Compact cars are well-known for their cost-effectiveness, value and affordability as well as their small stature. In general, they make great commuter cars and are especially good for first-time cars for kids or college students heading out for the first time or families with only one child. While putting a car seat in the back might be a bit of a challenge, it will be worth the struggle for the cost savings.
The Mazda 3 and the Honda Civic both provide a reasonable price-point and are eco-conscious choices that drive nicely but also tend to be a bit on the bland side. The handling and stability of the Mazda 3 are prized as well as the class-leading feel of the steering and nicely configured interior. The Civic offers just a tad more interior room and comfort, has a smooth and absorbent ride and a roomy trunk.
The Honda Civic is a bland and basic offering, with hard plastic dash materials and limited interior add-ons – with everything in a very basic and plain look, including rubber front and rear floor mats instead of carpet and the lack of rear cup holders. The Mazda 3 does have some additional options such as 1-touch windows up and down at least for the driver; which are not even offered in the Civic. The steering wheel of both trimmed-down vehicles is made of plastic and vinyl, which is unlikely to be described as luxurious. Most options are either manual or missing; these two cars represent basic transportation at its best.
One of the differentiators in this almost-smallest car class is the fuel economy, and it doesn’t disappoint – at least in the Civic. The Honda Civic has a 36 mpg highway rating with a 28 mpg city rating; while the Mazda 3 lags behind with a 33 mpg highway and 25 mpg city rating – both of which feel significantly lower than the Civic. Both fuel tanks are small, but the Mazda 3’s wins that battle with a 14.5 gallon tank versus only 13.2 for the Civic.
When you’re driving every day, you need to know that your vehicle is as safe as possible, and here’s where the Mazda 3 really falls down. The Civic’s safety ratings are superior overall, with only a few stars lost throughout the ratings structure. However, you probably don’t want to be a passenger in the Mazda 3 – side crash and side barrier ratings are dismal – 2 or 3 stars out of 5.
While on the surface the cars seem comparable, check the safety ratings before you make a decision.