2017 Honda CivicEnlarge Photo
The Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic are two of the best-selling compact sedans in the U.S., and each nameplate has been with us for more than 40 years now. The 2017 Civic is only a year old in its current form, while the 2017 Corolla is in its fourth model year of the current generation and is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Each will provide economical, reliable basic transportation, with higher fuel economy and more features and amenities than their predecessors. But one earns considerably better ratings from our reviewers.
It's hard to argue the numbers here, and by the scores, the Civic is the winner. Both have been rated using our new scoring method, and while the Corolla is more handsome, we like the Civic's edgier looks and its safety record is hard to top. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Toyota Corolla has long been known for design that's the purest vanilla. For 2012, Toyota gave it a fresh look that's more daring and edgy than previous versions. It has a more distinctive front end, side accent lines, and a kickup in the window line. Still, it remains instantly identifiable as a compact Toyota sedan. LED headlamps and running lamps on the outside add a nice finishing touch, while a sporty Corolla SE adds blacked-out trim and other sporty details.
The 2016 Civic sedan is simply the best-looking Honda in a decade or more, with an edgy fastback profile that hides a increase in size by widening and lowering the sedan's proportions. The front end may be its weakest angle, with a thick and formal band of chrome; elsewhere the Civic's flared wheels, fast roofline, and bracket-shaped taillamps wouldn't look out of place in an Acura showroom. The back reminds some of the departed Accord Crosstour, but the package comes together in a striking look that's a welcome departure from its blander predecessor.
Under the hood of most Corolla models you'll find a 132-horsepower 1.8-liter inline-4, with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that responds well in most cases. For those seeking maximum fuel efficiency, the Corolla LE Eco trim holds the upper hand, with a specially tuned version of that engine and gas mileage of 35 mpg combined.
On the road, most models in the Corolla lineup remain a bit springy and pillowy, with steering that's too light for anything but demure driving. They're competent, predictable, and unexciting. If you enjoy driving, the sportier Corolla SE should be your only choice. Its suspension is tuned more like that of a sport sedan—with a Sport button that firms up the steering, and a ride that's absorbent and nicely damped.
The Civic has two performance identities. Base models have linear, unexciting acceleration and handling. Turbo Civics get a big power boost and exceptional ride smoothness. The standard engine is a 158-hp, 2.0-liter inline-4, with either a 6-speed manual transmission (on LX models only) or a CVT carried over from the last-generation Civic. The linear, unobtrusive power delivery will be familiar to earlier Civic owners; the loose and light-shifting manual turns in 31-mpg combined EPA ratings—but the far more common CVT is rated at 35 mpg combined. You'll get the same fuel economy plus far more lively performance from the 1.5-liter turbo-4, and with 174 hp it's capable of Civic Si-like straight-line performance.