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Why Would You Buy a Mustang or Miata Over a Civic Type R?

In terms of pure sales, the Ford Mustang shows the answer isn’t always Miata. But despite their differences, both the Mustang and the Mazda Miata rank high on enthusiasts’ lists of affordable sports cars. Not least because of their tunability. However, although both are performance icons in their own right, another finally made it to the US a few years ago: the Honda Civic Type R. And the 2020 model may be enough to tempt a few Ford Mustang and Mazda MX-5 owners away.

2020 Honda Civic Type R vs. Ford Mustang vs. Mazda Miata: cost and performance

A gray 2020 Honda Civic Type R against a concrete wall
2020 Honda Civic Type R side view | Matthew Skwarczek

True, the Honda Civic Type R is a front-wheel-drive hot hatch, and the Ford Mustang and Mazda Miata are RWD sports cars. But in terms of performance per dollar, the 3 are fairly close.

A grey Ford Mustang speeding down a tree-lined road
2020 Ford Mustang | Ford

The 2020 CTR starts at $36,995. In contrast, the turbocharged Mustang EcoBoost starts at $26,670; the V8 GT trim starts at $35,880. Meanwhile, the Mazda MX-5 Miata starts at $26,580. But if you want features like a limited-slip differential, Bilstein shocks, and sportier suspension, you’ll need to get the $30,290 Club, Motor Trend reports.

2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata 30th Anniversary
2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata 30th Anniversary | Mazda

In a straight line, the Civic Type R falls in-between the Miata and the Ford Mustang. Car and Driver reports Honda’s hottest hatch can go 0-60 in 5 seconds, thanks to a 306-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. Meanwhile, despite the Miata’s low curb weight, its updated 181-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder makes it 0.3 seconds slower, Car and Driver reports.

Getting the Mustang EcoBoost’s Performance Pack adds about $5000 to the price tag, Car and Driver reports. But it boosts the 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder to deliver 332 hp and 350 lb-ft. As a result, the manual turbocharged Mustang goes 0-60 in 4.9 seconds, Autoblog reports. As for the GT, with a 6-speed manual, it hits 60 in 4.2 seconds, Car and Driver reports.

Other performance features

So, in a straight line, the Ford Mustang beats out the Civic Type R and Miata. But neither of those cars are focused solely on acceleration. And it’s here where the Mustang’s value edge starts to crack.

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To get the most out of the EcoBoost Performance Package, you need to spend another $2000 to get the Handling Package, Autoblog reports. This adds a stiffer anti-roll bar, larger brakes, a strut-tower brace, stickier tires, magnetic dampers, and a limited-slip differential. But at this point, your Mustang is only slightly cheaper than the Type R, which comes standard with similar features. And if you were to do the same to the GT, it would be significantly more expensive.

As for the Mazda Miata, it benefits from the optional BBS/Recaro Package, Road & Track reports. For $4470, this gives the roadster BBS wheels, Brembo brakes, and heated Recaro sport seats. And this puts it at roughly the same price as the CTR, which has sport seats and Brembos as standard equipment. The Civic Type R’s seats aren’t heated, though.

But, although these different packages sharpen the Mustang’s and Miata’s reflexes, they don’t make them more practical. And it’s here where the Honda Civic Type R pulls ahead.

Civic Type R vs. Mustang vs. Miata: features and practicality

Like the Mazda Miata, the 2020 Honda Civic Type R comes with a full ADAS suite. Both the roadster and the hot hatch feature lane-departure warning, automatic emergency braking, and traffic alert.

RELATED: Why Was the Mazdaspeed Miata a One-Hit Wonder?

However, while the CTR has standard adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist, that’s not available on the Miata. The Miata, though, has blind-spot monitoring, and the Civic Type R doesn’t.

The rear view of an orange 2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost High Performance
2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost High Performance rear | Ford

In contrast, the Ford Mustang doesn’t come standard with any of these features, Car and Driver reports. They’re part of a $1000 optional package. The four-cylinder muscle car also doesn’t offer navigation as standard equipment; neither does the Miata.

The 2020 Honda Civic Type R's interior
2020 Honda Civic Type R rear interior | Matthew Skwarczek

Then there’s the issue of space. True, the Honda Civic Type R only has 2 real rear seats. Instead of a middle seat, there’s a storage area and some cupholders. However, the Mazda Miata lacks rear seats completely. And while the Ford Mustang has rear seats, they’re not exactly comfortable or spacious. The CTR also has actual rear doors.

The rear black-leather seats of the 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt
2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt rear seats | Ford

The Honda Civic Type R also has more cargo space than either of the other two. The Mustang can hold 12 carry-on suitcases, Car and Driver reports, but only with its rear seats folded. Meanwhile, even without folding its rear seats, the CTR can hold 6, Car and Driver reports. Its trunk alone has roughly twice the space as the Mustang does, CarIndigo reports.

Choosing between them

1999 Mazda MX-5 Miata 10AE side
1999 Mazda MX-5 Miata 10AE side | Matthew Skwarczek

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None of these things means the Ford Mustang or Mazda Miata are bad cars. I own an NB Miata and love driving it. And although the Chevrolet Camaro is arguably sharper than the Mustang, the Ford is by no means a poor performance car.

Practicality and acceleration aside, these cars also don’t drive quite the same way. Although the Civic Type R is stiff, it’s more composed than its appearance suggests. And for a FWD car, it has very neutral handling. Plus, its 6-speed manual’s throws are delightfully solid and short.

The Ford Mustang’s shifter throws are longer, and it lacks the Type R’s automatic rev-matching. But with the Performance and Handling Packages, it’s a fun and sharp car, The Drive reports. Meanwhile, the Miata arguably has more steering feel, and its less-aggressive tires and wheels likely make for a more compliant ride. And though it’s down on power, that also makes it a great teaching car.

RELATED: The 2020 Honda Civic Type R Lives up To the Hype

So, if you need a car that’s about pure dynamics, the Mustang and Miata are great choices. But if you need something that can carve up a road while carrying your friends and their groceries, the Honda Civic Type R is the one to get. And you don’t have to add any extra packages to do it.

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