IF I were to get a brand-new car, it’d really be down to one hatchback or the other. What does Oppo think of the Mazda3 2.5 vs the Civic Sport hatchback? And which one is easier to find with a manual gearbox?

I configured a Civic Sport and the MSRP came out to $22,375.

I configured a Mazda3 Touring and it came out to $23,215.

These vehicles are within $1000 of each other in price, and only 4 horsepower separate their peak outputs. The naturally aspirated Mazda is actually ahead in torque as well, at 185 lb-ft versus the Civic’s 177. (An extra LITER of displacement makes that little turbo look less compelling.) 25/33 MPG for the Mazda vs 29/38 for the Civic. Mileage under “Enthusiast Pace” driving not known for either, though the Civic’s MPG lead probably lessens under boost.

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So, which one is the better pick? The hypothetical purpose is to find the best daily that can also autocross acceptably when equipped with nice tires. Which one is more fun? And is there any chance of finding either with a manual transmission without doing a special order?