Honda Civic VS Mazda 2
- Looks are good (or bad)
- Suspension and steering are both terrific
- Plenty of legroom in the rear seat
- CVT drones at pace
- Standard safety lacking on base models
- RS is noisy on the wrong road surfaces
- Fun chassis
- Great safety package
- Cheap to own and run
- Tight rear seats
- No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Dark interior on all but GT hatch
If you think the new Civic Hatch looks a little lower-slung than its sedan sibling, that can likely be attributed to the crushing weight of expectation placed on its little metal shoulders.
See, this 10th-gen Civic might be the most important car Honda has ever made. While most manufacturers were pouring funds into their SUV ranges, Honda was diverting a huge chunk (heavily tipped to be a whopping 35 per cent) of their research and development budget into the Civic, using the evergreen nameplate as a key pin in their Australian comeback.
And with that much riding on it, it had to be good. In sedan form, which launched here last year, it mostly lived up to the hype, with Honda shifting more than 800 units per month. And with the Civic hatch finally touching down in Australia, Honda is hoping to add 1000 sales to the tally.
So the question now is, does this new hatch version shine, too?
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The Mazda2 is the favourite small hatch for the private buyer. While other small hatches have fallen away, the 2 has held firm, its stylish sheetmetal and quality interior setting apart from pretty much every car in its class. It's been in its current shape since 2014, so Mazda has given it a light mid-life spec re-arrangement.
The refresh has not only included a few new goodies and detail improvements, but it's also brought with it a new range-topping GT variant. Sadly, it has not brought a hot or even slightly warm hatch. Still, you can't have everything, especially in a market segment shrinking in favour of small SUV's like the 2's bigger brother, the CX-3. Mazda thinks the 2 can maintain its selling power, though, with the company moving over a thousand a month in 2016, beating the Yaris and only eclipsed by the bargain basement Hyundai Accent.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Energetic and engaging (if not quite sporty), the Civic hatch is quiet and comfortable around town, but it can more than hold its own on a twisting backroad, too. It’s looks will either appeal or not, but a lack of comprehensive safety equipment on the cheaper models is sure to ruffle some feathers.
For us, the cheapest way into the turbocharged engine forms the pick of the bunch, so we'd call the VTi-L the sweet spot.
The 2 has recently lost sales momentum, but so has the whole segment. VW Polo sales have halved over the past 12 months and even the Hyundai Accent has run out of steam after a big effort in 2016.
The fact the 2 is still shifting 1000 units a month must be a comfort to Mazda as all its competitors, bar the Yaris, have suffered significant drops.
The updated 2 is hardly a revolution but a steady, workmanlike approach by Mazda to "shatter all notions of class to keep Mazda2 the world’s most appealing sub-compact car" should keep things motoring along. The level of safety equipment should go some way to notion-shattering.
It's a close run thing, but the Maxx remains the best of an already impressive Mazda2 line-up. It is a significant extra chunk of money over the Neo, but the addition of MZD Connect and the reversing camera with reverse AEB seals the deal.
The 2 has by far the best safety package of its segment and probably the best interior. Add to that its sparkling chassis, plus a decent level of tech (once you're in the Maxx), and it's a compelling proposition if you can resist the switch to a small SUV. You'll save yourself a fortune if you can.
Do you still prefer a hatchback to a small SUV? Or is the pull of the high rider too great for you to consider a trad hatch? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
The word 'polarising' is usually a thinly disguised way of saying 'lots of people don’t like it'. And the all-new Civic sedan was, well, very polarising. A glance at this new hatch version shows it hasn’t strayed too far from that design approach, either.
It’s as understated as a snakeskin suit in all grades, but nowhere is it quite so busy as in the RS trim level, in which the sporty trimmings jump out from every possible angle. Strangely, though, we quite like the way it looks, and it's undeniably an individual in the small car segment.
Inside, Honda has produced the comfortable and tech savvy interior that was missing from the outgoing model, but the sense of well executed semi-premium fades as you approach the spartan rear seat.
Mazda's 'Kodo' design is very successful in just about any size and shape. The 2 hatch has all the requisite flowing lines and creases, with a more mature look than its perpetually surprised predecessor, which had huge, long headlights that swept up and back into the bodywork.
The sedan almost gets away with it, but not quite. While rather more practical than the hatch (it has a massive boot), the extension on the back is a valiant attempt but, ultimately, looks a bit too high and bustly.
Not much has changed, with the exception of a few paint colours here and trim selections there. The alloy wheels are the same designs as previously but with a different finish, and the wing mirrors now have indicator repeaters. While there are a few new colours, the only extra-cost colour is still 'Soul Red', a reasonable $300.
Inside has also received some minor changes. The steering wheel is more like the CX-9's, with a smaller airbag boss, better buttons and slimmer vertical spokes to reduce the visual weight. Otherwise, the sleek design of the dashboard with its three circular vents remains, and looks as good as ever.
Irritatingly, the instrument layout also remains but the LCD head-up display (Genki and GT) has been refined and given Audi-like graphics. The dash is still a central speedo with two wings either side housing small LCD displays. Maybe it's a personal thing, but I find this dashboard irritating because there seems to be a lot of wasted space. Mazda has made some improvements to the fonts and detailing on the speedo to try and make it more legible.
The Civic hatch is surprisingly spacious in the cabin, where up front the two seats are split buy a central bin housing two of the fattest, deepest cupholders we’ve ever seen (that would be America’s 'Big Gulp' influence on the Civic’s design), along with a hidden USB and power source that sits behind the centre console, hiding the ugly chords while you’re plugged into touchscreen unit.
The back seat, is plenty spacious in the longer and wider hatch - which also sits on a 30mm longer wheelbase than the outgoing car - with more shoulder, leg and knee room for backseat riders.
Which is just as well, as there’s not much else happening back there, with no air vents, power outlets or USB points on offer, with just the two cupholders housed in a pulldown divider that separates the rear seat.
For passengers, almost nothing has changed. The front seats are comfortable, everything is close to hand and tall folks can survive quite happily. The rear seat is still tight for anyone over 150cm tall and is not a three-adults-across proposition unless they're all beanpoles with no hips. There are now under-seat vents for the rear passengers, though, which is a nice touch at this level.
Front seat passengers have two cup holders and a wide deep slot for holding your phone (even the larger format devices fit) and at the rear of the console is a tray for odds and ends. There is also some space underneath the air-con controls for keys or a smaller phone and it's where the 12 volt power outlet and USB ports live.
Boot space in the hatch is the same 250 litres, enough for a modest amount of shopping or a medium-sized suitcase. Go for the sedan and you'll have a gigantic 440 litres to fill, which is just two litres short of the brand new CX-5. Mazda reckons that's two suitcases' worth or two golf bags. Both variants have a 60/40 split rear seat to liberate more space.
Price and features
Thanks to what Honda refers to as its “One Civic” philosophy, this new hatch lineup perfectly mirrors the sedan range that was launched here last year, with the only major change being the ‘Ring-burning Type R, which will be hatch-only when it arrives later in 2017.
And that means the five-strong Hatch range kicks off with the entry-level VTi ($22,390) before stepping up to the VTi-S ($24,490) and the VTi-L ($27,790). Next up is the sport-sprinkled RS ($32,290), before the range tops out with the high-flying VTi-LX ($33,590).
Entry-level shoppers will make do 16-inch steel wheels, fabric seats and single-zone climate control, but there are some nice and premium-feeling flourishes, like LED DRLs, a 7.0-inch touchscreen that’s now Apple CarPlay and Android Auto-equipped and a second colour screen in the driver’s binnacle for your trip information.
Stepping up to the VTi-S adds 16-inch alloy wheels, integrated LED indicators in your wing mirrors and proximity locking and unlocking, along with some clever safety stuff we’ll come back to under the Safety heading.
Along with a better engine (more on that in a moment), springing for the VTi-L will earn you 17-inch alloy wheels, twin-zone climate control and automatic windows in both rows, while the sporty-flavoured RS adds LED fog and headlights, along with a hearty dose of sporty styling courtesy of a bumper kit, skirting and a liberal splashing of piano black highlights.
Inside the RS gets leather trimmed seats, a better 10-speaker stereo and and a standard sunroof, too.
Finally, the range-topping Civic - the VTi-LX - gets satellite navigation, and a fairly comprehensive suite of safety kit.
Thanks to a weak-ish Japanese economy and currency, Australian buyers won't have to dig any deeper for their better-equipped Mazda2. Prices haven't moved a single cent for either the hatch or sedan (three quarters of sales go to the hatch), starting at $14,990 for the basic 79kW/139Nm Neo manual.
The range rises through the Maxx, Genki and now the GT (replacing the Genki S Pack option), ending up at a CX-3 - and 3 - threatening $23,680 for the auto. Everything above the Neo gets 81kW/141Nm from the 1.5-litre 'SkyActiv' engine, which at the same time is fitted with 'i-Stop' stop-start technology. Drive-away pricing is here to stay, too - just add $2000 to the MLP (the prices I've listed here).
The Neo starts you off with 15-inch alloys, power windows and mirrors, four speaker stereo with Bluetooth and USB, air-conditioning, cruise control, keyless start and rear parking sensors, low-speed forward auto emergency braking and Mazda's own G-Vectoring technology to improve steering feel and response.
If that's enough for you, the Neo will cost $14,990 for the six-speed manual and $16,990 for the auto. Spend another $2700 and you'll find yourself in a Maxx ($17,690 manual/$19,690 auto). Added to the Neo's spec are a six-speaker stereo with DAB+, cruise control, leather interior bits like steering wheel, alloy wheels, rear AEB and a reversing camera.
The reason you've got a reversing camera on the Maxx and up is because the rest of the range comes with a 7.0-inch touchscreen running Mazda's really rather good 'MZD Connect.' While it doesn't have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, it does feature Pandora, Stitcher and Aha connectivity. The Maxx offers sat nav as an option and it's standard on the Genki and GT.
Speaking of the Genki, which is only available as a hatchback, you'll pay $20,690 for the manual and $22,690 for the auto. The extra three large gets you machined gunmetal alloys of 16-inches in size, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, climate control, upgraded cloth trim, body-coloured folding mirrors and LED daytime running lights.
Finally, there's the GT. Unlike the Genki, you can get a GT in both hatch and sedan, priced at $21,680 for the manual and $23,680 for the auto. The extra $990 has mostly gone on the interior. Mazda's designers have gone to town with leather and synthetic suede on the seats and a bunch of leather decoration panels on the dash and armrests, complete with classy stitching. These really lift the mood in the otherwise dark cabin and the themes differ between hatch and sedan. The hatch's contrasting colour is white while the sedan's is a rich brown colour.
Engine & trans
Like the sedan version, there are two engine choices on offer, with the cheaper option a 1.8-litre petrol engine, good for 104kW at 6500rpm and 174Nm at 4300rpm found in the VTi and VTi-S trim levels.
The better option, though, is a perky turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol engine that will push 127kW at 5500rpm and 220Nm at 1700rpm to the front tyres.
Both engines are partnered with a CVT automatic transmission, with or without wheel-mounted shifters, depending on the trim level.
The SkyActiv 1.5-litre petrol four comes in two specifications. On the Neo, you'll have 79kW/139Nm to play with and you'll go without i-Stop. Small differences include a belt-driven oil-pump and lower compression ratio.
For the rest of the range, you'll get 81kW/141Nm and i-Stop to cut fuel use in town (although this isn't reflected in the official fuel figures on the automatic).
Fuel use is pretty impressive across the board, with the 1.8-litre engine sipping a claimed combined 6.4-litres per hundred kilometres, while the turbocharged version needs just 6.2 litres on the same cycle.
Emissions are pegged at 150 and 142 grams per kilometre of C02 respectively.
Honda struggles a little in explaining exactly what its new 1.5-litre turbo-powered Civic is.
Is it a hot hatch? Nope, the incoming Type R will handle those duties. Oh, so it's a warm hatch, then? Not really - it's mechanically identical (same engine, gearbox and suspension) to the other, top-tier Civics. In fact, only the brand of tyres seperate the RS from the more luxurious VTi-LX.
"We would say it's a 'sporting hatch'," says Honda's head honcho, Stephen Collins.
And sporting it is, with its clever turbocharged 1.5-litre engine a willing and perky unit, delivering plenty of oomph all over the rev range and with no noticeable, soul-destroying lag in its power delivery.
The steering, too, has a sporty flavouring, it's super direct, and offers such crisp direction changes that you have to pay keen attention driving, as even the slightest input will see you steering out of your lane. And while the ride is a little crashy through bumps, it pays you back with composed cornering antics that see the front wheels hanging on to the tarmac for much longer than you might expect.
But the best trick of the 1.5-litre engine is that it doesn't require much accelerator to make it move, which means there's never too much strain on the CVT auto in town. And, given the auto is both loud and intrusive when you ask too much of it, that can only be a good thing.
Like most CVT 'boxes, it's quiet and composed in city driving, but loud and with a tendency to surge when you start to test it. So much so that heavy acceleration requires a kind of lucky dip as to when to back off the throttle, with the Civic continuing to accelerate for a moment or so even once you get off the gas.
Happily, then, the 1.8-litre models are much easier to classify. They're the cheap ones.
It's a a simple, honest and hardworking engine that feels both slower and slower to respond than its newer, turbocharged sibling, but is more than capable of getting up to speed, even if it struggles to add pace from the mid-range onward.
The 2 is already the riot of the segment, with by far the most interesting driving experience when compared with its Japanese and Korean competition. Combining light weight, sharp steering, an enthusiastic engine and two good transmissions, the wee Mazda remains the class leader.
Cars like this are usually a barrel of fun, but when you add in the subtle effects of G Vectoring - where software monitors steering angle and fiddles with the torque to improve steering response and feel - it's even better. The tyres will give up long before you do, but there's still nothing like the 2 in this segment unless you spend another few grand on a Renault Clio or Peugeot 208. And even then...
Passengers will also enjoy the quiet cabin, although the torsion beam rear will keep the rear occupants awake with a bit of clunk thunk over the rough stuff and the ride is fairly firm but not violently so.
As with any Mazda update, there's been plenty of detail work to improve the platform. The 2 was never going to get any wholesale changes, because from launch it was one of the quietest hatches on the market, certainly much quieter than the car it replaced. Mazda has deployed more filler and foam to further dampen the noise and added an acoustic windscreen.
Interestingly, one of the noises that has been attended to is the sound of the rear door closing. Until now an unpleasant clang issued from the rear door but with a change in the position of the panel's reinforcement, it's more a thunk than a clang. Jolly good.
As far as the driving goes, again, it's all in the detail. New damper and spring rates and new bushes all conspire to quieten and sharpen the drive, along with the G Vectoring. It's still good fun and the manual is even more fun than the auto.
While some of its key competitor are throwing safety functions at all trim levels, with Honda it’s still sadly a case of you get what you pay for.
The entry-level VTi, for example, makes do with six airbags (front, front-side and curtain) and a 180-degree reversing camera, opting for the VTi-S, VTi-L or RS adds front and rear parking sensors and Honda’s cool 'LaneWatch' (with activates a side-mounted camera when you indicate, beaming an image of the lane running alongside the lefthand-side of the car up onto the 7.0-inch screen).
The entire Civic range was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating.
The Mazda2's safety package stands apart in this class, incorporating advanced features found on larger, more expensive cars from other carmakers.
The least you'll find on the 2 is six airbags, ABS, rear parking sensors, traction and stability controls. Even the base model 2 has city auto emergency braking (AEB) and Mazda's G-Vectoring technology. The rear seats feature two ISOFIX and top-tether restraint points.
On the Maxx up you have a reversing camera and reverse AEB and the Genki and GT also score reverse cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring.
The 2 scored five ANCAP stars in September 2015, the highest rating available.
Mazda's passenger cars are covered by a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and you can stump up $68.10 or $83.50 per year for roadside assist, depending on how keen you are for a rental car if your 2 is out of action due to a mechanical breakdown.
Mazda also offers fixed-price servicing for the 2 and you're expected to pop in to your local dealer every 12 months or every 10,000km. This regime covers the first five services, with prices alternating between $286 and $314 adding up to $1486 for the whole period.
You'll also need to budget for a brake fluid change every two years/40,000km ($64) and a new cabin filter ($80) every 40,000km.