2021 Honda Civic vs. 2021 Mazda 3 Comparison

Few cars can equal the name recognition and sales success of the Honda Civic. This compact sedan is one of the most popular cars ever sold in the United States, and although Honda often cites its appeal among Millennials, their Gen X parents and Boomer grandparents have owned their share of Civics, too.

The Mazda 3 sedan has not been around long enough to become part of family traditions, but it's an excellent small car that competes closely with the Honda on pricing, features, safety, and just about everything else.

Both cars take aim at consumers seeking a sportier driving experience, but the stylish Mazda 3 is more overtly athletic, especially when equipped with its optional turbocharged engine. And it has some of the richest interior furnishings ever offered in this class.

If you're shopping for a compact sedan, the Honda Civic and Mazda 3 merit strong consideration. Here's a 2021 Honda Civic vs. 2021 Mazda 3 comparison to help you sort out what's most important to you.

Price and Value

2021 Honda Civic Touring Red Side View Front

2021 Honda Civic Touring

Consumers looking at the 2021 Honda Civic sedan will find that it ranges in price from $21,250 to $28,300, not including a $995 destination charge. There's also a four-door hatchback body style. It's priced slightly higher than the sedan with a base window sticker of $22,200. At the top of the Civic lineup is the high-performance Civic Type R. It's offered as a hatchback only.

Entry-level Civic sedans have a refined 4-cylinder engine that provides adequate performance. Civics with this engine come in LX and Sport trim levels. More excitement is available on the Civic EX, EX-L, and Touring, which upgrade to a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine.

Honda offers a HondaLink connected services plan on every 2021 Civic sedan, but there's really not much to it. You can use the HondaLink app to check fuel range and oil life, and schedule service appointments. On Civics with factory navigation, you can look up destinations on your phone and send them to the nav system. We expect the redesigned 2022 Civic to offer a more useful package of connected services when it goes on sale in the late spring of 2021.

There's no complimentary scheduled maintenance plan for the 2021 Honda Civic, though you can buy a prepaid maintenance plan.

Honda resale value is legendary, and sure enough, the Civic was the top-ranked compact car in the J.D. Power 2020 U.S. Resale Value Awards.

If you're shopping for a 2021 Mazda 3 sedan, you'll note a price range of $20,650 to $32,600, not including a $995 destination charge. The 3 also has a four-door hatchback counterpart. It has a starting price of $22,650.

The base 2021 Mazda 3 sedan has a smooth but unremarkable 4-cylinder engine and comes in a single trim level with an engine designation of 2.0. Most buyers choose a Mazda 3 sedan with the larger, more powerful, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. It wears a 2.5 engine designation and comes in S, Select, Preferred, and Premium trim levels.

There's a positively vigorous turbocharged engine on the 2.5 Turbo and 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus trims for those seeking a significant power upgrade.

A Mazda Connected Services plan is standard on all Mazda 3 sedans, and you'll probably get some use out of it. You can use the MyMazda app to start the engine, lock the doors, turn off the lights, and monitor both fuel level and tire pressure.

There's a vehicle locator feature for crowded parking facilities, and in the event of a moderate or severe collision, your Mazda 3 will automatically dial 911 from your paired phone. On sedans with Mazda's SD card-based navigation system, you can send destinations to the car. All of the above features are complimentary for the first three years you own a 2021 Mazda 3 sedan.

The Mazda 3 also has an in-vehicle Wi-Fi hotspot. The free trial period lasts up to six months and lets you use 2 GB worth of data. After that, you'll need to buy a Verizon subscription to continue using it.

There's no free scheduled maintenance on the 2021 Mazda 3. Instead, Mazda offers prepaid plans for purchase.

Advantage: Honda Civic

Reliability and Quality

2021 Mazda 3 Premium Gray Side View Front

2021 Mazda 3 Premium

The Honda Civic did not rank in either the J.D. Power 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study or the 2020 Initial Quality Study. The Civic comes with the following warranty and roadside assistance coverage:

  • Standard warranty: 3 years or 36,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles
  • Roadside assistance: 3 years or 36,000 miles

The Mazda 3 also did not rank in the 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study or 2020 Initial Quality Study. 

Mazda's small sedan comes with the following warranty and roadside assistance coverage:

  • Standard warranty: 3 years or 36,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles
  • Roadside assistance: 3 years or 36,000 miles

Advantage: Neither. Their warranty coverage is identical, and neither ranks high in J.D. Power studies of dependability and quality.

Performance and Efficiency

2021 Honda Civic Touring Interior Dashboard

2021 Honda Civic Touring

For 2021, there are two engines available on the 2021 Honda Civic sedan. A 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine is standard on the Civic LX and Sport. This engine generates 158 horsepower and 138 pound-feet of torque.

A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is the only transmission offered on the sedan for 2021. It drives the front wheels and generally behaves like a regular automatic transmission. If you want a manual transmission, you can still get one on the Civic hatchback.

For a livelier Civic ownership experience, you can consider the Civic EX, EX-L, and Touring sedans, which have a turbocharged, 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 174 hp and 162 lb.-ft. of torque (the hatchback has a 180-hp version). A CVT is standard. 

Combined fuel economy is in the 30s regardless of engine choice. The 2021 Honda Civic LX earns a 33 mpg EPA fuel economy rating in combined city and highway driving, while the Civic Sport trim has a 32 mpg rating. The EX trims come in at 36 mpg combined, while the Civic Touring rates 33 mpg.

Three engines are available on the 2021 Mazda 3 sedan. The base sedan has a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 155 hp and 150 lb.-ft. of torque. A 6-speed automatic transmission is standard, and it drives the front wheels.

Next up is the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. Standard on most Mazda 3 trims, it makes an impressive 186 hp and 186 lb.-ft. of torque. The 6-speed automatic and front-wheel drive are standard, and there's an optional all-wheel-drive system. A manual transmission is not available on the Mazda 3 sedan, but you can have one on the hatchback.

If that's not enough performance for you, look to the thrilling Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo models. A turbocharged version of the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder in these sedans generates 227 hp and 310 lb.-ft. of torque (or 250 hp and 320 lb.-ft. if you fill up with 93-octane fuel). The automatic transmission is standard, as is AWD.

Fuel economy in combined city and highway driving rates 31 mpg on the base Mazda 3 sedan with the 2.0-liter engine and 30 mpg on front-wheel-drive sedans with the 2.5-liter engine. If you opt for AWD with the non-turbo 2.5-liter engine, the combined fuel economy rating is 28 mpg.

Combined fuel economy dips only slightly to 27 mpg on the Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo sedan. But keep in mind that the efficiency of turbocharged engines is more easily affected by your driving style. If you're flooring the throttle at every opportunity, your mileage will be lower.

Advantage: Mazda 3

Safety and Driving Assistance

2021 Mazda3 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus Sedan Dashboard White Leather Seats

2021 Mazda3 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus; Photo by Christian Wardlaw

On the safety front, both the 2021 Honda Civic and 2021 Mazda 3 offer advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) as standard equipment, but there are some key differences. 

All Civics come with a package of ADAS technology called Honda Sensing. It includes standard adaptive cruise control, a forward-collision warning system, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assistance (known as Road Departure Mitigation), and automatic high-beam headlight control. Honda Sensing also offers lane-centering assistance, but Honda calls this feature a Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), which can be confusing.

Since it has both adaptive cruise control and lane centering, the Civic provides what is known as Level 2 semi-autonomous driving assistance. But Honda does not intend for drivers to rely on it in heavy traffic. The adaptive cruise offers stop-and-go capability (so that it automatically resumes after very brief traffic delays), but you must keep your hands on the steering wheel.

The 2021 Civic sedan does not offer a blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic warning system. This is a notable omission, and we expect Honda to address it on the 2022 Civic. Until then, there's the antiquated LaneWatch system, which projects an image of what's in your blind spot onto the infotainment display whenever you turn on the right-hand turn signal. It's better than nothing, but it only shows you what's on the passenger's side of the car. It's standard on the EX and up.

The Civic has a 5-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for overall crash protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates the 2021 Civic sedan a Top Safety Pick.

Mazda refers to its collection of ADAS technology as i-Activsense. It's standard on all 2021 Mazda 3 sedans and has all the same useful features as Honda Sensing, including adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability. Also included on the Mazda 3 is a driver attention system that sounds a chime when it senses erratic driving behavior.

Blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems are standard starting on the Mazda 3 sedan's 2.5 Select trim level. The 2.5 Premium and 2.5 Turbo add adaptive headlights that help you see around corners. Traffic sign recognition is included on the 2.5 Premium and 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus (but not the base 2.5 Turbo).

Notably, the 2021 Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus sedan is the only version that offers lane-centering assistance to go along the car's adaptive cruise control. Mazda calls this Traffic Jam Assist, and as on the Civic, you have to keep your hands on the steering wheel when using it.

The Premium Plus is also the lone Mazda 3 sedan to offer rear automatic emergency braking and a surround-view camera system.

Like the Civic, the Mazda has a 5-star overall safety rating from the NHTSA. The IIHS rated the 2021 Mazda 3 a Top Safety Pick+, the Institute's highest designation for safety.

Advantage: Mazda 3

Infotainment and Technology

2021 Honda Civic Touring Red Rear Quarter Action

2021 Honda Civic Touring

Unless you're content listening to the radio, you won't have much patience for the basic infotainment package in the 2021 Honda Civic LX. The LX has a 5-inch LCD screen, Bluetooth, a single USB port, and four audio speakers.

The Civic Sport is a better bet for most buyers. It offers a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment interface, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration, an additional USB input, and eight audio speakers. The EX adds a 3-month trial subscription to SiriusXM satellite radio.

The Civic Touring has a factory navigation system with Honda HD Digital Traffic and an upgraded, 10-speaker audio system.

Meanwhile, all 2021 Mazda 3 sedans come with an 8.8-inch widescreen infotainment display perched elegantly atop the dash. It's not a touchscreen interface, though, so you must operate it from the control dial on the center console. This interface typically takes longer to learn than a touchscreen, and using voice control is a must in navigation mode.

The base 2.0 sedan comes with Bluetooth, text messaging capability, HD radio, Pandora, two USB inputs, and eight audio speakers. For Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, you'll need to step up to at least the 2.5 S sedan.

The Mazda 3 2.5 Premium and both Turbo trims upgrade to a 12-speaker Bose audio system and add a 3-month satellite radio subscription. The 2.5 Premium and 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus have a factory navigation system and a 3-year subscription to SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link.

Advantage: Neither. The Mazda 3 has a newer infotainment system with a larger display, but it lacks the touchscreen functionality that most consumers want. We recommend trying both interfaces before you decide.

Comfort and Utility

2021 Mazda 3 Premium Sedan Gray Rear Quarter Action

2021 Mazda 3 Premium Sedan

The 2021 Honda Civic LX sedan comes with just enough amenities to make you comfortable, including automatic climate control, driver's seat-height adjustment, and a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. If you want a push-button start and a smart keyless system (allowing the remote to stay in your pocket), proceed directly to the Civic Sport.

You'll find dual-zone climate control, an 8-way power driver's seat, and heated front seats in the Civic EX. The EX-L adds leather upholstery, while the Touring offers a 4-way power passenger's seat and heated rear seats.

Trunk capacity is incredible for a compact sedan at 15.1 cubic feet (14.7 in the Touring). The LX has a single-piece folding rear seat-back, but all other trims offer a more useful 60/40 split.

Standard equipment on the 2021 Mazda 3 includes manual air-conditioning, driver's seat-height adjustment, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, and push-button start. The Select trim level adds dual-zone automatic climate control, a smart keyless system, and leatherette upholstery (instead of cloth).

The Preferred adds an 8-way power driver's seat with memory settings and heated front seats. Both Turbo models have a heated steering wheel. Only the 2.5 Premium and 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus have leather upholstery.

Trunk capacity measures 13.2 cu.-ft. in every Mazda 3 sedan. A 60/40-split folding rear seat is standard across the board.

Advantage: Neither. The Civic has a larger backseat and trunk. But if you're not as concerned about interior space, the Mazda 3 has superb interior furnishings that are worthy of an entry-level luxury sedan.

Learn More About the Honda Civic and Mazda 3

If you'd like to learn more about these compact sedans, be sure to read our expert reviews of the Honda Civic (including the hatchback) and the 2021 Mazda 3 (including the hatchback). To find out how people like you rate vehicles in this segment, be sure to check out our ratings from verified vehicle owners.

Also, please keep in mind that while the information in this article was accurate and valid on March 23, 2021, it may have changed since that date. Always confirm product details and availability with the automaker's website or your local dealership.