When it comes to compact cars, two models have dominated the segment over the past several years the same way sequels and reboots have taken over the movie industry. The Honda Civic and the Toyota Corolla are in a constant battle for sales supremacy. Last year Honda unveiled an all-new Civic that handily outsold the ancient 2013 Toyota Corolla despite a lukewarm reception.
But this year, Toyota has a new Corolla, one that is a drastic departure style-wise from every Corolla before it. Not wanting to sit back and watch this new ‘rolla outpace the Civic on the sales chart, Honda expedited a refreshed Civic only one year after introducing an all-new new model. The manufacturer has taken to heart the criticism both consumers and the automotive press lambasted on the lackluster 2012 Civic.
REFRESH vs REVOLUTION
One of the biggest issues with the 2012 Civic redesign was how closely it resembled the previous generation. After such an extreme redesign in 2006, people expected more with the new Civic; a lot more. So, for 2013 Honda added some plastic chrome here and there, a new set of taillights, a few more muscular creases and voila! A more modern, if not attractive, Civic was born.
Toyota may have been watching the backlash the 2012 Civic received and decided to throw all of its proverbial cards on the table when sculpting the 2014 Corolla. This car is a grand departure from past models and features bold, aggressive styling. Yes. A bold Corolla. We’ll let that sink in for a moment.
See Also: 2013 Honda Civic vs 2013 Nissan Sentra
The new car is more round, modern and eye catching. Our Corolla S test model came with the optional two-tone 17-inch wheels that remind us of those found on the Scion FR-S. Like many compact cars these days, the new Corolla has a large gapping grille flanked by angry looking headlights. Unlike any compact car on the market today, or hardly any car at price, the Corolla comes standard with LED headlights.
TECHNOLOGY vs LUXURY
As dramatic as the exterior restyle may have been, the interior is what really grabbed our attention. The old model had a cabin as up-to-date or contemporary as a crank starter. Toyota really had nowhere to go but up with the Corolla’s interior, yet still delivered beyond our expectations. The modern design integrates all the switch controls in a seamless and appealing way. The multi-angle dashboard looks more upscale than expected in a car at this price point and beside the Civic’s drab interior, it looks downright stylish.
But Honda did make several changes to the 2013 Civic’s interior as well. Most materials were upgraded including a deeper grain plastic on to top the dash and the soft materials for the door tops as well as a strip on the glove box. The entire center console is all-new and now includes Honda’s multi-screen display on higher trimmed models. This layout works especially well because it allows you to see music information and the navigation screen simultaneously. With the digital gauges and multiple color displays, the Civic’s driver-focused dash is more tech heavy than the Corolla’s.
In the back, the Corolla blows away the Civic as well as several mid-size sedans, by offering 41.4 inches of rear legroom. Yup, that is over five inches more than the Civic and nearly as much as Toyota’s own Camry. With 13.0 cubic feet of cargo room in the trunk, the Corolla also trumps the Civic by a half cubic foot of space. In such a pragmatic segment, this is how you win customers.
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CARRYOVER VS MOSTLY CARRYOVER
By now you may have noticed we have yet to mention what powers either of these cars or how they drive. That is because neither the Civic nor the Corolla offers much new or all that exciting under the hood. Powering all non-Si Civics is still the same 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine making 140 hp and 128 lb-ft of torque. It can be matched up to a five-speed manual transmission in the base LX Civic while every other trim offers a five-speed automatic only; proof that the Civic’s days as a sport compact are long behind it now (Si not withstanding).
The Corolla also uses a 1.8 liter four pot available in two flavours. The new LE ECO trim features Toyota’s Valvematic technology to improve fuel efficiency and bump power up to 140 hp. All other Corolla trims get by with the older-than-dirt 1.8 liter four banger making 132 hp and 128 lb-ft of torque. Speaking of pyramid-age technology, the four-speed automatic is still technically available, but reserved mostly for fleet sales in the base L model. All other Corollas will come with a CVT while the base L and ‘sporty’ S can be had with a six-speed manual.
|Vehicle||2013 Honda Civic EX-L||Advantage||2014 Toyota Corolla S|
|Engine||1.8 Liter Inline-4||-||1.8 Liter Inline-4|
|Horsepower||140 hp||Civic||132 hp|
|Max. Torque||128 lb-ft||-||128 lb-ft|
|Fuel Economy||28 MPG city / 39 MPG hwy||-||29 MPG city / 37 MPG hwy|
|Observed Fuel Economy||33.1 MPG||Corolla||34.6 MPG|
|Weight||2,877 lbs.||-||2,865 lbs.|
|Cargo Capacity||12.5 cu. ft.||Corolla||13.0 cu. ft.|
|As Tested Price||$24,555||Corolla||$23,570|
SAME ON PAPER, DIFFERENT IN REAL LIFE
Fuel economy looks to be a dead heat for our comparison vehicles. The Civic EX-L is officially rated at 28 mpg city and 39 mpg highway, while the Corolla S is rated to return 29 mpg in the city and 37 on the highway. But that is on paper. In the real world a clear winner emerged; the Corolla averaged 34.6 mpg while the Civic could only muster 33.1 mpg.
Safe to say neither of these cars is particularly sporty; but they aren’t meant to be. The Corolla and Civic are meant to be easy to drive commuters with a focus on fuel economy. The Civic does offer a little more agility than the Corolla, but gives up some of the Toyota’s more stable and planted feeling ride in return. Managing Editor Luke Vandezande may have said it best: “The Civic is designed for those who like idea of a sporty car, but don’t want to fully commit to one.”
See Also: 2014 Toyota Corolla Review – Video
Thanks to the low dashboard and belt line, the Civic offers great sightlines all around, but some of our taller drivers found the seating position a bit too high. Conversely, the high-set dashboard in the Corolla made it difficult for some of our shorter drivers to gain optimal forward visibility.
PREDICTABLE AS A SPLIT VOTE US ELECTION
The Civic’s steering wheel has a rather small diameter that lends it animbler than expected feel. Steering feedback is predictable and throttle response is what should be expected for a modern compact producing 140 hp. With the Corolla abandoning the four-speed auto in all but rental car versions, the new Civic’s two five-speed transmissions are looking out of date. Although both deliver impressive fuel economy, the automatic is a bit slow to change gears.
The Corolla’s responses feel even further dulled down as the steering and throttle are no particularly quick to respond. The engine is a bit noisy when paired with the CVT, but is quick to modulate rpm and in sport mode can be run through seven simulated gears.
The Civic begins at a price of $18,995 which is $1,385 more than the base Corolla. Our fully added Civic EX-L with Navigation rang in at $24,922 after destination charges while the Corolla S Premium costs $23,570. Our Civic also had a set of dealer installed 17 inch wheels not listed here that would ramp the price up even further.
Although the Civic may have a slight edge in the driving department, it’s the more practical features of compact sedans that consumers really care about. Factors like price, fuel economy and space top their priority lists and the Corolla trumps the Civic in those categories. In such a close race, that’s more than enough to hand it the win.
2014 Toyota Corolla S
2013 Honda Civic EX-L