The compact sedan market can be a very interesting place to explore once you have a chance to look at some of the current offerings that are available for consumer consumption. Once relegated to cheap econoboxes that favored thriftiness over performance (hot hatches like the GTI excluded) the segment has rapidly morphed into a different breed with luxury, design, and technology rapidly becoming the key benchmarks as they attempt to stand out against CUVs. The 2022 Mazda 3 and the 2022 Honda Civic Si are two such examples, with both trying to appeal to a broader swath of the market. But which one is better?
2022 Mazda 3 An Unchanged Contender
The current-generation Mazda 3 has received its fair share of attention both for its design and the segment blurring luxury that exceeds the sum of its price tag. The Mazda 3 is entering 2022 virtually unchanged but like a fine wine, our Soul Crystal Red Metallic hued tester has aged gracefully since its debut a few years ago. While Mazda sent us a hatchback instead of a sedan (Honda is bringing back the hatchback version of the Civic anyway) the five-door still exudes a degree of confidence. The front fascia is sporty and bold with the sleek headlights seemingly melting into the large front grille. The side profile ditches some of the boy racer garishness for a more mature profile which transitions into a clean rear end.
The look may be aging gracefully, but there are select elements of the interior that have not withstood the test of time as well. The bulk of the cabin is still a very design-centric place to spend time in with sweeping angles and high-quality materials being used throughout. However, the infotainment side of the coin is starting to show its age. Unlike a few of its rivals, Mazda is still not using a traditional touchscreen infotainment system and is instead hanging on to a setup that uses the Command Knob for the bulk of the functions. We have seen the brand use partial touch capability in recent entries like the Mazda CX-50, but until the system morphs into a full-on touch experience, the tech here will always be a step behind.
Thankfully, performance is still a strong suit for the 3 with our tester arriving with the optional 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (lower trims get a naturally aspirated version that produces 186 hp and base models get a 155 hip 2.0 liter) which is good for 250 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque. This engine is the one to go for if you’re looking for maximum performance here, and we like the way that it meshes with the six-speed automatic. Handling is also top-notch, but its mature personality bleeds thru here too, with the steering sometimes having a prominent dead spot at dead center.
2022 Honda Civic Si
As mentioned, the Si is currently available as a four-door only offering, but that doesn’t stop it from still being a worthy contender to both forms of the Mazda 3. While the exterior styling lacks some of the flash that the Mazda is known for, it prefers to be a tasteful step up from the base Civic with the Si using alot of the core pillars for its design. The differences lay in some of the finer details with the front fascia getting a reworked front grille and a reworked front bumper to accommodate the intercooler. The rear gets a bigger trunk-mounted spoiler and dual exhaust tips to help give it a sportier look.
This approach helps keep the Civic youthful-looking, but thankfully eliminates the days when the car looked like what happened after a Gundam designer was given full control of the styling pen. The Civic hatchback is mostly different from the B-pilar onward with the front fascia being mostly carried over from its sedan counterpart. the rear of the hatch does lose a bit of ground to the Mazda which is partially due to the odd way the taillights are designed. As mentioned, there’s no Si version of the hatch yet, but rumors are pointing toward such an option sometime in the distant future.
Back to the Si sedan and the styling battle between it and the Mazda is a tighter race with the Si’s interior helping to make up some ground. It still lacks the outright elegance of the Mazda’s cabin, but we came to appreciate the commendable amounts of support that the front seats provided in spirited driving as well as its infotainment system which has a leg up over the Mazda’s thanks in part to slicker software and an all-touch control scheme.
Performance for the 2022 Honda Civic Si also comes from a turbocharged four-cylinder but Honda’s 1.5 liter loses both muscle and displacement to the Mazda with the 1.5 liter producing 201 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque. The Si is currently a manual-only offering but while it lacks an automatic, it makes up for it by appealing to a loyal niche of enthusiasts that don’t mind the manual and are willing to embrace the higher levels of handling and playfulness that lurks deep in the Civic’s suspension.
Which Is The Better Choice?
Both the 2022 Mazda 3 and the 2022 Honda Civic Si offer the best of both worlds to consumers. They have enough performance to add some spice to your daily commute, while also having enough technology to help you sit back and relax when your daily plans involve long freeway jaunts versus corner-carving twisties. In this case, though, we have to give the win to the Civic Si. While it does lose some muscle to the Mazda’s bigger engine, it ultimately has the edge in not only being better to drive overall (individual review pending,) but also has a few advantages over the Mazda both in infotainment and a more dialed in personality.
Pricing for the two is very close with the Mazda 2.5T model starting at $30,900 while the Si is slightly less expensive at $27,300. This difference in price largely reflects the more premium intentions that the Mazda 3 has versus some of its rivals (the Civic included) while the Si is clearly willing to sacrifice some frills to help it better align with the needs of younger buyers.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.