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Article Highlights

  • The new Civic is the hot new thing, but is it hot enough?
  • Mazda’s 3 sedan stands out from the rest
  • Specs, pricing, and safety awards for each vehicle

Honda recently unveiled its new Civic and Civic Si models. With the arrival of the 2022 Honda Civic, it’s time to examine what might just be its closest compact sedan competitor this side of the Volkswagen Jetta: The 2021 Mazda 3. Both offer more upscale trims, but the Honda has a slightly more sporty edge. To say this is going to be tight is an understatement.

2021 Honda Civic2021 Mazda 3
Price Range$22,915-$27,615$23,845-$34,895
Engine Options2.0L four-cylinder, 1.5L turbocharged four-cylinder2.5L four-cylinder, 2.5L turbocharged four-cylinder
Horsepower158 hp, 180 hp186 hp, 227 hp
Torque138 lb-ft, 177 lb-ft186 lb-ft, 310 hp
TransmissionCTV automatic transmission, manual transmissionAutomatic transmission
MPG Rating35/31/40, combined/city/highway26/23/31
IIHS Safety RatingTop Safety Pick+Top Safety Pick+
NHTSA Safety Rating5 Stars5 Stars

2022 Honda Civic

  • Pros: Cheaper, manual transmission, legendary reliability
  • Cons: FWD only, laundry list of options makes speccing tedious

The 2022 Honda Civic needs little introduction. Currently, this thing is just about the hottest compact sedan on the market. So, that means it’s at least got reputation going for it. Speaking of, we’d be remiss not to discuss the other aspect of Honda’s reputation: reliability. Early tests are promising and the fit and finish is strong. We expect this new Civic to be one for the ages, at least in terms of reliability.

However, the 2021 Mazda 3 does have one big advantage here: AWD. For some, that’s a big deal, though standard wireless Carplay and Android Auto are there to massage the blow a little. That said, some good snow tires will make this car an all-season ride. Pricing is slightly below the Mazda, but despite good fit and finish, the interior does lack a little compared to the 3. Then again, the money has to go somewhere. You can read more on the 2022 Honda Civic here in our full review.

2021 Mazda 3

 grey 2021 Mazda 3 hatchback shot in the canyons outside LA from the front 3/4
The Mazda 3 has a semi-luxury eir about it | Mazda
  • Pros: AWD option, sleek looks, excellent interior
  • Cons: no manual transmission, higher price point

Now, the Mazda 3. The 2021 Mazda 3 leads the charge in an upmarket march by the Japanese brand. Mazda wants to position themselves upmarket of Honda, if only by a few thousand dollars. Where this really shows is the interior. Surfaces are nicer to touch and the sound system is a good bit nicer than the Civic. Plus, as we discussed above, optional AWD in both sedan and hatch configurations is something the Civic can’t beat.

However, if a manual is a must, the 2021 Mazda 3 and its faster Turbo variant aren’t for you. Only the 2021 Honda Civic lets you row your own in this compact sedan fight. Styling is subjective, but the looks of the Mazda 3 certainly shine through. Thankfully, both the 2022 Honda Civic and the 3 are available with a slew of standard and optional safety tech like lane keep and radar cruise control.

Which compact sedan is right for you?

A blue 2022 Honda Civic compact sedan shot in motion from profile
The 2022 Honda Civic comes in sedan or hatch styling | Honda

This 2022 Honda Civic Hatchback Is the Ultimate Fall Road Trip Machine

Frankly, it’s a tight race between the two. AWD makes the Mazda more enticing in colder climates, but the upper trim levels of the Turbo place it in dangerous Volkswagen GTI territory. The Civic is the reliable car, but no AWD can be a hangup for some. If interior quality matters more than anything, the Mazda is your champion. However, if rowing your own in a lightly hot Honda hatchback is your deal, the Civic can’t be replaced.