth seating while upper trim levels can be had with leather upholstery. Bluetooth phone and audio streaming come standard as does a six-speaker audio system and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. There is an auxiliary audio input jack to go with 2 USB ports in the front center console. On the infotainment front, you get a seven-inch display that hovers atop the center dash and features voice command, radio data system, HD radio, Pandora integration, Stitcher radio integration, SMS messaging with delivery and reply, and E911 automatic emergency notification.

Both models that we’re discussing here and a decent looking and sport cabin with plenty of storage cubbies. The seats in the Mazda3 actually offer more side support than those of the Civic and has a center console that isn’t quite as wide as that of the Civic. The Mazda’s steering wheel is also a little more ovalish than the Civic’s, while the instrument clusters both feature some digitalization. The cabin of the Civic feels more oriented toward the driver with the center vents angled just slightly in his favor and the infotainment display built into the center stack. The Civic’s instrument cluster also sits a bit higher than that of the Mazda 3, giving the Civic more of a cockpit-like feeling to anyone who sits behind the wheel. If flare is more your thing, you might find the Civic a little more appetizing, as large inserts on the dash accent those on the door trim panels. In the Mazda, there are accent panels on the dash as well, but it’s much smaller and less obtrusive.

Hatchbacks aren’t all about spirited driving, however, so interior dimensions should play a big part in your decision to purchase. You’ll find that both models are pretty close in terms of passenger space, however, if you opt for a moon-roof-equipped civic, you’ll find yourself with about an inch less headroom compared to that of the Mazda. The Civic actually wins in the passenger volume race with 97.2 cubic-feet compared to the 96.4 cubic-feet of the Mazda. But, when it comes to cargo room, it’s a bit of a mixed race. With the rear seats in the upright position, the Civic wins hands down with 25.7 cubic-feet compared to the 20.2 cubic feet of the Mazda 3 (you can thank the rear-sitting cabin for this,) but with the seats folded down, the Mazda takes the cake with 47.1 cubic-feet compared to the Civic’s 46.2 cubic-feet.

Interior Dimensions

Honda Civic Mazda3
Headroom front/rear (Inches) 39.3/37.4 38.6/37.6
Legroom front/rear (Inches) 42.3/36.0 42.2/35.8
Shoulder Room front/rear (Inches) 57.0/55.0 57.2/54.4
Hiproom front/rear (Inches) 53.7/48.8 55.5/53.5
Cargo Volume seats up/down (cu ft) 25.7/46.2 20.2/47.1
Passenger Volume (cu ft) 97.2 96.4
Seating Capacity 5 5

The Power to Go

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback
- image 706726
2016 - 2018 Mazda3 High Resolution Drivetrain
- image 706722

Note: Civic Hatchback shown on the left and Mazda3 engine shown on the right

If you’re hoping to find V-6 power under the hood of either model, you’re going to be let down, but that doesn’t mean neither model is worthy of your ownership. Under the hood of the Civic, you’ll find a 1.5-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder that delivers 174 horsepower in all trim levels with the exception of the Sport, where it is tuned to deliver 180 horsepower. Models with the CVT transmission all deliver 162 pound-feet of torque while the LX and Sport, when equipped with a six-speed manual, deliver 167 pound-feet and 177 pound-feet, respectively. The engine makes use of an aluminum-alloy engine block and cylinder head, and all trim levels run 16.5 psi of boost from the single-scroll MHI TD03 turbo that has an internal wastegate. It is a dual-overhead-cam unit that runs a compression ratio of 10.6-to-1 and a bore and stroke of 73.0 mm by 89.4 mm. Direct fuel injection and a drive-by-wire throttle system is standard across the range. For the record, the six-speed manual is only available on LX and Sport trims, so if you go for the EX or EX-L Navi trims, you’re stuck with the CVT. Performance specs aren’t yet available, but the 60-mph sprint should take anywhere between 6.8 and 7.2 seconds, with top speed coming in at around 145 mph.

When it comes to the Mazda3, on the other hand, you actually have the choice of two different SkyActiv four-cylinders, depending on the trim level you go for. Sport and Touring models get a 2.0-liter, aluminum alloy, chain-driven DOHC engine that runs on a compression ratio of 13.0-to-1 and delivers a total output of 155 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque. In this configuration, a six-speed manual and a six-speed auto are available, with the manual transmission being the choice for more spirited driving. Going with the Touring 2.5 or the Grand Touring trim levels will get you a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. Like the smaller mill, it runs a 13.0-to-1 compression ratio and features a chain-driven DOHC valvetrain. Six-speed auto and manual transmission are also available for those models equipped with the 2.5-liter. Like the Civic Hatchback, official performance numbers have yet to be published.

Honda Civic Honda Civic Sport Mazda3 2.0 Mazda3 2.5
Engine 1.5-liter In-Line 4-Cylinder 1.5-liter In-Line 4-Cylinder Type-SKYACTIV-G 2.0-liter DOHC Type-SKYACTIV-G 2.5-liter DOHC
Horsepower 174 HP @ 5,500 RPM 180 HP @ 5,500 RPM 155 HP @ 6,000 RPM 184 @ 5,700 RPM
Torque 167 LB-FT @ 1,800-5,500 RPM (6MT)
162 LB-FT @ 1,700-5,500 RPM (CVT)
177 LB-FT @ 1,900-5,000 RPM (6MT)
162 LB-FT @ 1,700-5,500 RPM (CVT)
150 LB-FT @ 4,000 RPM 185 LB-FT @ 3,250 RPM
Transmission 6-Speed Manual Transmission (6MT)
Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)
6-Speed Manual Transmission (6MT)
Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with Dual-Mode Paddle Shifters
SKYACTIV-MT 6-speed manual SKYACTIV-MT 6-speed manual
Curb Weight (Lbs) 2,822 (6MT)/2,888 (CVT) 2,871 (6MT)/2,937 (CVT) 2,899 3,013

Fuel Economy

Fuel economy is obviously an important factor when it comes to decision-making, and when it comes to these two models, the Civic tends to take the cake. But, don’t get it twisted, the Mazda3 performs pretty well too.

Fuel Economy Figures (cty/hwy/cmb)
Civic LX MT 30/39/33
Civic LX CVT 31/40/34
Civic Sport MT 30/39/33
Civic Sport CVT 30/36/32
Civic EX CVT 31/40/34
Civic EX-L Navi CVT 31/40/34
Mazda3 Sport 6AT 28/37/31
Mazda3 Sport 6MT 27/27/31
Mazda3 Touring 2.5 6MT 25/33/28
Mazda3 Touring 2.5 6AT 26/35/30
Mazda3 GT 6MT 25/33/28
Mazda3 GT 6AT 26/35/30

Suspension and Safety

You’ll find that the Civic and the Mazda3 both make use of a MacPherson strut system up front, a multi-link system in the rear, and both make use of an electronically assisted power steering system. If you’re more into spirited driving, the Mazda3 should provide slightly better stopping power as it uses 11.61-inch brakes up front and 10.43-inch discs in the rear. In comparison, the Civic runs slightly smaller units at 11.1 inches in the front and 10.2 inches in the rear. Turning diameter, curb-to-curb, for the Civic is 35.7 feet in all models except for the sport that does it in 37.8 feet. All models of the Mazda 3 do the circle in 34.8 feet.

On the safety front, you’ll find that the Civic comes pretty well equipped with the following active safety features across the entire range: stability control, traction control, ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist, rear view camera, TPMS, and LED DRLs. On the Mazda 3, you’ll find things like ABS and EBD to go with hill launch assist, stability control, traction control, rearview camera, and a TPMS system. All trim levels of each make come with the required airbags and 3-point safety belts that feature pretensioners with force limiters.


The Civic Hatchback is offered in five different trims. The entry-level model is the LX at $19,700. The next model up is the sport at $21,300, which is followed by the EX at $22,800. The EX-L Navi is the next in line at $25,300 and the range-topping model – the Sport Touring – commands $28,300. On the Mazda side of things, you’ll find that things are a little more affordable. The entry-level Sport trim comes in at $20,145 while the Touring trim comes in at $22,245. The Touring 2.5 model commands $23,445 while the range-topping Grand Touring model comes in at $24,945. These prices are all before options, taxes, and delivery, and are valid as of March of 2017.

Honda Civic LX Hatchback 1.5 L Turbo 6MT $19,700
Honda Civic LX Hatchback 1.5 L Turbo CVT $20,500
Honda Civic Sport Hatchback 1.5 L Turbo 6-Speed Manual $21,300
Honda Civic Sport Hatchback 1.5 L Turbo 6-Speed CVT $22,100
Honda Civic EX Hatchback 1.5 L Turbo CVT $22,800
Honda Civic EX Hatchback 1.5 L Turbo w/Honda Sensing $23,800
Honda Civic EX-L Hatchback 1.5 L Turbo Navi CVT $25,300
Honda Civic EX-L Hatchback 1.5 L Turbo Navi w/Honda Sensing CVT $26,300
Honda Civic Sport Touring Hatchback 1.5 L Turbo CVT $28,300
Mazda3 Sport $20,145
Mazda3 Touring $22,245
Mazda3 Touring 2.5 $23,445
Mazda3 Grand Touring $24,945

Options and Packages

Honda Civic
Body Side Molding $217
Door Trim, Chrome $275
Fog Lights $425
Nose Mask $158
Underbody Spoiler - Front $400
Underbody Spoiler – Rear $400
Underbody Spoiler – Side $615
Wireless Phone Charger $305
Appearance Package $1,750
Premium Equipment Package $1,600
I-Activsense Safety package $1,100
I-Eloop Package $800
mazda Mobile Start $550
Rear Parking sensors $495

Final Thoughts

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback High Resolution Exterior
- image 688644
2016 - 2018 Mazda3 High Resolution Exterior Interior
- image 711215
2017 Honda Civic Hatchback High Resolution Exterior
- image 688646
2016 - 2018 Mazda3 High Resolution Exterior Interior
- image 711216

In the end, both models offer similar power outputs, with the Mazda3 coming in just a little higher when you opt for the 2.5-liter models. On the low side of the spectrum, however, the Civic gets the award for more power as well as the pleasure of being more fuel efficient than Mazda’s competitor. Overall, the civic is lighter than the Mazda 3, so you can expect lower trim levels to be just a bit quicker than that of the Mazda3. The Civic tips the scales at anywhere between 2,815 pounds and 2,965 pounds while the Mazda3 can weigh anywhere between 2,875 and 2940, all dependent on configuration. With that said, a purchase decision will probably boil down to just a couple of things, with things like the overall body style and interior designs taking president over things like power output and performance. Both are pretty evenly matched, but the upper trim levels of the Mazda3 should probably be considered if you’re looking for more power. Plus, it will have that little extra edge when it comes to spirited driving on windy roads or during a quick weekend at the track.

What do you think?
Car Finder: