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April 25, 2017

2017 Honda HR-V EL vs 2017 Mazda CX-3 Sport 2WD

Objectively, Honda created the sub-compact crossover segment in the Philippines back in 1999. At first, buyers didn’t warm up to something smaller than a compact crossover, but fast forward to today and they’re considered vogue. They’re a foil to the diesel-powered SUVs, providing more style, driving fun, and urban maneuverability while still giving that added ground clearance that people crave nowadays. More than anything, they’re now seen as the compact sedan’s more fashionable alternative. And while you can buy a Honda Civic or Mazda3 for this sort of money, one can argue that going for either HR-V and the CX-3 is a visible sign that you’ve finally made it. The question is: which one is the fashion leader and which is the fashion follower?


The best way to appreciate the styling difference between the Honda HR-V and Mazda CX-3 is to park them side-by-side. On one hand, there’s the HR-V and its highly geometric shape. With or without the optional MUGEN body kit, it’s filled with tons of angles and creases. While it’s commendable that Honda is finding its styling form once more, it also makes the HR-V hard to digest. It tries to tick all the design must haves (pronounced wheel arches, flowing side creases, and rear door handles to name three) and a result, comes out fussy. Looking at the HR-V is like having a rich and heavy meal that’s chockfull of flavor; it’s good, but gets tiring on the taste buds after a few bites.

Mazda on the other hand has become the king of subtleties, tweaking its design formula to create a satisfying eye candy. Look around the CX-3 and there’s not one single element that overpowers the rest. Everything is done cohesively that it feels balanced. Where the HR-V goes bionic to gain attention, the CX-3 is more organic. The flowing lines make the Mazda way easier on the eyes and as an added bonus, it’ll likely stand the test of time. Of course, there are those who’ve begun to criticize Mazda for their cut-and-paste design. Rest assured though, there’s enough differentiation to go around. There’s a strong family resemblance going around for sure, but it’s not simply a case of using an enlarging or shrinking ray.

Winner: Mazda CX-3


Like its wedge-like and futuristic shape suggests, the Honda HR-V’s interior looks fussy. There are attempts to give it a techie vibe only to make the cabin look messy. A measure of design restraint aside, there’s little else to fault with the HR-V. The fit and finish are generally good and the choice of materials is at par with others in this class. There are some hard plastic bits, particularly on the doors, but nothing distracting. Though the cabin doesn’t strike one as being inviting to drive, the ergonomics are top-notch with the exception of the oddly uncomfortable seats. All the controls, stalks, and button are placed logically while the steering wheel and seats offer ample adjustment.

Next to the HR-V’s sensory overloading interior experience, the Mazda CX-3 once again plays towards one’s subtleties and sensibilities. The material variation here is way higher with four kinds of leather, suede, and aluminum to name just a few, and yet, everything comes together nicely to create a balanced driving environment. Apart from the more complex yet cohesive material choices, there’s also no questioning that the CX-3 takes the lead in fit and finish and in ergonomics. Mazda’s Jinba-ittai philosophy is at work here, resulting in a naturally sporty and therefore more comfortable experience. It goes without saying though that this “horse and rider as one” philosophy results in a driving position no higher than a typical hatchback which may be a turn off for some.

Winner: Mazda CX-3

Space and Practicality

Naturally, Mazda’s impeccable driving position comes with one major drawback and that’s a tighter than average interior space. Though not much separates the CX-3 and the HR-V dimension-wise, the Mazda feels like a size down. When the maximum occupancy remains at one or two, it’s perfectly fine with ample head, shoulder, and leg room upfront. Though the driver’s right knee can sometimes bang against the center console during enthusiastic cornering, it’s all part of the experience especially since Mazda managed to put padded leather bolsters there. It’s only when one thinks of it as a family vehicle that its shortcomings show. For starters, the rear seats are tight. Three headrests offer the illusion that you can fit three adults at the back only for complaints to start rolling in by the time the second back passenger sits down. Then, you have the limited luggage space. It can be supplemented by folding the rear seat backs, but it’s obviously down to the HR-V’s. The biggest issue though is the limited cubby holes around the cabin. There are small storage pockets for smart phones (it cannot accommodate a phablet) and loose change, but none are lidded or deep enough.

This is where Honda manages to weave its packaging magic producing a landslide win for the HR-V. Apart from the generous front quarters that can fit even super-sized adults, this one offers a wider and longer rear bench and a flat rear floor enabling it to accommodate three people knees, shoulders, and all. The rear seats themselves don’t offer the same level of support as on the CX-3, but that’s likely because of the ULT seats. This neat trick allows the HR-V to raise its luggage space to impressive levels not only by folding the seats in a 60/40 split, but by folding the seat cushions up as well. The HR-V also shines with its various storage solutions. It can easily accommodate stuff at the bottom of the “floating” transmission tunnel, two small or large drinks in its neat double-layer cup holders, and other valuables in its lidded center console box that also acts as the arm rest. If there’s one problem with the HR-V, it’s the position of the air vents. It doesn’t distribute cool air effectively, especially for those seated at the back.

Winner: Honda HR-V

Performance and Fuel Economy

Equipped with a small four-cylinder engine, front-wheel drive, and a rear torsion beam axle suspension, one would suspect that these two would have similar on-road behavior. That though is further from the truth. First up is the HR-V which behaves in the same vein as its larger sibling, the CR-V. As such, it values comfort and isolation over excitement and involvement. The drivetrain, a 1.8-liter SOHC i-VTEC engine mated to an Earth Dreams CVT delivers punch from down low only to turn lackluster as the revs and speeds go up, even with the ECON mode turned off. The engine note isn’t remotely sporty, but it rewards on-road civility with a fuel economy rating of 9.8 km/L (average speed 17 km/h). The steering is weighty for an EPS set-up and together with a suspension that’s not willing to dance, it reduces the HR-V’s sportiness. On the flipside, it tracks straight and feels stable even during high speed driving. Unwanted noise is also quelled except for the obnoxious tire noise, though that’s probably down to the optional MUGEN wheel and tire package. In terms of ride, it’s firm but comfortable. However, some road undulations don’t get filtered very well.

While the HR-V tries to act big for its size, the CX-3 goes the opposite way and embraces its small size. This sounds crazy, but it actually behaves more sports car-like. It never goes full-blown Miata, but the feeling is there. The steering is single-handedly the best thing here: quick and responsive at low speeds, stable and smooth at high speeds. Hand-in-hand with this communicative steering is the chassis’ agility. At any occasion barring extreme cornering, it handles tidily. Toss it through a corner and it obeys without fuss. The brakes are also linear and easy to modulate. The engine, a 2.0-liter Skyactiv-G needs some poking for sure, but less so compared to Honda’s engine. The well-modulated throttle and traditional 6-speed automatic also make it more engaging. Without the penalty of an AWD system, the i-STOP (but no i-ELOOP) system pushes a fuel efficiency of 9.8 km/L (average speed 17 km/h), a vast improvement over its range-topping AWD variant and equal to the smaller-engined HR-V. That said, the sporty handling comes with a penalty of a stiffer ride. What’s surprising is that it’s not far off from the HR-V’s. Whereas the HR-V feels crashy through bumps, the CX-3 hops through them. Neither is perfect, but as the driver (some passengers also agree), the behavior of the CX-3 is much more acceptable for comfort.

Winner: Mazda CX-3

Value for Money

Now comes the most interesting bit: pricing and equipment. At P 1,353,000 for the HR-V EL (minus the MUGEN kit) and P 1,380,000 for the CX-3, they’re actually both more expensive than their own brand’s bigger and more comfortable compact car offerings by P 250,000 (HR-V EL vs Civic 1.8 E) and P 112,000 (CX-3 Sport vs Mazda3 2.0 R) respectively. Because of this, neither of them can claim that they’re beacons of value. Shrugging that thought though, not much differentiates the CX-3 and HR-V in terms of equipment. Outside, both have LED headlights with daytime running lights, power folding mirrors, and large alloy wheels (17-inchers for the HR-V and 18-inchers for the CX-3). Inside, both have leather seats (with suede inserts on the CX-3), full-fledged infotainment systems, and automatic climate control. Heck, even in safety equipment, both have 6 airbags, anti-lock brakes with brake assist, electronic stability control, and a rear parking camera (with added back-up sensors on the HR-V).

The HR-V though manages to squeeze out a win here because of two things, one of which is underappreciated: Auto Brake Hold. An extension of the electronic parking brake system, it allows the HR-V to apply the parking brake automatically during stop-and-go traffic. It’s an example of lazy motoring, but it also reduces driver fatigue. The last advantage is cruise control which is quite helpful when going on long drives involving a lot of cruising on the expressways.

Winner: Honda HR-V

There are two kinds of car buyers: one who goes with his heart, buying what quenches his desires; the other, who goes with his mind, settling for what satisfies his needs. In every automotive segment, these two polar opposites exist and co-exist because of the varied taste of customers. While the Honda HR-V fulfills the requirements of being mind over heart, winning convincingly in terms of practicality and value for money; in this fashion-forward sub-compact crossover segment, the Mazda CX-3 wins out thanks to its stylish exterior, well-made interior, and unrivalled driving dynamics. It’s a heart over mind choice, something most car enthusiast would agree making.

Winner: Mazda CX-3

2017 HONDA HR-V VS 2017 MAZDA CX-3
Ownership Honda HR-V 1.8 EL FWD 2017 Mazda CX-3 Sport FWD
Year Introduced 2015 2016
Vehicle Classification Sub-compact Crossover Sub-compact Crossover
The Basics
Body Type 5-door SUV 5-door SUV
Seating 5 5
Engine / Drive F/F F/F
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 1.8 2.0
Aspiration Normally Aspirated Normally Aspirated
Fuel Delivery EFI Direct Injection
Layout / # of Cylinders I4 I4
BHP @ rpm 141 @ 6,500 148 @ 6,000
Nm @ rpm 172 @ 4,300 192 @ 2,800
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 91~ Gasoline / 91~
Transmission CVT 6 AT
Cruise Control Yes No
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 9.80 km/L @ 17 km/h 9.80 km/L @ 17 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,294 4,275
Width (mm) 1,772 1,765
Height (mm) 1,605 1,535
Wheelbase (mm) 2,610 2,570
Curb Weight (kg) 1,269 1,223
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Torsion Beam Axle Torsion Beam Axle
Front Brakes Vented Disc Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc Disc
Tires Bridgestone RE002 Adrenalin
(225/45 R 18 W, f & r, as tested)
Dunlop SP Sport Maxx 050
(215/55 R 17 V, f & r, stock)
Toyo Proxes R40
215/50 R 18 V (f & r)
Wheels Alloy Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 6 6
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes Yes
Traction / Stability Control Yes Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, with Rear Camera No, with Rear Camera
Other Safety Features Hill Start Assist,
Auto Brake Hold
Hill Start Assist
Exterior Features
Headlights LED LED
Fog Lamps Yes, Front Yes, Front (LED)
Auto Lights No No
Rain-sensing Wipers No No
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather Leather
Seating Adjustment Manual Manual
Seating Surface Leather Leather/Suede
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40 (ULT) Yes, 60/40
On-Board Computer Yes Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes Yes
Power Door Locks Yes Yes
Power Windows Yes Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, with Fold Yes, with Fold
Climate Control Yes Yes
Audio System Stereo
USB x 2
USB x 2
# of Speakers 6 6
Steering Controls Yes Yes


  1. I'll go for Honda for this comparison, but beyond these two - I'd take Subaru XV.

    1. the best choice, independent rear suspension and AWD alone destroys both.

      plus almost 8 inches ground clearance. cruise control, hill start assist is also standard. and maintenance is a breeze, the oil filter is located on top of the engine which is a plus

    2. Tae mga toh. Mema lang? Subura daw eh wala na sa choices. Come on

    3. That is why there's a beyond word in there. Ikaw ata yung 'mema', whatever that means. And wtf is Subura?

    4. Galing ng reply nung 9:34 AM, halatang skwater at walang pinag-aralan. :)

      And to the 1st comment, it's 8.7 inches of ground clearance. So it's higher. :)

  2. ^In the early 90s, a friend bought a Mazda 323, while his neighbor had a Honda Civic. Both cars had almost the same retail price back then. Later on, my friend sold his Mazda with a steep price difference compared to when his neighbor sold his Honda... For this article, does Honda still have the prestige?

    1. Unknown...but if you want a depreciation-proof vehicle in the Philippines, it seems PPVs are the way to go.

    2. ^Well, me thinks Honda still has the prestige on this segment. The Mazda still doesn't seem to cut it at this time... Agree with the pick-up platforms having higher re-sale but these are very "third-world" to some...

      Would have been nice if the Honda lent to you was in Carnelian Red tho...

    3. Well, Carnelian Red isn't available on the EL which was the focus of this comparison.

    4. ^I thought EL gets all the bells and whistles... and the colors too?... bummer! Guess just have to line up for that soul red Mazda instead...

    5. Yeah, unfortunately. Carnelian Red only comes with the E grade.

  3. The Mazda CX3 wins hands down, the HRV wins only in space and some bits, but the CX3 is the better car overall. The author forgot to mention in the value part the CX3's dual exhaust, more powerful 2.0 engine, the weight difference, and some bits.

    1. The only thing that HR-V wins here is practicality, which is what some people look for. Oh, wait.

    2. Heart over mind. If you want something practical, get an innova.

  4. FYI, mazda cx3 has a cruise control too. I own one. I don't know why the writer says otherwise.

    1. Maybe you're lucky then.

      The units I've tested don't have cruise control equipped as standard. Not on this mid-range 2WD and not even on the top-of-the-line AWD variant.

      Link to the full review of the CX-3 AWD for reference:

      Notice that the right side of the steering wheel is blank? That's where the cruise control is supposed to be:

  5. Honda HR-V for me! The CX-3 looks more like a hatchback.

  6. I'm driving a Mazda CX-3 and I can say that it is the sure winner in this debate! Yes, the exterior looks like a hatchback but let's be unique in this world of SUVs. It's time for a change! CX-3 might look small but my family of 5 fits perfectly. Did you know that Total and Mazda have been partners for 13 years? Total has developed have developed a range of lubricants that perfectly matches Mazda’s technical requirements to improve the performance of its vehicles. Out of town trips with the whole family is better with Mazda and Total lubricants.

  7. The problem with the cx3 is the ground clearance. 155mm only, same with a mazda 3. Nag crossover ka pa.

  8. Lol, the guy above about the grand clearance, try to read the april issue of C! Magazine, they had a comparo too, they have the "actual" ground clearance measurement. Iiyak ka if malaman mo ung real ground clearance ng HRV which is lot lower than that of the CX-3.

    1. May I ask... How did C! Magazine measure the ground clearance?

    2. Still wondering what grand clearance is

    3. You don't have to rely actually on measurements. You can see the cx3 is really low. It just looks like a slightly larger mazda 2 hatchback especially at the back.

    4. They didn't really explained the details or maybe i read past on how they did it, but they have two measurements in the comparo: "market-declared measurement" and "actual measurement". Im gonna read it again thoroughly later. And to the guy wondering about "grand" clearance, try to look up what "typographical error" means for your enlightenment. And to the one telling about "You can see the cx-3 is really low", don't forget that eyes have its ways of deceiving us, what we see is not always true. Im not being a fanboy or anything. I own a Mitsubishi ASX 2015 GSR. =)

    5. Please post their method. I'm curious too. Otherwise, there is a presumption that you're just spewing BS.

    6. Okay so it is a typographical error, but I just checked, "ou" is nowhere near "a" on my keyboard. You probably have a different kind of keyboard..or perhaps different kind of thinking - if you even do.

    7. I read it again, and its the march 2017 issue (sorry). They stated that they measured it from the lowest point that they can see under the vehicle up to the ground. If you think that i'm spewing BS, go and try to buy a back-issue of it. Its only less than 200 php, maybe cheaper now since it's already a past issue. If you dont have money to buy even a magazine, you dont need to BS me. And to the spelling checker-dude, maybe you have failed to notice that i have corrected my spelling in the last two "Ground" words on my comment. That should be enough hint for you to know that it was a typo. Unless you lack the sixth sense. "Common sense".

    8. That's it? That's the same f***ing method manufacturers use in measuring ground clearance.

      Ok then, I'll play along. So what's the "actual" ground clearance of the HRV and CX3?

    9. To the Thread starter: It's a general knowledge that car manufacturers measure from the last protruding metal in the undercarriage down to the ground. Maybe you're talking about the additional bodykits making the EL Mugen variant artificially lower compared the CX3.

      Hilarious so to speak of these fanboys. Meron ka pang "iiyak ka kapag malaman mo yung real ground clearance ng HRV" nalalaman.

    10. Oo nga. Iiyak daw. Siya tuloy napahiya. Hay naku. Bata pa siguro yan. Malikot lang ang kamay at nakagamit ng computer sa kwarto ng magulang niya.

    11. Lol. Bili kayo ng magazine para mabasa nyo sinasabi ko. And the variant they used is not mugen. Bat ba nagsisi-iyak kayo? Try to buy and read the magazine. Baka pambili lang wala pa? 125mm nakuha nilang ground clearance sa HRV, and then sa CX-3 nakuha nila isa 150mm compared to manufacturer claim na 155mm, if you doubt it then you measure it yourself, i just said what i read, tapos bigla kayong nagsi-iyakan. Okay, matured boys indeed.

    12. And why would i even be a fanboy if i own a different crossover apart from these two? Baka kayo nagfafanboy, Honda fanboys.

  9. If im looking for a compact CUV at that price, i'll buy the Subaru XV under the Subaru Global Platform.

    The interior of the HRV is quite poorly designed, most especially that 3 vent aircon in the front passenger side and the "hump" in the hdmi socket area beneath the transmission shifter. It's spacious though.

  10. I'd get the Subaru XV over these two.

  11. Why is it in this head-to-head it seems all praises for the CX-3? But when I read the individual review of CX-3 it's the opposite. Though the individual review is the TOTL AWD variant, but I don't think that's a huge factor as this mid sport variant is already well equipped.

    If I'm a car buyer, after reading
    head-to-head - it makes me want to buy the CX-3
    individual review - it makes me want to look elsewhere

    Good point on mind over heart and heart over mind.

    1. The Mazda CX-3 will never be a family car. That's a fact that I raised in my review of the AWD variant and for its asking price, you would have been better off with the CX-5 or the Mazda3. It's a great driver's crossover, only to be let down by it's cramped interior.

      Now, moving to the CX-3 versus the HR-V, the Mazda is more of the driver's crossover and that's why it won here. The HR-V still wins in terms of space and practicality though.

      When taken by itself, the CX-3 isn't a great value product... But compared to the HR-V, it's better. This is how the mind over heart or heart over mind angle came in.

    2. Isn't buyers in the crossover segment prioritize practicality over driving dynamics? If it drives well it's a great bonus but not mainly the selling point. Like what you said, compact sedan alternative. So people will kinda expect it to be still practical.

      If one really wants driving dynamics maybe he should opt for a sports or performance car instead of a crossover.

      I like the CX-3 in terms of the design, very premium inside out, but disappointed with the interior space. So for a crossover, it feels "bitin". If I really want a Mazda, the Mazda3 sedan or hatch will be a better buy. Better in size and in price.

    3. For this comparo I think the HR-V better fits the term crossover. Not a sedan, not an SUV but a combination of both.

    4. If you're really a SERIOUS car buyer, you'll do a test drive rather than merely reading about it.

      It's not wise to plonk in your hard-earned cash because of what a magazine or website told you.

    5. Yes, most buyers will opt for the HRV for practicality, but there are some people there who will choose the CX3. Heart over mind. I read reviews and then test drove the vehicles I wanted. Chose the Mazda 3 over the Civic because the Mazda 3 simply speaks to your heart. Those who haven't driven a Mazda 3 or any new Mazda cannot relate to what I'm saying or their lifestyle is just simply not suited for a Mazda. For example you bought an Innova over a Mazda 3 because it is more practical, but when you drive it daily, you will wish everyday that you bought the Mazda 3. Happened to me in the past, and now when buying a car, I will always choose the car that my heart tells me to choose.

  12. Both are good Compact SUV. I like CX3 for its design and interior finish but I opted to buy HRV because of reliability and value for money.


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