I don't think any car maker makes a better, easier to use or smoother manual transmission and clutch than Honda. I have had 2 Honda Preludes, 2 Acura Legends, and an S2000, all with manual transmissions. Every one of them has been a joy to drive and shift.
I've also had a BMW 540 6 speed. No comparison. Honda/Acura nail manual transmissions.
I like the Civic. I test drove a 2009 Civic Si coupe and loved it. I've heard good things about the Mazda 3, but have never driven one. I test drove a Fit with my secretary and it was a very pleasant little car.
BTW, yes, I am a Honda fan, because Honda has earned my loyalty. I have had zero problems with my Honda Acuras. That really is some record.
Enjoy the Music. Trust your ears. Laugh at Folks Who Claim to Know it All.