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Honda Civic vs Toyota Corolla vs Mazda3

pmc255pmc255 Posts: 15
edited April 2014 in Honda
Hello everybody.

I just graduated from college and will be moving from California up to Seattle, Washington to work full-time. Although I've had my license for a few years, I did not drive much during college as I didn't have a car. Now, I'm looking to buy a new car.

The basic attributes I'm looking for are along the lines of a small to mid-sized 4-door sedan with good mileage and an out-the-door price tag of less than $17,500. After a lot of research, I've boiled it down to the Civic, the Corolla, and the Mazda3.

Since I haven't been driving much, I'm not sure how important a car with good performance and "exciting" drivability like the Mazda3 would be. To me, it seems like the Corolla is the safest bet, with good fuel economy, decent power, good safety ratings, and high resale value. I'm just hesistant that if I decide on a Corolla or a Civic, I will look back a few months from now, while driving my "boring" car, that I had chosen a Mazda3 instead.

Do any of you have any suggestions, opinions, or insights for my particular situation? Also, are there any good, authoritative resources online that can help me compare these cars? So far, I've been using sites like Yahoo and Vehix to compare the vehicles. It would really be great to find some road test results for mileage, safety tests, etc. for each of the cars.

For reference, the cars and the respective trims that I've been looking at is here: id1=14972&carid2=16114

Thanks for the help!


  • carzzzcarzzz Posts: 282
    If you dont mind pay at MSRP and wait for another 2 months, the best bet would be 2006 Civic (DX)! It is gonna has the best fuel economy in class, decent engine, many standard features like ABS, SAB, VSC...
  • keycardkeycard Posts: 26
    I was looking at both the Mazda 3s and Honda Civic EX (Wife really wanted the moonroof-and it's the only one with the moonroof)--

    Personally I really liked the Mazda 3s (160HP) pick up speed, which the Civic lacks (8-*(. The seats are more sport on the Mazda (So in other words--it's not as comfortable as the Civic>)--I 'm used to that since I'm currently driving a Bimmer. The wife liked the Civic better due to the seat comfort, gas mileage and it was roughly $2000 less.

    Honda Civic EX (Has everything you need)_-Around $15,700-$16000 + Taxes..etc

    Mazda 3s(AUTO)_-around $ 18,000 + Taxes--also there is a rebate of $500 out there if you search for it..

    At the end we got the Civic--Great resale value, gas mileage, safe--a all around winner.

  • z71billz71bill Posts: 2,000
    You need to go test drive all three cars -

    I tested all three of the cars on your short list - and went with the Mazda3.

    But the Civic was a close second. My wife really liked the looks of the Corolla S - but we knew 50 feet into the test drive the Corolla was out - the sound it makes when you first take off - BRRrrrBRRrrrBRRrrr - it does quiet down once you get going - and since it is the top seller it must not bother most people - but that is why you need to go see for yourself.

    If I were you I would also go take a look at the Cobalt & Focus - you can get very good deals on these cars right now - and even if you don't want one it will give you a better point of reference.
  • mdaffronmdaffron Posts: 4,421
    If you go over to that discussion right now you'll see a bunch of Cobalt A/C complaints!!!


  • z71billz71bill Posts: 2,000
    Not really recommending the Cobalt - I have never driven one - just saying it is a good idea to test drive a few cars before you buy - this would be the case for any buyer - but maybe even more so if the person has limited driving experience.

    Although talking with car sales people may not be on the top of many peoples list of fun things to do - if you understand they are just trying to do their job its not really that bad - and it would be good practice saying NO THANKS a few times - before you really get serious about buying.

    I also know from experience - you can negotiate a better deal (lower price) when you can get a car from another company for a lower price - if you happen to say to the Mazda sales person - "Just drove a Focus ZX5 / nice car / think it fits my needs - thought I would give the Mazda3 Hatch a quick test before I make my final decision" and then before you start talking about pricing say "did you know I can get a new Focus ZX5 with an MSRP of $15,325 for only $11,437 - (which is actually true)" - not that Mazda will just roll over and agree to the same price - but they will move quicker to give you a lower price than if they think you are set on only buying a Mazda3. Is the Mazda3 really worth $5-$6K more than a Focus? Hard to tell if you don't drive one before you buy.

    Maybe I am a little bit of a FREAK - I kind of like test driving different cars - even if I know that the chance of buying it is small - its still kind of nice to know what the other companies are selling.

    I don't follow the Cobalt board - how many Cobalt owners are complaining about AC problems? Is it MORE or LESS than the Mazda3? Is GM doing anything to solve the issue or are they pulling a "Mazda" (you know tell the customer its normal for the AC to not cool the car)
  • pmc255pmc255 Posts: 15
    Yeah, that's what I was thinking too. I'm actually going test-driving today.

    Are the Cobalt and Focus on par with these Japanese cars though? Since it's my first car, I'm leaning toward a Japanese brand just for their reputations of being more reliable. But aside from that, the Cobalt and Focus seem to have similarly powerful engines and fuel efficiency as the Mazda3. And it also helps that there's the whole employee discount deal going on right now.

    By the way, is it advisable to wait for the '06 model of a car to come out before buying an '05 model? I've heard that once the '06 comes out, the dealerships will start slashing prices on '05 models. Not sure if that's true in all cases. And I only know that the '06 Civic is coming out in November, and I'm not sure about the Corolla or the Mazda3.
  • patpat Posts: 10,421
    Let's be mindful of the topic here please, which does not include the Cobalt. I'm sure any questions about what is being discussed there can be answered by visiting it.

    In any case, trying to use any internet discussion to judge what car statistically has more problems in one or more areas than another is an exercise in complete futility. There are no statistical controls over the sample, obviously. Do some research on what sort of statistical input is needed to produce a reliable statistical outcome if you want to understand what kinds of surveys are reliable and what are not.

    Let's stick to comparing your personal thoughts and opinions about the Civic and the Corolla and the Mazda3 here - thanks.
  • modockmodock Posts: 55
    First off, if you are comparing these you have to be looking at similar models. The ones I was looking at are the Mazda 3s, Civic EX and the Corolla XRS. All of these come base with most of the conveniences that you would be looking for. If you want to even out the price as the Mazda is cheaper just add the moon roof package.

    Your comparison at Yahoo was not quite fare as the Civic you chose was $2k more than the Mazda 3i and Corolla. The only real suggestion I can make is to go to all the car web sites (Car & Driver, Automobile Mag, Road & Track) and do a search for each one of the vehicles and read their reviews and see which sounds best to you then go test drive them and see if you agree with the experts assessment.

    I was coming from a Nissan 240SX so the choice was clear for me once I drove the cars. It had to be the Mazda. The other two were just too bland and they did not respond when you tried to push them a little bit. Though I was buying before the XRS came out and the Corolla S just did not compare.

    Another note on engine power. The Corolla XRS has more horse power than the Mazda 3s but much less torque. This means that you have to be up at 4-5000 RPM before you will see the power. Thus (I love that word) the Mazda will have a lot more low end grunt. But this is typical of Toyota engines.

    My final thoughts are that if you want something to just get you around town and get great gas mileage get the Civic and think about the LX. If you want something that will be a blast to drive get the Mazda 3s. And if you want something in between think about the Mazda 3i.


    PS I just feel that Toyota is too proud of their cars and thus (there is that word again) they are over priced.

    PPS While I love my 04 Mazda 3s, my wife is very happy with her 01 Civic LX. It is just a difference of driving style and feel. (Though my wife with her lead foot would have way too many speeding tickets in my car)
  • dteskadteska Posts: 12
    We've been trying to decide between the Corolla LE, Mazda3i Sedan and the Civic EX (all equipped with a moonroof), and we ruled out the Corolla very early on because it does not have enough head-room. I'm 6 feet tall, and my head touches the ceiling in the Corolla even with the seat adjusted all the way down. In addition to that, the steering wheel is too far away when I adjust the seet for adequate leg-room.

    In deciding between the Mazda3i Sedan and Civic EX Sedan, it came down to our test drive impressions. The Mazda was the clear winner in handling, quiet ride and overall driving feel. The one thing my wife did not like about it was the "rough ride" in city driving. The Civic did everything well but was not outstanding in any one area except for fuel economy. The other big advantage for the Civic was reliability and resale value.

    The deciding factor turned out to be the weak air conditioning in the Mazda. We test drove it on a 93 degree day for about 30 minutes, and the car never totally cooled down. By the way, the build date on this particular car was May, 2005. Since this was the only Mazda3i in the Cincinnati area that was equipped with ABS and moonroof, we decided to get the Civic EX. We pick it up Friday. By the way, the Civic's air conditioning cooled the car down in less than five minues.
  • earlthomearlthom Posts: 16
    I appreciate this conversation. I, too, have driven these models and am still undecided. I drove the Toyota and ruled it out - uncomfortable seating and that low end engine noise was enough to say "no" for me. The Chevy and Ford weren't even close. I like the Honda, but am unsure about the obligatory moon roof with the EX model. (I won't buy without ABS - so the EX is the only option.) I also really liked driving the Mazda 3. It seemed to be the quietest of the group, but also the worst mileage.

    In contrast with the previous post - when I drove the 3i it was about 95 and humid and the AC did the job just fine.

    I'm waiting to learn more about the 06 Civic at this point. Most of what is out there about it is speculation - not even the dealers seem to know what to expect.

    Right now both models are hard to find in my area - and deals do not exist. Too many people thinking fuel economy, I guess.
  • x5918x5918 Posts: 30
    Grunty, Gruntier, Gruntiest. Or. Toyota Matrix, Mazda3s, Honda Civix Ex. I'm a bit dissapointed with 3s weak low end torque and mediocre gas mileage. The Honda VTEC engine definetly the most advanced engine in the pack :shades: - nevertheless the 3s 2.3L engine is a blast, compared to the minimalistic 1.7L Civic. Cheap therapy, whichever you choose.
  • dteskadteska Posts: 12
    I'm waiting to learn more about the 06 Civic at this point. Most of what is out there about it is speculation - not even the dealers seem to know what to expect.

    If you can afford to wait, the '06 Civic should fit your needs. All '06 Civics (even the base models) will be equipped with ABS and side airbags as standard equipment.
  • autonomousautonomous Posts: 1,769
    I agree that it would be wise to wait for the Civic; it may not end up being your choice but at least you will have had a chance to try it out. Personally, I think this is one of the best years for purchasing a small sedan with all the choices that are on offer.

    To help you in choosing, you may want to go to your public library and check some of the back issues of Consumer Reports, especially the April 2005 annual auto issue. CR publishes reliability histories of many vehicles, provides helpful hints for purchasing a new vehicle and discusses trends for the future.
  • pmc255pmc255 Posts: 15
    So, I test drove all three cars yesterday. The Civic is quite plain, as expected. Reasonably roomy (I'm 5'11"). Handling and acceleration are okay. Not very exciting, but is decent.

    The Corolla was about the same. The engine noise was a bit louder, but the interior seemed better. It also seemed more spacious than the Civic, according to my friend who sat in the passenger seat with me in the test drives (he's 6'4"). My friends' impressions were that the Corolla had a better look and feel than the Civic.

    The Mazda3 had a much sportier, more attractive exterior look than the Civic and Corolla. The interior was surprising, and I liked the paneling along with the cool looking gauges. The steering wheel had a tilt/telescopic feature as well, so it was flexible to adjustment. Along with the automatic transmission, the Mazda3 also has a manual sports mode that lets you sequentially shift gears up or down. Of course, the drive felt more engaging (the salesman kept telling me to "push it!" :)), and it had better acceleration. The trunk is roomier than it seems, but is still smaller compared to the Corolla and Civic.

    Overall, based on asthetics, features, feel, and drive from my experiences yesterday, I would rank the Mazda3 first, then Corolla, then Civic.

    However, after adding up the options I want for the Mazda3 based on the i trim (base), the MSRP ended up around $18000. My base features are automatic transmission, power mirrors/doors/locks, and ABS. It doesn't seem like a lot to ask for. But these options are all packaged in the Mazda3, so adding ABS and power options means adding airbags, cruise control, speakers, alloy wheels, and a few more things. But with that price, I might as well get the Mazda3s trim, and simply add the ABS package for a final MSRP of only about $800 more. But then this leaves me with a significantly more powerful car with poorer mileage, both of which aren't attributes I'm looking for.

    And now I'm thinking, for MSRP $18000, wouldn't it be better to simply look for a car in a different class? For around the same price, I can get an Accord with basic features I want, and with similar mileage, but just a bigger car (I'm looking for compacts). Even the Civic EX, the only trim with ABS, ends up around $18000 MSRP. Only the Corolla LE with ABS ends up around $17000.

    So, I'm kinda in a quandry. I personally like the Mazda3, but don't really like the idea of having to spend extra money for power I don't need while getting unsatisfactory mileage. Should I be thinking about cars like the Accord or Camry? Most of them come standard with the basic features I want, but lack the compactness and efficient mileage I seek. Or should I just go for the Mazda3s, and not worry about the loss of fuel efficiency? Or downgrade a bit and go for the Mazda3i, with less power but slightly better efficiency? Or simply get a Corolla for its price, mileage, and decent features and reliability?
  • nash123nash123 Posts: 82
    You are doing exactly what I did a month ago. Research those 3 cars, liked the Mazda best but then wasn't sure about the long term reliability and wasn't happy about the high price. Based on these I actually decided to get an Accord LX 4dr MT, which is around $17,500 + tax. Gets a lot for the same money, with ABS and all other safety features you can think of. I am planning to finalize this sale by the end of this month.
  • mdaffronmdaffron Posts: 4,421
    So, I'm kinda in a quandry. I personally like the Mazda3, but don't really like the idea of having to spend extra money for power I don't need while getting unsatisfactory mileage. Should I be thinking about cars like the Accord or Camry? Most of them come standard with the basic features I want, but lack the compactness and efficient mileage I seek.

    Just keep in mind, you're going from a loaded 3 to a bargain-basement Accord or Camry. Chances are, if you're like me (isn't everyone? :P ), the moment you get serious about an Accord or Camry, you'll start adding in their options and wind up about two or three kilobucks higher than the 3 was.


    P.S. I dunno what to make of this a/c thing with the 3. I've driven my 2005 Mazda3S, built early this year, for 5,000 miles in some incredibly humid, upper-90s heat lately, and my a/c is just fine. Yet I read a mix of comments from owners and test-drivers of 3's of many different build dates that range from one side of the story to the other. I dunno; I guess test-drive the car and see for yourself! Just make sure you put the recirculate switch on recirculate! Which begs the question ... do the a/c systems on the Civic and Corolla have recirculate switches, or just the Americanized "A/C and "MAX A/C" controls?
  • mcap56mcap56 Posts: 48
    The Civic A/C has a recirculate button and about nine temp settings. I turns you car into a refrigerator on most days.
  • z71billz71bill Posts: 2,000
    Max AC is the same function as recirc - the thing you need to watch is if you kick on the defroster - it automatically turns the system to outside air - some systems do not switch back to recirc (or Max AC) when you turn off the defroster.
  • pmc255pmc255 Posts: 15
    So, after some thought, I've decided to go for the Mazda3i with loaded options (ABS, Power, A/C, 4speed AT). If I can't get a good enough deal on the Mazda3i, I will go for the Corolla LE with ABS.

    My rationale was that if I ended up with the Corolla, I would spend more time regretting not getting the Mazda3 than I would the other way around. Even with automatic transmission on the Mazda3i 2.0L 148HP engine, it still gets decent mileage (26/34).

    The invoice price for my loaded Mazda3i is $16,794, including destination charge but excluding taxes and associated fees. If I can knock the price down to the invoice or below, and take advantage of known rebates (a recent grad rebate and a Gerber cash rebate are supposedly available), then I think I can get an out-the-door price of $18000 or below.
  • chidorochidoro Posts: 125
    Congrats on your decision.
    I would have probably waited until the '06 Civic came out but I have a natural liking of Honda products.
    Besides this statement "My rationale was that if I ended up with the Corolla, I would spend more time regretting not getting the Mazda3 than I would the other way around. " says it all.

    Who knows, if there was a car as sharp as the 3 when I graduated college (has it been 13 years already, sheesh) I may have never hopped on the Honda bandwagon. I hope you get a good deal and don't forget to tell us what color you chose!
  • smariasmaria Posts: 279
    >So, after some thought, I've decided to go for the Mazda3i with
    >loaded options (ABS, Power, A/C, 4speed AT).

    Congrats on making a decision! I think you were right to decide on the 3i instead of the 3s, based on your stated preferences. If you don't care for more horsepower and prefer the higher fuel efficiency of the 3i, then it's most likely not worth it (to you) to pay more for the 3s, even if it is "only" $800 more.

    >The invoice price for my loaded Mazda3i is $16,794, including
    >destination charge but excluding taxes and associated fees. If I
    >can knock the price down to the invoice or below, and take
    >advantage of known rebates (a recent grad rebate and a Gerber
    >cash rebate are supposedly available), then I think I can get an
    >out-the-door price of $18000 or below.

    The Gerber rebate's still available, but the grad rebate has been discontinued..sorry! Even without the grad rebate, you're talking ~$16500 for the 3i, not the 18k MSRP. So, when comparing the prices of cars, you should make sure to think "what would I actually pay for each of these cars", not "what is the MSRP of each of these cars", because the 2 questions have very different answers. If unsure, use Edmunds TMV as a rough guide of the "what would I actually pay" prices.
  • modockmodock Posts: 55
    I don't know where you live but here in Denver you can get any mazda at the dealer I bought from for 2% over invoice + $350 Doc fees. I know the doc fees are not necessary but I was not looking to get the best possible price. I wanted to best price with little to no hassle and that is what I got.

    That would make your 3i with Power Package, AC, AT, and ABS have invoice of 16,794. So the price before tax and license would be 17,480 less any applicable rebates. If you do better than this you would be getting a decent deal. They can be had for less but then most of the time you have to do a lot of haggling with the sales people.

    Let us know how you did.
  • pmc255pmc255 Posts: 15
    I've been corresponding with some dealers in the Seattle area (I'm moving up there in mid-August) just to get an idea of the prices. For my specific vehicle (3i with Power, AC, AT, ABS) invoiced at $16,794, two dealers have responded with the same exact initial quote of $17,074, exactly $300 above invoice.

    I think that is already quite a good deal, considering that it's below both the TMV price on Edmunds ($17,524) and the CarsDirect price ($17,144, albeit not available in the Seattle area). I'm a first-time buyer, but I do want to make an attempt at haggling with the dealers to try to get a good deal. My goal is of course invoice, if not a little below, perhaps $16,500. I'll try to use my "I'm going to buy a Corolla if you don't give me a good price" mentality as a leverage point. :P

    I am a little wary about the "extra stuff" the dealers will throw at me unexpectedly, however. I've heard people getting decent prices, but end up shelling out a lot more money because of doc fees, warranties, extra accessories (ie. lojack), etc. Hopefully I'll be able to turn those down if they offer them. I can do fine with just the Mazda warranty, and will add extra security to my car in the future when I find it necessary.
  • earlthomearlthom Posts: 16
    My wife drove all three cars today. Her job includes a lot of work in ergonomics - so she is an expert. Here is her evaluation. (For reference - she is about 5' 8" and "normal" build). She has also worked for an automobile seat manufacturer.

    Seating: Honda's seats have the longest "pan" and are the only ones to almost reach to behind the knee. Materials are soft but supportive and position is comfortable. Mazda comes in second with a firm, supportive seat - but may be too firm for some on long trips. The telescoping steering wheel Toyota has the shortest seat and an awkward position, especially for a driver with long legs. Lack of a telescoping steering wheel makes for an uncomfortable reach.

    Instrumentation: All three scored well here, but Mazda had an edge on variety of lighting options for conditions.

    Noise: Mazda was the quietest on the road and had the least noise during acceleration and braking. Honda was almost as quiet on the road, but had more engine noise. Toyota had a lot of initial acceleration noise.

    All three lacked decent arm rests for the driver's right arm.

    Rear room was cramped in all three with Honda seeming the tightest and Mazda the most roomy - if a compact can ever seem roomy.

    Toyota's trunk impressed as did Mazda's glove box.

    Steering wheel mounted audio and cruise on the Mazda was a huge plus for ergonomics and safety.

    Overall driving impressions: She like the Honda the best, but confesses to being somewhat biased as she's driven Hondas for the last 15 years. Mazda was the most fun to drive, but gas mileage wasn't as good as Honda. No love for the Corolla - even though the second car for the past 12 years has been a Corolla.

    Don't know if that helps anyone out there - but there it is!
  • mdaffronmdaffron Posts: 4,421
    Some responses from an owner ...

    All three lacked decent arm rests for the driver's right arm.

    I can see this comment coming from a person with a smaller frame. Being tall, I tend to keep the seat back quite a ways, which gives me plenty of center-armrest real estate. No complaints here -- but I can see how there'd be less armrest if I slid the seat way forward.

    Toyota's trunk impressed as did Mazda's glove box.

    Actually there are times that I hate my 3's glovebox! I'll put something in there (like an extra beverage bottle), and when I reach over to retrieve it, I find it has slid all the way to the back of the glovebox and wayyyy out of reach from the driver's seat!

    Thank God for the 3's brisk acceleration -- most of the time it's the only way I can get that bottle to come back to me! :)

  • mdaffronmdaffron Posts: 4,421
    OK, let's all take a deep breath and say, "YAWNNNNNN!!!"

    Can we say "Neon" front end glued to a "Pontiac Fiero" rear, complete with Bayliner-inspired reverse transom?

  • blaneblane Posts: 2,017
    Far from a yawner. It actually looks pretty darn good... from the photo.
  • witmanwitman Posts: 11
    To be honest, the new Coupe Civic looks like the new Mitsubushi Eclipse 2006. The front bumper (well view) looks very similar. Of course the old Civic coupe looks way better. Cars these days are too round like the 350z. In my opinion, this is a quite a bit "yawner" .. but aren't most cars nowadays like that? Very round to achieve maximum aerodynamics? :confuse:
  • pmc255pmc255 Posts: 15
    Anyone think it's worth waiting for the '06 Mazda3 or '06 Civic? The '06 Civic is supposedly a new-generation Civic, and much of the details are unknown. The '06 Mazda3 is a continuation, but has different trims with different options and may be a better deal for the same price as the '05 models.

    From what I heard, the '06 Civic is coming out around November, and I don't think I can go car-less for that long. At best, I will wait for the '06 Mazda3 to come out and see if it's worth getting, or maybe try to get an '05 Mazda3 for a bargain.
  • blaneblane Posts: 2,017
    2006 Civics will be in dealer showrooms in September. Probably the sedans first, the coupes slightly later.
This discussion has been closed.