FACEOFF: 2018 Mazda 3 Touring vs 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport

As a car guy, I can appreciate any newly-released automobile despite my individual taste and opinions. I believe every car has its own style, character, and soul, and should be given a chance to win you over.

With that being said, let’s compare the style, character, and soul of two different cars that have found a way into my life this year and see how they measure up against each other.

In one corner of the ring, we have a 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport trim, equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission. In the other corner I have a 2018 Mazda 3 Hatchback Touring trim, equipped with a 6-speed automatic transmission.

I realize these two cars don’t provide a perfect “apples-to-apples” comparison, but I think the differences will make for an interesting comparison, so let’s roll with it.

Exterior Overview:

Walking up to the Civic Hatchback Sport gives me a rush of being a teenager with a new car, as if I was 17 and my dad just gave me the keys to his coveted R34 GTR (maybe that’s pushing it, but you get the idea).

There’s an overwhelming urge to jump in and fast-track the chiseled 4-door to the nearest curvy canyon back road; not to return till the E light brings me back to my senses.  

The hard lines, pronounced fenders, and smooth roofline from hood to end of the hatch tell you that the civic hatchback is here to party, but then there’s more.  Bump it up to the Sport Trim to add a little attitude with the piano black finishes, grill, hatch spoiler, and matching front/rear lips and side skirts.

Now that I’ve had my teenage fun, it’s time to throw on the button-up and head into town for an eventful evening… with the Mazda 3.

The Mazda3 gives me a different feeling than the Civic: the more refined and sophisticated appreciation of being a car guy. I walk up to the Mazda 3 Hatchback smiling; wondering which German exotic I’ll be mistaken for today and knowing that I can enjoy cruising the strip just as much as the autocross course at the local track.

The body lines of the Mazda 3 emphasize the beauty of simplicity: long defining curves, with just a bit of a sharp edge, follow the natural shape of the hatchback from front to rear. The curves tie-in with the front and rear fenders, headlights, and the hood line providing a fluid motion style.

The 3rd Gen Mazda 3 Hatchback does not immediately scream “speed”, but it does whisper “sweet nothings” in your ear. What more could you ask for? However, if you are looking for a little more of an aggressive look, then opt-in for the piano black lip and side skirt kit available from Mazda.

Interior Overview:

Now that we have made it past the sleek curves of the Mazda3, let’s take a seat inside to get a little more up-close and personal.

The first impression of the Mazda3 Touring Model interior is great, to say the least. Strapping in, the black leather seat is plush and supportive with functional but conservative side bolstering. The brushed nickel style accents are purposeful and not overwhelming in the steering wheel, dash, doors, and center console, with the all-black interior broken up with tasteful chocolate/maroon leather in the door panels and center console. Lastly, the beautifully simple exterior curves are brought into the cabin from the door panels and up through the dash. If there wasn’t a large chrome “M” on the steering wheel, I might begin to mistake the Mazda 3 for a more exotic automobile.

Back to the Honda Civic and its more aggressive visual language.

That same language carries into the interior, but in a less-refined manner than the Mazda 3 provides. The Civic’s interior is full of sharp edges, much like the body, and some touches of brushed nickel and carbon fiber print to give it a sporty feel. The seats follow a more functional style with the sports-inspired cloth material, carbon print inlay, and conservative side bolstering. They do the job in creating a sporty look, but leave something to be desired in terms of higher-end quality.


Both platforms have two engine options, both of which are a naturally-aspirated 2.0L 4-cylinder, producing around 155 hp each. Lucky for me, neither the Honda Civic nor the Mazda 3 have those lowly-base model engines.

The Honda Civic Hatchback Sport comes equipped, standard, with the turbocharged 1.5L 4-cyl, putting down an impressive 180 hp and 177 lb-ft, according to Honda. Most inspiring of all is the spirited 1.5’s ability to produce the torque from a meager 2000 rpm and carry it to 5000 rpm before beginning to fall off. Pair this with the slick 6-speed manual gearbox, and a curb weight of just 2868 lb, and you have a very fun daily driver.

Jumping back in the Mazda 3 Hatchback, we have the 2.5L Sky-Activ G 4-cylinder laying down 184 hp and 185 lb-ft, according to Mazda. The naturally-aspirated 2.5 provides alert throttle response and power that continues to build through the RPM range. The peppy feel of the hatchback could be improved a bit if you opted for the 6-speed manual transmission, unfortunately the automatic takes away from the responsiveness a bit. With similar power, the Mazda Hatchback comes in with a curb weight of 3098 lb for the AT, and 3046 lb for the MT.

Looking at the dynographs, you may notice an issue:

Honda’s claimed crank horsepower and torque match our measured wheel horsepower and torque. Did Honda sandbag their numbers? I can neither confirm nor deny, but we are not the only ones to see this in testing. The Mazda 3 dynograph shows a more typical drop in power and torque to the wheels, as the drivetrain does have some parasitic losses that rob power.

Honda vs Mazda Dynograph  |  Red = HondaGreen = Mazda


Enough about the style and looks, let’s dive into how do these automobiles drive.

Looking at the chassis and suspension, both the Civic and Mazda3 have a 106.3 in wheelbase, 18 in alloy wheels, MacPherson struts up front and multi-link suspension for the rear. Other than the curb weight, we have two very similar vehicles. However, we really start to see differences in the driving experience.  

Tossing the Hatchback Sport around corners feels almost effortless; the 5-door is nimble on its feet and eager to respond to every input. The steering is light, bordering on almost numb feeling, but does not show any sign of wandering with inputs. The chassis likes to move around, whether diving into a corner or with body roll through a corner. Despite the moving body, the Civic is predictable and confidence-inspiring. It wants you to rip around low-speed corners with a smile on your face.

Daily driving the Hatchback Sport is also a pleasurable experience; the suspension is not too harsh, perhaps more on the soft side, providing an easy and no-jarring cruise along the interstate. Looking at the lineup Honda has for the Civic this makes sense. The Sport Hatchback stays under the “sport” level of the Civic SI, and if you really want a canyon and track toy, you opt for the Civic Type-R. I do have one major complaint about this model: the clutch engagement is really… disappointing. Tighten this up, and provide a bit more feedback and you can have a real winner.  

Now, how does the Mazda 3 hatch stack up against the Honda?

Driving the Mazda 3 again inspires confidence with it’s tidy and playful response to steering inputs, however the steering feels a bit heavier than that of the Civic. The steering provides a bit more feedback and a desired amount of effort; it reminds you that you are driving a full size car instead of a go-kart. The Mazda3 really comes alive through the corners, and you begin to understand why the ride quality has just a bit of stiffness for a daily commuter. The “3” dives into corners with great steadiness, then plants and pulls through the apex. However, the extra 230 lb can be felt, as the car just feels like it’s trying to move more weight around vs the Civic.

For the daily routine, the Mazda 3 hatchback is a joy to drive through the city or on road trips. The slightly-stiff suspension reminds you that the Mazda is willing at any moment to kick it down a gear and have fun, but is still refined enough to sit back and relax. The only criticism I can really comment on is that it feels like the Mazda 3 is really trying to be a “jack of all trades”, unlike the Civic Hatchback Sport.  Perhaps, if Mazda brought back the Mazdaspeed or equivalent to the lineup, they would be able to offer more specific performance setups for customers to truly choose what they want, leaving the base Mazda 3 to be a little softer.

Coming back to my earlier sentiment: every car has a style, character, and soul that should be given a chance to be appreciated by any gearhead. Both the Honda Civic and the Mazda 3 have loads of each and love to show it.

When faced with the decision to choose between the two, it’s a difficult choice.

I’m a performance-oriented car guy and I love the fact that the Honda now has a turbo engine in the line-up, so that’s a huge selling factor for me, as well as the boy-racer in me who jumps to put pedal-to-floor every time I look at it. The Mazda 3 Hatch reminds me that I could have my cake and eat most of it too.  The exterior is still edgy enough to keep me hooked as a speed-fiend, and the interior is just great, far above what you would expect at the $20k to $23k price point.

Pricing: Honda = $21300  |  Mazda = $21890

  2017 Honda Civic
Hatchback Sport
2018 Mazda 3
Hatchback Touring
Vehicle Type: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback
Engine Type: turbocharged & intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block & head, direct fuel injection naturally aspirated DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block & head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 91 cu-in, 1497 cc 151 cu-in, 2488 cc
Manufacturer Claimed Power: 180 hp @ 5500 rpm 184 hp @ 5400 rpm
Manufacturer Claimed Torque: 177 lb-ft @ 1900 rpm 185 lb-ft @ 3250 rpm
Chassis-Dyno Recorded Power: 180 hp @ 5750 rpm 160 hp @ 5900 rpm
Chassis-Dyno Recorded Torque: 180 lb-ft @ 3100 rpm 175 lb-ft @ 4100 rpm
Transmission Type: manual, 6-speed automatic, 6-speed w/manual shift & sport mode
First Gear: 3.643 3.552
Fourth Gear: 1.024 1.000
Final Drive Ratio: 4.105 3.389
Wheelbase: 106.3 in 106.3 in
Curb Weight: 2871 lbs 3100 lbs
Front Suspension: MacPherson strut
w/stabilizer bar
MacPherson strut
w/stabilizer bar
Rear Suspension: multilink
w/stabilizer bar
w/stabilizer bar
Steering Ratio: 10.93:1 14:1
Brakes F/R: 11.1 in / 10.2 in 11.61 in / 10.43 in
Fuel Type: Regular Unleaded Regular Unleaded
City: 30 25
Highway: 39 34

To make a long story short, you can accomplish many of the same goals with both candidates, but in two very different ways.

So, whether it’s the brand, the trim, or the balance of style and performance, ask yourself: which one speaks to you?

Let us know in the comments!

-Barett, CorkSport Engineering

2018 Mazda 3 CBR – Transmission Modes Comparison

If you didn’t know already, CorkSport recently bought a brand new 2018 Mazda 3 Hatchback Touring Modelwith an automatic transmission.

Yes, I know, a performance aftermarket parts company has an automatic; I’m right there with you, but there’s a good reason for it.  CorkSport has a couple Mazda3 6-Speed Manuals and a couple manual and automatic Mazda 6’s, but no automatic Mazda 3; so it made sense to add that to the garage, especially with the many new performance parts we have in the pipe line.  Check those out here.

Now back to the CorkSport’s new 2018 Mazda 3.

The 6-speed automatic comes equipped with three transmission control modes; Standard (default), Sport, and Manual (aka manumatic).

We became curious about how those three modes affected the driving experience, specifically the shift points. I believe we all understand how the Manual control mode works, as it provides nearly 100% control of the shift points, so for the comparison I am going to focus on the differences between the Standard and Sport modes since those are controlled by the ECU.  

Driving the car on the street, you can easily feel the difference between the Standard and Sport modes of the Mazda3.

The Standard mode feels soft, relaxed, and maybe even lazy between shifts. It seems to default to the highest gear (lowest engine RPM) possible in every driving situation. This is great for fuel economy, but disappointing for smiles-per-gallon.  Push the Sport toggle, and the car comes alive.  The engine pulls through the RPM range longer for each gear and seems more eager to accelerate with the slightest throttle input. MUCH better.

The Butt Dyno is great and all, but it’s subjective, so we decided to strap the car down on the dyno to see what is happening; what exactly is changing between the Standard and Sport modes with the CorkSport 2018 Mazda3.

On the dyno, things become much clearer, but first, we had to set up the dyno to provide us with useful information. Typically we are testing wheel Torque and Horsepower, not shift points. It was interesting to play with the various parameters the dyno has available to find a readout that would convey the shift points and the effort the car was exerting. Check out the graph below; this is not your typical dyno plot.

With this dyno plot we quickly see that is much different than the typical readout.  I’m going to break it down, so it’s clear and easy for you to understand what is going on.

Description: Standard Mode = Red, Sport Mode = Green

The horizontal axis is our independent variable in the test. This is the variable/parameter we can control directly in the test. Since we are trying to understand the difference in shift points between the Standard and Sport modes, Road Speed was the logical choice. To be consistent, the throttle input percent for both Standard and Sport modes was held constant throughout the test runs.

The two vertical axis’s are the dependent variables in the test; these are the parameters that depend on engine RPM. On the right side of the dyno plot, we have engine RPM; this is represented by the lines with dots. On the left side of the dyno plot, we have tractive effort, which is essentially the amount of force the tires are applying to the road surface.

Looking at the two graphs, it’s clear that the Sport mode shift points and tractive effort are much different than Standard mode. This is interesting because we can now visualize what we were feeling while driving the Mazda 3 Hatchback on the street.

In Sport mode, the car carries through the engine RPM longer, and the resulting RPM after each shift is also higher.  Because each gear is carried to a higher RPM the resulting power is much greater, which is shown with the tractive effort plots.

Finishing statement: Sport mode significantly changes the way the car drives and responds. If you are looking for some fun out in the curves, don’t be shy, hit that Sport toggle and let the Mazda do what it was designed to do best.

Happy driving!

-Barett @ CS

CorkSport CBR Update #2: Bodykits

Alright, boys and girls so it’s time to turn up the CBR a notch and make her stand out.

Vincent from CorkSport here giving you the latest update!

If you have been following along, you know that we just got this brand new Mazda 3 not too long ago and decided we wanted to build it with you guys. In our most recent post, we asked for your opinions on a wrap for the car. Frankly, we wanted to collect more data to determine a real standout before we made a final decision, so we went back to the drawing board.

We also decided to take things a step further.

Before we decide to wrap it, we think we might do something a little bit more unique here and play with some body lines. We decided to make her pop and started exploring some options for body kits for the Mazda3. 

Now before you hit the next button and bail, hear me out.

I know the notion of body kits can leave many with a sour taste in your mouths. Some of you might think, “gross” or “you’ve got to be kidding me”, and in all honesty, I totally get where you’re coming from; I’m as “function over form” as they get. It’s rare you see me doing anything to my Mazda’s that does not ultimately have a true performance improvement goal intended. Maybe some nice LED’s here or a lip there, but pretty much if I am replacing something, it’s because I broke the original at the track, or need to upgrade to cut down on some lap times.

But for this Gen3 Mazda 3, since we are definitely going to have the performance end of things covered, we thought we might also explore some options that would make this ride visually unique as well. After all, the whole idea of the CBR is to have fun and to experiment!

On to the body kits we’re considering.

When I began looking for body kits, the first thing I did was go straight overseas to some good names in the aftermarket body industry. (No, I’m not talking about Rocket Bunny, can we please just go ahead and kill that already?)

Anyhoo, I decided to start with two names that CorkSport is very familiar with: Those two brands are Autoexe and Knight Sports. If you have not heard of them before, you should definitely give them a look. They are two of the biggest Mazda Performance brands out of Japan. Even more so, they both offer high-quality parts and styling accessories for the Mazda 3. I knew they would both have something interesting to offer, so I wanted to share my selections with you to see what you guys think.


Auto Exe #1

Autoexe offers two options for our Gen 3 Mazda3. Both simple and clean. One of the versions is just a rear spoiler and front bumper/grille. It does not even touch the side skirts or rear bumper. While this is not a bad option that makes for a simple look, I also wanted to explore something that would stand out a bit more; something that could catch the eye as a definite exterior modification.

Auto Exe #2

Now the 2nd kit they offer has a bit more to work with. It also is comprised of a front bumper/grill and rear spoiler, but it also adds side skirts and a little bit more aggressive styling. I liked this one because it has some nice LED fogs that are integrated into the bottom of the front bumper. A nice touch that is purposeful and visually stylish. The one drawback that I ran into however, is that both of these kits are both pre-facelift of the new car. Unfortunately for us, our car is brand spanking new and DOES have the face lift that Mazda provided for this model. That leads me to our next option…


I’m not going to lie here: the Knight Sports kit looks mean. (In a good way.) It’s aggressive, sleek, sexy, and fits all of the car’s body lines so well. The front fascia is fierce and fits the look of the car so naturally. The side skirts are in just the right proportions for the doors, and the little rear wing on the hatch compliments the car oh so well. Not to mention that this kit includes the whole package deal, including a nice rear bumper. I mean look at it!

This exterior modification kit looks pretty sick, and would make any Mazda3 look tough. The only sad thing once again, is this kit is pre-facelift, so we will have to have a chat with them and see what can be done. Perhaps we can see if something can be brought to the masses? Either way, all I know is that I personally want one of these kits on my cars!

Take a look at each of these kits, and let us know which one of them you like better.

Do you love one and hate another? Or maybe you are not a fan of either, and can recommend an even better-suited suggestion. We’d love to hear your feedback, because after all, we’re all building the CBR together 🙂

We want to give this CorkSport Branded Ride a new look asap, so drop a comment below and help us pick a direction!


Vincent @ CorkSport


Customer Feature: Larrison Gervacio (AKA BLKAUT)

At some point in time, you may have seen this car getting featured on our CS Facebook and Instagram pages.

He’s pretty well known on Instagram, and across several social media groups. We had a couple requests from customers to do an interview with Larrison aka @blkaut3!

Luckily, he’s a friend of mine so I was excited to do a little write up on his car. I gave Larrison a questionnaire to answer about the modding process he took with his car.

Hope you guys enjoy the read, and seeing a bit of how this beautiful machine was put together!

Question 1: When did you buy your car?

“It all started in the summer of 2014. I bought it from a Carmax, and had to have it shipped from Texas to Las Vegas. I ended up trading in my 2013 Mazda 3 for this. I used to have a slammed Mazda 626, after owning that, I knew I wanted something faster.”

Question 2: What took you down the Mod path you went with and why?

“With the 626, I was limited on how much I could modify, so I was excited to really do some things with this. I started doing minor mods here and there, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted my end result to be until my K04 blew. From there, I threw in a GTX3071 and all the supporting mods. I was ready for something more powerful! This is what really started everything.”

Question 3: What made you want to go with a track-inspired look?

“At first I just wanted something simple and clean. But, then I saw Brian’s Car (The owner of BMSPEC)
When he started producing his V1 wing risers, I knew I needed to jump on it. I put on the wing and splitter, and after that it was clear this was the path I was wanting to go with the car. After a bit, Brian and I established somewhat of a     partnership. Promoting his products is what really made my car look like it does today. There is more to come, as I am always working on it.”

Question 4: What do you enjoy most about owning this car?

“My favorite part would have to be owning something that is one of a kind. Something that has my own personal touches that make it mine. There isn’t another car that’s exactly like it, which is what makes it so fun. Getting to work on something that reflects my personality and style is what it’s all about.”

It was awesome of Larrison to share with us a bit of history on his MS3. We look forward to seeing his progress continue!

Brett @ CS.


Do you have ideas of any owners you’d like us to interview? Let us know in the comments or on social media!

The First CorkSport Branded Ride Mod + Vote For The CBR Graphics!

For those of you who have forgotten or who did not see the initial post we recently purchased a brand-new 2018 Mazda 3 Hatchback. Dubbed the CorkSport Branded Ride (CBR), we set out to start making it less like your mom’s car and more like something that suits the CorkSport name.

We turned to you all for suggestions and got some great feedback. We heard everything from wide bodykits, “slam it to the ground”, turbos and engine swaps, to easier mods like wheels, coil overs, and a new front lip.

We’re sure you’re anxious to find out where we’ve started: Intake? Exhaust? Springs? Our choice might surprise you.

But before we dig in to the first mod for the CBR, we first want to give you guys an opportunity to do something really fun:

Vote To Pick One of The 4 Graphic Concepts For The CorkSport Branded Ride!

Following up on our introduction to the CBR, our team here has decided to involve you guys in a whole new level of making this car look sick: Body Graphics!

Not only are we asking of your ideas and feedback for the mechanics of the CBR, we want you to decide on the aesthetics too. We want YOU to choose what this things actually looks like.

Our design team has developed 4 different concepts for the CBR graphics, and we must admit, they look pretty sweet. The concepts bring in a bunch of different styles, from racing to street, and are sure to make this baby an attention-grabber.

Here’s where you come in: We need you to cast a vote for your favorite concept for the CBR.

A few different ways you can vote:
  1. Repost a pic of your favorite concept with #CorkSport & #CorkSportCBR on social media so we can see your vote. Then, tag a friend and ask them to pick their favorite!
  2. Comment on one of our CBR social media posts for your vote with #CorkSport & #CorkSportCBR.
  3. Leave a comment on this blog post with your vote.
Here’s an example:
“So stoked to get to pick the design of the #CorkSport Branded Ride! My vote is on Concept #3 for sure. – @TagYourFriend, what’s your vote?? #CorksportCBR”

We will gather votes together and whatever concept the CorkSport Community chooses will ultimately be brought to life on the real CBR!

Now, on to the First CBR Mod:

We did not want to go crazy right off the bat, so we looked at where the average Mazda 3 owner might start. Maybe a license plate kit, short ram intake? Catback exhaust? Lowering springs? – All good guesses.

We decided to go for a reliability mod that many people may not consider right away: a CorkSport Oil Catch Can kit.

Now, why would we install this right away on a brand new car? It shouldn’t have any issues with engine health. – Well, that’s the exact reason we installed it.

If it doesn’t have any issues right now and the engine is clean and new, then why not keep it that way?
As an engine operates, oil mist, fuel vapor, water vapor, and other gases can pass from the crankcase to the intake using the stock PCV system. Over time, as these gases condense, they form gunk and carbon buildup on valves, piston tops, and other vital engine components. An oil catch can exists to catch all of the oil mist and other vapors before they get back to the intake and dirty all of the nice clean engine components. Additionally, these other gases do not do any favors to the combustion cycle. – Just ask anyone who has emptied one during an oil change; what an OCC collects is pretty nasty.

Now let’s get to the install.

Locating the can itself is a snap, and finds a home in the driver’s side fender well. Routing the hoses is the difficult part, surprisingly, as you have to gain access to some of the factory PCV hose. This means removing the air box, intake tube, and even the starter. Once the factory hose is removed, the new hoses are installed and routed to the OCC.

Finally, we added the ball valve to the bottom of the CorkSport Oil Catch Can, which means next time the CBR needs an oil change we have an easy way to drain the OCC as well.

So what’s next for the CBR? That’s completely up to you!

Help us decide by submitting ideas for what YOU would do if this was your car.
REMINDER: We will give you cred for submitting an idea that we use for the mods. In short: This means Your Name will actually be put on the CorkSport Branded Ride!
Stay Tuned, you’ll be seeing more of the CBR soon.

Remember to cast your vote for the CBR Graphics!

Again, here’s how to vote:
  1. Repost a pic of your favorite concept with #CorkSport & #CorkSportCBR on social media so we can see your vote. Then, tag a friend and ask them to pick their favorite!
  2. Comment on one of our CBR social media posts for your vote with #CorkSport & #CorkSportCBR.
  3. Leave a comment on this blog post with your vote.