The Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla: the two best-selling compact models in the U.S. month after month; the two are on the top of the charts, usually one of the models being number one while the other sits in second place. It’s something that has confounded many automotive writers and enthusiasts as they believe there are better options out there. What they tend forget is those two vehicles have a reputation that very few can even dare match, which for most buyers counts massively.
So what is it about these two vehicles that many people decide to purchase? Is it the name alone or something else? But also which one of these two vehicles is deserving of your money? I went back to back with the redesigned Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic to answer these questions.
2013 saw Honda give the Civic an emergency update to better combat the swath of new compact models that arrived on the scene. This begins with exterior with a new front that features a revised hood, mesh grille with smiling chrome surround; and set of reshaped headlights. Other changes include new wheel choices and a restyled trunk lid. But somehow, the new Civic still looks like the old model. This is most likely due to model sticking with the same profile as the previous model. It is an improvement, but I wished Honda’s designers could have done more.
This leads us to the Corolla which has undergone a massive transformation from bland econobox to something stylish. The new model borrows heavily from the Corolla Furia concept shown last year at the Detroit Auto Show. There’s a bold front end design, short rear end, LED lighting and sharp lines throughout. The S model adds a bit more aggression with a mesh grille, seventeen-inch alloy wheels, and a distinguishing blue color that makes the Corolla really stand out in a crowd.
Design-wise, the Corolla takes the win in this round.
Both models have seen a massive improvement with their interiors thanks to improved designs and better materials used throughout. Finding a comfortable position in either car was easy thanks to the range of adjustments available with the optional power seats and adjustable steering wheels that tilt and telescopes in both vehicles. Even the controls for either vehicle were in easy reach for the driver and passenger.
So where do the Civic and Corolla differ? The interior rear space according to the auto sheets. Looking at the spec sheets of the two models, the Corolla has more passenger volume than Civic (97.11 cubic feet vs. 92.1 cubic feet). The Corolla also bests the Civic in most rear seat dimensions (except in rear hip room where the Civic holds a 7.5 inch advantage over the Corolla). But sitting in the back of both vehicles tells another story. The Corolla feels a little bit tighter as my head is almost touching the roof (mostly due to the optional sunroof) and my legs being right up against the front seat. The Civic has a little bit more space for my head and legs. Also helping the Civic is the beige color for the interior which helps make it feel larger. The Corolla was done up in a black interior which only made the interior feel smaller.
The Civic just takes this round for having a slightly larger back seat and feeling slightly larger.
Both Honda and Toyota were a bit behind on the technology front when compared to competitors, but both Civic and Corolla feature their latest generation of infotainment systems.
Honda’s latest infotainment system features some new improvements such as new home screen with large touchscreen buttons to take you to different parts of the system and the introduction of Aha internet radio which allows you to create personalized stations from content on the internet (podcasts, radio, music, etc.). But there still is a lot of the old Honda system here. Case in point is the navigation system which was fine back in 2005, but looks dated when compared to other systems. Also not helping the Civic out is Honda’s decision to go with capacitive touch buttons on the Civics head unit. I found myself having to hit the buttons for the volume or home buttons a few times for it to register. Thankfully, this Civic came equipped with steering wheel controls which I found myself using a lot.
Toyota has taken a huge leap forward with their infotainment system with a new interface that is easy to use and understand thanks to a larger font, improved graphics, and bigger touchscreen buttons. Also helping is Toyota’s decision to keep actual buttons to help get you around to different parts of the system. The Corolla’s screen is slightly smaller than the Civics, but I found the Corolla’s screen to be just as bright and readable as the one found in the Civic. An added bonus for the Corolla’s infotainment system is variety of information that comes from XM Radio which includes weather, stock quotes, sport scores, and much more. I don’t how many people are checking your stock quotes via the car’s infotainment system, but everything else is a nice touch.
The Corolla with its better interface and feature set takes this round.
Both of these compacts utilize 1.8L four-cylinder engines paired to CVTs. The Civic makes do with 143 horsepower and 129 pound-feet of torque, while the Corolla has 140 horsepower and 126 pound-feet of torque. With both vehicles having around the same power, there really isn’t a difference in how quickly they get up to speed. Leaving a stop light or merging onto the freeway, both models got up to speed at a reasonable clip.
The difference lies in the refinement of the powertrains. The Civic has a slight advantage over the Corolla in this department as its four-cylinder is just a little bit quieter when at idle or moving. The CVT in the Civic also doesn’t make as much noise when you accelerate as it does in the Corolla.
The flip side is when we are talking about fuel economy. The EPA rates the 2014 Honda Civic at 30 City/39 Highway/33 Combined, and the 2014 Toyota Corolla at 29 City/38 Highway/32 Combined. In my testing, the Corolla bested the Civic in average fuel economy with the former getting 32.2 MPG and the latter getting 31.3 MPG.
In this round, I think I call this a tie.
Ride & Drive:
For most drivers, these vehicles will be driven in the city and out on the freeway. How do they fare in this area? Well the Civic is the more comfortable of the two as its able to smooth out the roadway and provide a ride that is reminiscent to bigger sedan. Road and wind noise were kept to a decent level, I.e. I didn’t have to turn up the radio a lot to drown out the noise. The Corolla’s ride is a little bit stiffer due to the S model getting slightly larger wheels and some suspension tuning. This means more bumps and road imperfections are let in. Noise isolation is about the same as the Civic.
But what if you decide to have a bit of fun? Then you want the Corolla. I know this is a bit of surprise, but the Corolla S is really good in the corners with new suspension tuning and nicely weighted steering that provides decent feel. The Civic loses a bit here due to its suspension being somewhat softer, although the steering is just as good as the Corolla.
In this round, I’ll give half a point to each car. The Civic for better daily ride, while the Corolla nails the fun to drive aspect.
With a score of 2.5 vs. 1.5, the Corolla is the winner in this comparison. The Corolla has the better looks, infotainment system, and is fun to play around with. The Civic, while coming in second has some redeeming features in its camp. The interior is slightly larger than the Corolla and it offers a more comfortable ride when driving day to day.
After spending a week with both vehicles, I can now see why these two are the top selling models in the class. Its not just name itself, but how these two cars are all things to all people.
Disclaimer: Honda Provided the Civic EX-L, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas. Toyota Provided the Corolla S, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas.
Trim: EX-L w/Navi
Engine: 1.8L 16-Valve SOHC i-VTEC Inline-Four
Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT
Horsepower @ RPM: 143 @ 6500
Torque @ RPM: 129 @ 4300
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/39/32
Curb Weight: 2,930 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Greensburg, Indiana
Base Price: $24,240
As Tested Price: $25,030 (Includes $790.00 Destination Charge)
Engine: 1.8L DOHC 16-Valve VVT-i Inline-Four
Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT
Horsepower @ RPM: 132 @ 6,000
Torque @ RPM: 128 @ 4,400
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 29/37/32
Curb Weight: 2,895 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Blue Springs, Mississippi
Base Price: $20,400
As Tested Price: $23,570 (Includes $810.00 Destination Charge)
Driver Connivence Package - $1,510
Power Moonroof - $850.00