We prefer Mazda’s 8.8-inch screen over Honda‘s 7.0-inch screen, but we’d rather have Honda’s touch-controlled infotainment system than Mazda’s rotary knob. The Mazda3 has a head-up display and a bigger screen, and the display is located on top of the dashboard, making it easier for the driver to operate the screen without being distracted from the road. Ogbac, our resident infotainment-meister, described Mazda’s system as “a step backward” for being a maze of menus. “It takes too many steps to change satellite radio stations—five or more at least,” he said. “Using a knob is really distracting, taking your concentration away from the road.”
On the other hand, although the Civic’s infotainment is slow and looks a bit outdated, it’s easier to control. Everything is well organized, and you can get to where you want easier. A volume knob is “new” for 2019, returning after a three-year absence. Both cars have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. “I do wish you could get a larger touchscreen because the 7.0-inch looks tiny next to the Mazda3’s 8.8-inch display,” Ogbac said. “The upgraded audio system is pretty good, too, second best behind the Mazda’s Bose unit.”
The previous Mazda3’s driving abilities made the vehicle one of our favorites. Mazda’s powertrain was well calibrated, and it brought a sense of driving enjoyment other cars in its class didn’t have. But for 2019 Mazda did things differently with the 3: It ditched the independent rear suspension for a cost-saving torsion beam, which dramatically changes the way it behaves on the road. “I felt more road imperfections in the Mazda than I did in the Honda,” Gale said.
When driving over Portuguese Bend’s broken pavement on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, the Mazda3’s rear felt like it lost traction whenever we drove over a bump on a corner. “Get ready to feel the rear end skitter and jump around the moment you go over uneven pavement,” Ogbac said. Once you drive over smooth pavement, the ride is refined, but the moment there’s a bump or imperfection on the road, things go down.
We also weren’t in love with the 2.5-liter engine. It has adequate power when you’re going straight on flat surfaces, but when you try to merge on the freeway or go uphill, the powertrain struggles. Although the cabin is mostly quiet in normal driving situations, when you step on the gas, you’ll hear a good roar from the engine. The updated engine made the compact sedan 0.1 second faster than the last Mazda3 we tested, getting from 0 to 60 mph in 7.3 seconds. One other nitpick with the Mazda3: Its brake pedal was hard to predict, feeling like you needed to press down hard in order to come to a stop. This was also noticeable at the track, where testing director Kim Reynolds had a hard time with the braking during the figure-eight test.
On the other hand, the Civic felt pretty familiar with its punchy 1.5-liter turbo, which doesn’t exert itself much to go uphill or merge onto the freeway. Although we’ve complained about the loud CVT, it works smoothly and generally does a good job. We also prefer it over the Mazda’s six-speed, which showed some jerkiness at low driving speeds. Its independent rear suspension tackles most road imperfections before you feel any vibrations in the cabin, and when the bumps are big, the springs and shocks get to work to keep cabin movement to a minimum. The Civic also feels planted in the corners, showing low body roll and also providing a fun driving experience. “Its steering is also really quick and direct, giving the driver a connected feel on the road and letting you know exactly what the front wheels are doing,” Ogbac said.
At the track, the Civic showed slightly better numbers than the Mazda, getting from 0 to 60 mph in 7.0 seconds and completing the quarter mile in 15.4 seconds at 90.8 mph (15.7 seconds at 90.3 mph for the Mazda3). Our Honda also had better braking numbers from 60 to 0 mph—115 feet over the Mazda’s 117 feet.
For 2019, every Civic comes standard with the Honda Sensing safety technologies suite. Customers get adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, automatic emergency braking, and other additional techs. During our drive, the lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control worked really well on the highway; the Civic kept a good distance between the car in front of us and read the lane marks correctly. “Honda Sensing is the best suite here,” Ogbac said. But one thing we missed on the Civic was blind-spot monitoring; the Honda still uses the outdated LaneWatch, which displays a camera view of the car’s right side on the infotainment screen when the right turning signal is on. For the driver’s side, there are no alerts or any kind of monitoring. Gale, however, still preferred LaneWatch over blind-spot monitoring.
Mazda, on the other hand, falls short on the list of safety technologies, as the 3 doesn’t even get automatic emergency braking standard. To get comparable safety tech on the Mazda3, you’ll have to opt for the Select package; the Select package includes lane keep assist, lane departure warning, driver attention alert, and Mazda’s Smart City Brake Support with pedestrian detection (among others). Although our Mazda3 with the Premium package had these options, we weren’t as pleased with the way they worked. Lane keep assist only intervened when the car had gone over the lane on the highway, and the adaptive cruise control left such a long following distance that we kept getting cut off.
The final decision in this comparison wasn’t difficult. Although the new 3 has great styling and a premium interior, the changes made to its suspension and powertrain and its lack of standard safety technologies kept it from earning top honors. The new Mazda3 is still fun to drive, but it doesn’t have the same character it used to. If you’re cross-shopping between these two cars, you should also know that the Mazda has worse fuel economy numbers.
The Civic, on the other hand, continues to deliver on everything it promises. It can be sporty when you want it to be fun and quiet when you need a peaceful ride. Its value, standard equipment, and interior space are superior to Mazda’s, and it simply continues to be the best car in its class.
|2019 Honda Civic Touring Sedan||2019 Mazda Mazda3 (Premium) Sedan|
|DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD||Front-engine, FWD|
|ENGINE TYPE||Turbocharged I-4, alum block/head||I-4, alum block/head|
|VALVETRAIN||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl|
|DISPLACEMENT||91.4 cu in/1,498 cc||151.8 cu in/2,488 cc|
|POWER (SAE NET)||174 hp @ 6,000 rpm||186 hp @ 6,000 rpm|
|TORQUE (SAE NET)||162 lb-ft @ 1,700 rpm||186 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm|
|REDLINE||6,500 rpm||6,500 rpm|
|WEIGHT TO POWER||17.0 lb/hp||16.7 lb/hp|
|TRANSMISSION||Cont variable auto||6-speed automatic|
|SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR||Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar||Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; torsion beam, coil springs|
|BRAKES, F; R||11.1-in vented disc; 10.2-in disc, ABS||11.0-in vented disc; 10.4-in disc, ABS|
|WHEELS||8.0 x 18-in cast aluminum||7.0 x 18-in cast aluminum|
|TIRES||235/40R18 91W (M+S) Continental ContiProContact||215/45R18 89V (M+S) Toyo Proxes A40|
|WHEELBASE||106.3 in||107.3 in|
|TRACK, F/R||60.9 in/61.5 in||61.7/62.2 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||182.7 x 70.9 x 55.7 in||183.5 x 70.7 x 56.9 in|
|TURNING CIRCLE||37.4 ft||34.8 ft|
|CURB WEIGHT||2,956 lb||3,110 lb|
|WEIGHT DIST, F/R||61/39%||62/38%|
|HEADROOM, F/R||37.5 in/36.8 in||37.6/36.7 in|
|LEGROOM, F/R||42.3 in/37.4 in||42.3/35.1 in|
|SHOULDER ROOM, F/R||56.9 in/55.0 in||55.7/53.5 in|
|CARGO VOLUME||14.7 cu ft||13.2 cu ft|
|ACCELERATION TO MPH|
|0-30||2.6 sec||2.6 sec|
|PASSING, 45-65 MPH||3.5||3.9|
|QUARTER MILE||15.4 sec @ 90.8 mph||15.7 sec @ 90.3 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||115 ft||117 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.90 g (avg)||0.86 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.6 sec @ 0.67 g (avg)||26.7 sec @ 0.65 g (avg)|
|TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH||1,700 rpm||1,800 rpm|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$28,220||$29,415|
|AIRBAGS||6: Dual front, front side, f/r curtain||8: Dual front, front side, f/r curtain, front knee|
|BASIC WARRANTY||3 yrs/36,000 miles||3 yrs/36,000 miles|
|POWERTRAIN WARRANTY||5 yrs/60,000 miles||5 yrs/60,000 miles|
|ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE||3 yrs/36,000 miles||3 yrs/36,000 miles|
|FUEL CAPACITY||12.4 gal||13.2 gal|
|REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB||28.32/43.0/33.4 mpg||26.3/40.2/31.2 mpg|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON||30/38/33 mpg||27/36/30 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||112/89 kW-hrs/100 miles||125/94 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.59 lb/mile||0.64 lb/mile|
|RECOMMENDED FUEL||Unleaded regular||Unleaded regular|