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What's the difference?
The last Civic Type R, the FK8, was all about obsessing over F words.
Fierce. Fast. Ferocious. Functional. ‘Fordable. Coming from Japan via England, it might have been lumbered with lager-lout looks, but Olympian-levels of athleticism forged a feisty modern masterpiece.
There was nothing like it. Except of course, there is, thanks to the rebodied FL5 Type R.
But while less feral to behold, it’s also considerably less affordable, so – for FK8’s sake – it better be great.
Let’s find out.
If you’re having trouble finding stock of a small SUV or even a hatchback in 2022, I’d strongly recommend you look at a sedan.
The majority of buyers will engage in puzzling mental gymnastics to convince themselves they need to pay more for a trendy small SUV.
Yet, it'll have a smaller boot than the Mazda3 sedan you see here. Yes, this car and other attractive small sedans sit, ignored on dealer lots.
You don’t have to wait six months for it. You don’t have to pay more for less, and you might see why being lower to the ground means better driving dynamics.
For this review, we’re specifically looking at the mid-grade Mazda3 G25 Evolve SP, sitting above the base G20 Pure and packing the larger of three engine options.
Is it the sweet spot in the Mazda3 range? Does it have the right ingredients to lure you from a small SUV or out-of-stock hatch? Let’s take a look.
While keeping its FK8 predecessor’s frenetic performance and superlative dynamics, the latest Type R flexes out the envelope effortlessly, with newfound comfort and sophistication inside and out.
And sure. It does cost quite a bit more than before, and suffers from excessive road noise in some circumstances.
But the Type R may be the greatest hot-hatch of all time. Given this might also be the final generation before electrification takes over, what a way for the internal combustion-engined pocket-rocket to go out. With a wail not a whimper.
As such, the only F-bombs likely to drop are from rivals scrambling to figure out how Honda does it. Join the queue.
The Mazda3 G25 SP is one of the best-looking small sedans on the market, with a lovely cabin ambiance, a driver-oriented road feel, and a stellar safety suite.
It falls a little short on value compared to top-spec competitors at a similar price point. And the engine and transmission leave this great-looker in danger of feeling a bit out-of-date with no turbocharging or electrification.
But if you’re looking for a small SUV or a hatch, and you’re having trouble finding stock, don’t look past this sedan, which offers a big boot and back seat, as well as a drive experience superior to most.
The previous Type R certainly stood out, looking like this latest Civic, except seen through the prism of a kaleidoscope, with strange distortions and heavy-handed detailing. Some loved it. Many did not.
Designed in Japan, everything has changed in this far-smoother and more-aerodynamic iteration, and it’s far less divisive for it.
Underneath, the floorpan is flush to further reduce resistance. There are air foils in the wheel arches and lower body kit to direct airflow where required. To that end, only the Type R’s front doors and roof are shared with lesser Civics despite appearances suggesting otherwise. Even the back doors and quarter panels are wider. Honda has really committed.
It’s worth noting that the FL5 is about 40kg heavier - an understandable compromise given the larger body is some 40 per cent stiffer.
And being 35mm longer in wheelbase than the FK8 pays dividends inside.
Absolutely. Mazda's swoopy design style has been gently refined for this generation of the 3, to make a car which looks more expensive than it is.
Echoing cars sculpted by the Italian coachbuilding masters of old, this 3 sedan is rare, in that it appears to have been shaped as carefully as its hatch equivalent.
Few examples of non-premium mid-size sedans which look this great still exist. Kia’s overtly sporty Cerato sedan gives the 3 a run for its money, but I think both look infinitely better than the dreary Corolla sedan, safe-to-a-fault Impreza, and polarisingly rhomboidal i30 sedan.
Keep in mind, too, cars like this are counting their days in the Australian market, with Mitsubishi’s successful Lancer and Honda’s Civic sedan already driven into the annals of Australian automotive history.
The leather-bound wheel, raised centre console, semi-digital dash, and gentle application of chrome look and feel lovely.
This design feels like it was destined to be matched with the leather seats from higher grades. But the hard-wearing weave covering the seats in this G25 Evolve SP is still attractive.
The multimedia screen, nestled distantly on the dash top, looks great. It’s sharp, has great colour, and utilises Apple CarPlay's widescreen abilities.
However, as it’s not a touch unit, it’s not always the easiest system to control, as we’ll discuss in the practicality section of this review.
The last Type R was equally brash inside. Not now, and it’s benefitted from a noticeable material and quality uplift, meshed with a newfound elegance and upmarket feel. Combined, they put the Honda in league with Audi, BMW and Mercedes.
Besides being far-comfier than they look (which is to say, fantastic), the now-8.0mm lower-set front seats liberate more headroom as well as provide ample (manual) adjustment. Result? They're brilliantly fatigue-free even after hours behind the wheel.
Plus, the driving position is first class, forward and side vision are excellent – the driver no longer has that big spoiler bisecting the rear window – storage is practically everywhere (including space for a bottle in both front doors - though the glove box could be a bit bigger) and the ventilation works a treat. Honda has the basics right.
To access the flat floor area, you’ll need to negotiate quite a high loading lip. And a 35cm-wide retractable cargo cover can be unclipped and stored under a front seat.
Under the floor there a very shallow space where a space-saver spare would reside, but the Type R instead relies on a tyre repair kit, neatly packaged in the typical thorough Honda way within a side wall.
Which describes the Type R’s cabin in one word. Thoughtful.
Starting up front, the driver is treated to a generous space, with good visibility out of the main windows.
Seat trim is cloth, and the addition of power adjust for the driver's seat is a nice touch.
The front of the cabin features soft trims everywhere you’re realistically going to touch, ramming home the brand's increasingly upmarket ambitions.
Bottle holders appear in the doors and centre console in front of the shifter. Behind them there is a small phone-sized tray (perhaps a missed opportunity for a wireless charger).
The centre console box is also large and clad in a nice soft finish to enhance the 3's luxurious feel.
Sitting behind my 182cm driving position, I had plenty of leg and decent headroom. The plush door cards continue into the rear with a single bottle holder, plus a drop-down armrest includes two bottle holders.
The rear seats feature actual bolstering in their sides, although amenities are only okay, with dual adjustable air vents for rear passengers, but no power outlets.
In fact, power outlets are an issue in the 3, with two USB 2.0 ports and a single 12V socket, but no USB-C jacks.
For the boot, the sedan version of the 3 offers an impressive 444 litres of space (VDA), an enormous increase on the hatch's 295 litres.
This comes with the caveat that the loading space isn’t as versatile, with a traditional 'three-box' design meaning it can be much more difficult to load larger objects.
Regardless, the 3 sedan easily fit our three-piece CarsGuide luggage set with ample space to spare.
Want to hear some fun facts?
Hailing from Japan, today’s Type R is the first wearing a Civic badge sold in Australia that’s not from the UK. It’s the cheapest new manual Honda you can buy. And, in related developments, it’s now the only new manual Honda you can buy in Australia. Boo!
And speaking of purchasing, let’s talk about that elephant in the room, the $72,600 drive-away price tag.
Yes, that’s a heck of a lot more than the $55,000 the last one started at, as recently as 2021, and just $50,990 four years before that.
And though those prices were before on-road costs (ORC) as opposed to drive-away today (narrowing the gap down by a few thousand dollars), it’s still a mighty wad of extra dough for a Type R.
Furthermore, the latter lacks the little luxuries you might expect in a $72,600 Civic, like a sunroof, leather trim, heated cushions, powered front seats and 360-degree view cameras.
Brandishing exotic performance engineering, the Honda rises to all challengers where it matters regardless of badge.
And it seems over one thousand Australians agree, pushing delivery dates out to two years at the time of publishing. To put this in context, Honda shifted around 1400 FK8 Type Rs over four years.
Perhaps we prefer the more mature styling of the latest version. Or maybe buyers with inflation calculators have been smart enough to work out that $50,990 in 2017 equals $60K in 2023, lessening the sticker shock somewhat.
So, yes, $72,600 drive-away is expensive. But slaying the competition don't come cheap.
This Mazda3 sedan is a new addition to the range for 2022. Dubbed the G25 Evolve SP, it currently wears an MSRP of $32,290.
Not so long ago we would have noted how expensive this version of the Mazda3 is. But in a world of consistent price rises this mid-spec car is looking more acceptable.
Still, rivals at this price include the top-spec non-hybrid Toyota Corolla ZR, top-spec Subaru Impreza 2.0i-S, as well as upper mid-grade versions of the Kia Cerato (Sport +), and Hyundai i30 (Elite).
On a diet of 95 RON premium unleaded petrol, the Type R’s official combined average claim is 8.9L/100km, which is actually 0.2L worse than before.
The urban and extra-urban numbers are 12L and 7.1L/100km respectively. A Euro 5-rated engine, its combined average carbon dioxide emissions rating is 203g/km.
Using the official average, the Type R should theoretically over 525km per (smallish 47L) tankful.
During our time with it, we managed 11.5L, more or less matching what the trip computer displayed over our 500km or so. That’s a pretty impressive result given how mercilessly this Civic was caned.
It’s just that sort of car.
The G25 Evolve SP automatic has an official/combined cycle fuel consumption figure of 6.5L/100km, which sounds a little fanciful for a larger capacity four-cylinder.
But I was impressed with the real-world results, which came back as 7.6L/100km after a few hundred kays.
Many turbo engines or stressed 2.0 litres will match or exceed this, and even though I stuck to largely urban use in my week, it still fell below the ‘urban’ claim of 8.5L/100km. I suppose this car is proof that sometimes simple is best.
Too add a little icing, the 2.5-litre engine is capable of consuming entry-level 91RON unleaded. The Mazda3 has a 51-litre fuel tank.
Words like electrifying, scintillating and tenacious have long been bandied about describing the previous Type R’s performance, handling and road-holding characteristics.
But now that the FL5 weighs a bit – but costs considerably – more than before, has anything been lost in its transition from old to new?
Moment of truth.
Even after only a few hundred metres behind the wheel of the 2023 Type R, it is abundantly clear that this car has lost none of the sheer joy and zest for life that the previous model possessed in spades.
It still revs with unbridled zeal – with needle effortlessly sweeping past the 7000rpm red line – the gear shift is probably one of the best FWD manuals ever thanks to its newfound slickness and feel, the clutch is in total sync with the shifter and the brakes wash away speed with the ease of wiping a whiteboard clean.
Luckily, even though it majors on security and safety, nobody buys a Type R for all-round serenity, and when driven like Honda’s genius engineers intended it to be, its capabilities and charms are infectious and compelling.
That’s why the Type R is a contender for best hot-hatch ever. At about a grand less than a Golf R, at $72,600 drive-away, it actually seems like a bit of a bargain as a result.
That said, it will be interesting to see how it shapes up against the new GR Corolla. Watch for our full test of that soon.
Regardless, it's little wonder that the ultimate Civic is sold out for two years or more. Honda has absolutely nailed it. The Type R is the Shangri-La of hot hatches.
The Mazda3 is generally a very nice car to drive. Mazda is keen on delivering a specific drive experience, designed to be consistent across its range.
And this car has been refined nicely relative to the previous 3, which handled well, but was a bit noisy and rough in the cabin.
Handling is excellent. The car feels secure with solid and direct steering feel, a firm but controlled ride (with more forgiving dampers than its predecessors), and good off-the-line responsiveness from the 2.5-litre, four-cylinder engine.
The engine pairs well with the six-speed torque converter transmission, ahead of the rubbery CVTs or glitchy dual-clutch autos found in some competitor offerings.
It’s worth calling out Mazda’s emissions-reducing stop-start system as easily one of the best executions of the tech on the market.
The engine is up and running and ready to go before you have time to think about it. Unlike some contemporary systems from rivals like VW, you never have to consider switching it off out of annoyance.
This leaves the G25 SP as an interesting option in the crowded mid-size hatch and sedan space. One which leans further into the sporty driver-oriented realm than the semi-luxury one seemingly promised by its design.
There’s no ANCAP result for any of the latest Civics, but Euro NCAP has awarded the hybrid a five-star rating.
Eight airbags are fitted – including new-generation frontal airbags designed to cradle the head to mitigate brain injury, front knee airbags and rear passenger-side impact airbags.
They build on the built-in active safety like improved forward vision afforded by the thinner windscreen pillars and low dash design, better pedestrian-impact front-end area and a stronger body structure that is designed to better-withstand impacts from larger vehicles.
On the driver-assist safety front, you’ll find Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB – that’s operational from 5-180km/h), blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist System and Road Departure Mitigation System.
Note that the lane support systems work between 65-180km/h and the traffic-jam assist tech works between 0-72km/h.
You’ll also score traffic-sign recognition, adaptive cruise control system, a driver fatigue monitor, auto high beam, front/rear parking sensors, anti-lock braking system with brake assist, 'Electronic Brake-force Distribution', hill-start assist, stability control and traction control.
ISOFIX child-seat latches fitted to outboard rear seat positions are fitted, while two top tethers for straps are included across the two-person rear bench.
Safety equipment on Mazdas is generally excellent, and this grade of the 3 sedan is no different.
Standard tech includes auto emergency braking (with pedestrian and cyclist detection), lane keep assist (with lane departure warning), blind spot monitoring (with rear cross-traffic alert), the rare addition of front cross-traffic alert, rear auto emergency braking, driver attention alert, and traffic sign recognition.
It also features a radar-based adaptive cruise control system, although not with full stop-and-go capability as per some rival systems.
The only things missing, available elsewhere in the Mazda range, is full driver monitoring and a 360-degree view parking camera (although a wide-angle reversing camera is standard).
It’s one of the best suites on a car in this class and features extras like vectoring control and an auto hold parking brake on top of the standard array of electronic stability, traction, and brake systems.
The Mazda3 features seven airbags (dual front, front side, side curtains, plus a driver’s knee bag).
The entire range is covered by a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating to the 2019 standard, where it scored highly across all categories.
Remember when Hondas used to sometimes be quite expensive to service?
Nowadays, every model including the Civic Type R costs $199 per standard scheduled service for the first five years.
Mazda includes a ‘base scheduled maintenance’ program with indicative costs for the first five years, with each visit estimated to cost either $322 or $367 on alternating years for an average of $340 a year.