Honda Civic Sport Vs Mazda 3

Honda Civic Sport

Model tested: Honda Civic 1.4 Sport
Price: £18,360 Engine: 1.4-litre 4cyl, 98bhp

The new Honda Civic Sport aims to inject some much-needed showroom appeal into the soon-to-be-replaced family hatchback. It’s essentially an entry-level model, bur thanks to a host of cosmetic upgrades and some additional equipment, it looks and feels anything but. There’s also a new engine option in the form of the brand’s tried-and-tested 1.4-litre, and it’s this unit that we test here.

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Styling 3.9/5

Its been around for five years now, but the ninth-generation Civic has lost none of its visual presence. The British-built hatch stands out from the crowd with its aggressive nose treatment, double-decked tailgate and hidden rear door handles. It’s not as handsome or well proportioned as the sleek Mazda but there’s no denying it makes an impact.

The Sport model is given an extra dose of visual appeal courtesy of some design flourishes that are influenced by the Type R hot hatch. At the front is a racy mesh grille, while there’s a subtle tailgate spoiler at the rear. The makeover is completed by a set of black-painted 17-inch alloy wheels.

Honda has attempted to be equally bold with the Civic’s interior, although the results are something of a mixed bag. The wraparound dashboard has a futuristic look, but there’s a bit of a scatter-gun approach to the layout.

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Warparound dash feels modern, but isn’t the easiest layout to get on with. Materials have a high-quality finish, though, and cabin feels solid

For instance, the rev counter sits ahead of the driver and is flanked by temperature and fuel gauges, while the digital speedo sits in a deeply recessed binnacle above these dials. To the left of this is a large trip computer screen. It’s packed with information, but it’s fiddly to use and hobbled by low-resolution graphics. The same criticism can be levelled at the centrally mounted infotainment system, which also suffers from an aftermarket look and feel.

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Still, the interior appears solidly screwed together from decent-quality materials, including the soft leather thats used for the steering wheel. There are some hard plastics used lower down in the cabin, but it doesn’t detract from the overall feeling of quality. There’s loads of standard kit, too.

It lacks the Mazda’s sat-nav, but in all other respects, the Civic is much more lavishly appointed. Climate and cruise control are included, as are a reversing camera and parking sensors. You can also specify some neat personalisation options, such as a racy £495 Rally Red Pack that adds red accents to the door mirrors, front grille and rear bumper.

Driving 3.6/5

The sporty upgrades mean the Honda looks the part, but at the track, the newcomer struggles to impress.

While its 98bhp l.4-litre four-cylinder engine matches the Mazda’s slightly larger unit for power, its 127Nm torque figure is 23Nm down on its rival’s. Plus, the Honda’s maximum muscle is delivered at 4,800rpm, which is 800rpm higher up the rev range.

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As a result, the Civic trailed the 3 in almost all of our performance assessments. It completed the 060 mph sprint in a time of 11.4 seconds, which was a full second slower than the Mazda.

Only in sixth was the Civic able to turn the tables, thanks largely to a much shorter top gear that sees the engine spinning at 3,20orpm at 70mph. Yet away from the track, the Honda doesn’t feel quite as sluggish as the figures suggest. It revs willingly and relatively smoothly, only sounding a little strained as it closes in on the 6,500rpm red line.

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Manul box’s shorter top ratio helped the Civic win back some points here, as torque shortfall means it trailed its rival

Accessing the Sport’s limited performance potential is made easier by the slick and precise six-speed gearbox, which is matched to a light and progressive clutch. Yet head down a back road and it’s immediately obvious that the Honda isn’t as much fun to drive as its rival here. There’s decent grip and body movements are well controlled, but the steering is slower and lacks feedback. Overall, it’s safe and composed; it’s just missing the involvement of the 3.

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On the plus side, according to our noise meter figures, the Civic is quieter than the Mazda, while the suspension is reasonably supple. Potholes send a shudder through the car, but in most other respects the ride is well cushioned.

Ownership 3.9/5

You can be reasonably confident of a good customer service experience as a Civic owner, with the firm’s garages finishing eighth out of 31 in a dealer poll.

The Honda scores well for safety, with all models getting six airbags, stability control and autonomous emergency braking. Also included are a speed limiter and emergency stop signalling, which automatically flashes the hazard lights under heavy braking.

Running costs 4.1/5

It’s clear that Honda is sending the Civic out on a value-for-money high. At £18.360, our 1.4 Sport costs £700 more than the Mazda, but you get a lot more standard equipment. In fact, to match the Honda’s impressive kit tally you’ll have to trade up to an SE-L Nav-spec 3, which means a larger 2.0-litre engine and a heftier £19,495 price tag.

Private buyers will be heartened by the Civic’s strong residuals, too, with our experts calculating 47.0 per cent residuals after three years. We also recorded a decent 36.8mpg return at the pumps.

It’s not all good news, though. The Honda’s relatively high C02 emissions of 131g/km mean annual tax will set you back £130, which is £100 more than Mazda owners will spend. Business users will also be out of pocket, with lower-rate earners paying around £150 more in Benefit in Kind over a year.

Practicality 4.4/5

This generation of Civic has always scored strongly in the practicality stakes, and our Sport model is no exception. Like all examples, it gets a vast and well shaped 477-litre boot, which benefits from a wide opening and low load lip. There’s also a deep underfloor storage compartment, while folding the rear seats flat liberates 1378 litres of capacity.

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The Civic features the brand’s Magic Seat arrangement, too. This set-up allows you to fold the seatbases up, leaving a large load through space that’s perfect for items such as bicycles. Elsewhere, the Honda serves up generous head and legroom in the rear, while there’s loads of handy storage, including a large glovebox and decent door bins.

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