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August 28, 2019

We Drove the 2020 Mazda3 1.5 Elite Back-to-Back with the Honda Civic 1.8 E

Mazda isn’t hiding the fact that they think majority of Mazda3 buyers will go straight for the 2.0 Premium models. With that, it comes as no surprise that the entry-level 1.5 Elite doesn’t see as much coverage as its sexier top-trim sibling. But leave it to the guys at Mazda Philippines to bring a base 1.5 Elite sedan along for this road trip; and they even brought some good company: the Honda Civic 1.8 E.

Despite the Honda Civic 1.8 E’s 30 horsepower, 28 Nm of torque advantage, it’s let down by its CVT transmission. Where Honda’s drivetrain feels like being tortured on the track, the Mazda’s 6-speed automatic obliges, helping it build up speed progressively. Acceleration, while not explosive, is there. The Civic does have the quantitative 0-100 km/h advantage (around one second faster), but the Mazda3 subjectively feels faster. Moreover, the Mazda3’s transmission is more intuitive, holding revs or even blipping at downshifts.

Off the straights and through corners, the Mazda3 is sharper, and pivots tightly. There’s much more immediacy in every action, guided by its precise steering. It’s also graceful, especially during transitionary left-right-left maneuvers. The eco-biased tires do tend to break traction faster, but it’s always easy to catch a slide. There’s none of the flop, none of the excess body movement that plagues the Civic. The brakes too are way better; measured, easily modulated with a firm pedal feel.

Performance aside, the Mazda3 too has the advantage when it comes to interior fit and finish. The materials used feel premium, the appointments a class above. Perhaps the only area the Civic convincingly wins here is interior room.

As for the spec sheet wars, this is how the Mazda3 1.5 Elite stacks up against the Honda Civic 1.8 E (in parenthesis):
  • Engine: 1.5 Skyactiv-G 4-cylinder (1.8 i-VTEC 4-cylinder)
  • Maximum Power: 111 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm (141 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm)
  • Maximum Torque: 146 Nm @ 3,500 rpm (174 Nm @ 4,300 rpm)
  • Transmission: 6-speed AT (CVT)
  • Cruise Control: Yes (Yes)
  • Front Suspension: MacPherson Strut (MacPherson Strut)
  • Rear Suspension: Torsion Beam Axle (Multi-Link)
  • Parking Brake: Electric (Electric)
  • Length: 4,660 mm (4,649 mm)
  • Width: 1,795 mm (1,799 mm)
  • Height: 1,440 mm (1,416 mm)
  • Wheelbase: 2,725 mm (2,698 mm)
  • Turning Radius: 5.3 m (5.3 m)
Exterior Features:
  • 205/60 R 16 (215/55 R 16)
  • LED Headlights (LED Headlights)
  • Bulb-type Daytime Running Lights (LED Daytime Running Lights)
  • Rain-sensing Wipers (Variable-intermittent Wipers)
  • Power Folding Mirrors (Power Folding Mirrors)
  • Dual Exhaust (Single Exhaust)
Interior Features:
  • Leather Tilt/Telescopic Steering Wheel (Urethane Tilt/Telescopic Steering Wheel)
  • Fabric Seats (Fabric Seat)
  • 8-way Manual Adjust Driver’s Seat (6-way Manual Adjust Driver’s Seat)
  • 6-way Manual Adjust Passenger’s Seat (4-way Manual Adjust Passenger’s Seat)
  • 7-inch LCD Instrument Panel Display (7-inch LCD Instrument Panel Display)
  • Mazda Connect with 8.8-inch LCD Monitor (Advanced Display Audio with 7-inch Display)
  • Apple CarPlay/Android Auto: Yes (Yes)
  • 8-Speaker System (6-Speaker System)
  • Heads-Up Display: Yes (No)
  • Climate Control: Dual-zone with Rear Vents (Single Zone)
  • Push-button Start/Stop: Yes (Yes)
  • Auto-Dimming Rear View Mirror: Yes (No)
Safety Features:
  • 7 SRS Airbags (2 SRS Airbags)
  • ABS with EBD (ABS with EBD)
  • Stability Control: Yes (Yes)
  • Rear Parking Sensors: Yes (No)
  • Rear View Camera: Yes (Yes)

With a P 110,000 price gap in favor of Honda, Mazda sure does have an uphill battle to upstage the segment’s leader. But after some hot laps around the Clark International Speedway and a closer look at the spec sheet, the Mazda3 springs a pleasant surprise. The 2.0 Premium will still be the better seller (and better value), but even in its base guise, it still manages to upset the compact’s best-seller in more ways than one, and as a result, could change the segment’s balance of power.


  1. Lost it at "Where Honda’s drivetrain feels like being tortured on the track". Mazda 3 Premium trim review please.

    1. I Guess those words are too harsh, especially that its a civic. kung ganun, imagine other vehicles.

      I do really like this Mazda 3 though.

      Hey Uly can you compare it with the MX-5? I heard that it is nearing the driving experience of the mx-5.

    2. I'm imagining that the Honda CVT wails under pressure while the Skyactiv AT sings in comparison.

  2. Civic being 1 second faster in 0 to 100kph is HUUUUUUGE!!!! It will laugh at that puny mazda. Even a city will beat that mazda3.

    1. Good luck with that wailing CVT and less refined nature while at it.

    2. You obviously have no idea that CVT is the most refined transmission in the world. The only problem is its limited to 200hp which could be a problem for tuned Civic 1.5 RS turbo. That's why Civic typeR and Si had to go manual.

    3. "Wailing" is far from refined

  3. wish they've included a sweet shifting 6MT variant even on the 1.5 variant. that'll be refreshing and be fun

  4. Put the best driver for this 2 cars battle on the track then lets decide what car is the best..👍

  5. Before i saw the new mazda 3 i was pretty sure about the civic but now I'm more confuse than ever LOL. Most people i asked preferred the civic.

    1. I want the Mazda 3, i really like it. but if i were that one who will choose between the two, i would still go for the civic.

      -its still a Honda. I mean, we are not talking about korean branded cars.

      But damn, that Mazda 3 sportback is so hot. Its like "wants vs needs"

    2. Uhhh, Mazda and Honda are both Japanese

  6. How's the overall performance and maintenance of mazda and Honda? 3 months ago i had the 2018 vitara. I want a sedan now and I'm choosing between these two. Thank you

  7. Speed(2nd or 3rd in priority)+refinement+comfort+sexier look(sleeky beast)= mazda 3.

  8. This is exactly the comparison review na hinahanap ko. Civic 1.8 E and Mazda 3 since silang dalawa lang tlga ung cnconsider ko bilhin this August. I'll go with M3 Elite. Thanks sa review!


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