2013 Honda Civic Versus 2013 Toyota Corolla

Cc500

It's a battle as old as time itself ... or at least it seems that way to the people who work at a car research website; Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla? Which relatively bland economy car is the right one?

In February we purchased a 2013 Honda Civic to join our long-term test fleet, and part of our yearlong mission is to pit it against other compacts that come into our review fleet for shorter evaluations.

One such car happened to be a 2013 Toyota Corolla. It had similar miles on it to our Civic, similar equipment — save for ridiculous large wheels with a ridiculously large price tag attached — and an upgraded multimedia system.

On the road, though, there proved to be a stark contrast in performance. Did the recently updated Civic completely trash the soon-to-be-replaced Corolla? Or did Toyota deliver an upset?

Editors Joe Wiesenfelder and David Thomas took the two on a test route around downtown Chicago, its suburbs and highways to find what separated the cars and which compact won in a number of crucial segments.

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Interior quality: Civic
David Thomas: I'm one of the few people who didn't have a problem with the 2012 Civic's interior. The 2013's interior is even classier, and with the digital screen, it looks cutting edge versus the Corolla.
Joe Wiesenfelder: The Civic's superiority is about materials as much as anything. The bright gauges and displays are upscale, and surfaces are soft where you might rest your arms, unlike the Corolla, which also has crude-feeling ventilation controls from the 1900s.

Handling: Civic
JW: For composure and steering, the Civic has this one in the bag, though it bears noting the Corolla's vague steering has more power assist, which some drivers favor.
DT: I don't think anyone's grandma would have trouble wrestling with the steering wheel of the Civic, and they'd gain its superior handling chops. Easy win.

Braking: Civic
DT: Both cars brake reasonably well. I'd give the slight edge to Civic here.
JW: The Civic's braking is definitely a bit better in normal driving, but in a panic stop, it's much better. The Corolla isn't as stable.

Corolla1

Ride: Corolla
JW: I was surprised to find the Corolla relatively comfortable — not super refined, but more compliant. The Civic's firmness became irritating.
DT: I've been driving the Civic so much lately that it has become a second family car. The ride doesn't bother me, but I'll stand behind Joe's assessment on this one. Corolla gets a win!

Noise: Civic
DT: The Corolla had horrendous engine noise, and you could hear the difference in road noise when we hit the highway. The Civic used to be one of the louder cars in this segment, not anymore.
JW: Honda did a great job with the noise treatments for 2013. In addition to the Corolla's overall noise issues, its four-speed automatic transmission guarantees more dramatic revving than the Honda exhibits.

Acceleration: Civic
JW: For perspective, I don't object to the Corolla's transmission being a four-speed in principle, and I prefer its behavior to continuously variable automatic transmissions (Nissan Sentra) and poorly executed dual-clutch gearboxes (Ford Focus), but it certainly doesn't do much for acceleration or noise.
DT: Neither is fast. The Corolla wasn't as terrifyingly slow from a start as the last one I tested, but again the slight edge goes to Civic for me.

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Mileage: Civic
DT: Here we can just let the numbers speak the truth. Both the EPA fuel-economy numbers and our observed mileage on this test went to Civic.
JW: Yep. Lots of factors contribute, but it's safe to assume the four-speed isn't helping here, either.

CivicCorollampg

Seats: Civic
JW: The lumbar support seemed excessive in the Civic, but otherwise they're definitely better seats — more appropriately contoured and with a longer bottom cushion for thigh support.
DT: I liked the Corolla's slightly firmer seats just like some people like rock-hard mattresses. Again, because of my familiarity with the Civic, my finicky back knows the Honda will treat it right.

Multimedia: Civic
DT: Even though this Corolla had a navigation system, which puts it over the top in features, I prefer the look of the Civic's display and the ease of use of those big buttons and knobs.
JW: I agree there, but I can't get past how truly dismal the Civic stereo sounds. Whenever I drive "CRSCOM2," I listen to podcasts because I can't bear how music sounds. It's really an awful system.

In an eight-to-one drubbing, the Civic comes out ahead in this bout. Maybe the next Corolla will put up a better fight. Our Civic will be here waiting.

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Related
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Comments 

Al G.

Let me start by saying that the Corolla was at disadvantage from the start. The 2013 Civic is the refreshed one (following the much maligned “All New” 2012 model). Honda was in the weeds for sure and had to correct with a better car. Even up against the 2012 Civic, the Corolla may not have fared much better. That having been said comparing the two cars shows just how long in the tooth the current Corolla is. It’s not a bad car but, it needs a redo ASAP to stay relevant. To make matters worse for the Corolla the last “All-NEW Corolla wasn’t as improved as it could have been. At the NYC Auto show this year I saw the concept for the new Corolla. Once the new Corolla drops I think we will have a more balanced face-off. Here’s to hoping Toyota build this one and gives it a better looking interior and handling than the current model.

Tony

Do Civics still treat you to 40/60 split bench and rear disk brakes only on EX and up?
This may be again a point that on Mazda3, Corolla, etc. you can get things you need without things you don't need (sunroof). And until Honda addresses it I am not buying. their packaging may be design to entice people into higher package but I think it is stupid to spend 2 extra grand for things you don't need. Get enother car and issue solved.

Brandon

Civic is usually more expensive...so I think the Corolla wins that battle.

AJ

This IS a fair comparison since both cars are 2013 models. It's not Honda's fault that Toyota didn't refresh much for 2013. One advantage to Honda there. How come the Toyota gets 5 less MPG on the highway? The Corolla is slower, less refined, has a cheaper interior, more noise, and outdated transmission, worse handling, and less cutting edge technology...and the Honda has better crash protection! I'd say it's time for Toyota to step up their game.

Tony

My test drive of Corolla S lasted 500 yards. Civic was... funky plastic car. Hello Mazda3. Ah, that was 2.5 years ago. Regrets - 0.

J

Tony,

How much of a depreciation hit you took?

Depreciation not only hurts when you trade it in, it also hurts when some moron hits you and totals your car.

Dwillis

I owned a 2012 Civic and hated it! I bought it after having my 2006 Civic for 6 years which I LOVED!!! I traded my 2012 Civic in for a 2013 Corolla LE and even though its a 5 year old design the Corolla rides smoother, has a better tech package, sound system and is much quieter on the highway and better gas mileage than the 2012 and the 2013 Civic. The 2013 Civic is a little better than the 2012 and is a little nicer in some ways than the 5 year old design Corolla. The 2014 Corolla coming in Sept is going to be a different story. And will most likely be superior to the Civic again. Oh and the first 2 years of service is free with Toyota and it was $3000 cheaper than the current Civic with the same equipment and has free Toyota Care which is great! Honda is GREAT we have the new Accord and it is better than the new Camry but Toyota wins the value contest on the Civic in my opinion this year and the 2014 is set to be even better!

Card13

J,

The Mazda3 has some of the strongest resale in the compact class. When Tony bought his car, the 3 was crowned as having the lowest expected depreciation (better than Civic and Corolla). Today it's probably even or barely lower; it's not like he bought a Caliber or something

Tony

J, Card13,,

I don't even know what depreciation numbers are and I am sure that for Mazda3 it is not thAt bad. But I am planning to drive it for 10 years. Then, who cares?

In 1998 I shopped Civic/Corolla as well and Protege ES was purchased as result. I still drive it every other day while my son is in college. It has 184K miles.

What I am trying to say, I do give Honda and Toyota, and even Hyundai (this time) a shot at being my car. But Mazda so far is winning. Although, should I shop different car than compact, the result would be different. As a matter fact, Highlander won :o)

Jerry

To me there is no comparison Civic to Corolla. Civics have always been more advanced and sophisticated and definitely a better driving experience. I really think it's and insult to Honda to compare the two. Maybe some sort of way you can compare the 1993 Civic to a 2013 Corolla. I'd still pick the Civic hands down. Toyotas are just..,plain old boring transportation devises, what they are meant to be.

AladdinSane

The only thing Toyota has in its favor is Toyota Care, 2 years free maintenance and roadside assistance. Just walking about in my hood the number of Corollas I see just boggles the mind. The simplicity of the Corolla is a plus, but competition in its class has zoomed upward leaving the Corolla especially in its lower line model looking primitive and stale. The Camry is tired, and the Yaris just doesn't cut it, speaking for myself. I wish there was something unique out there, a new concept that would set the economy car class ablaze similar to the original VW air cooled, rear engine Beetle...but alas...there's none to be found, unfortunately.
Peace...
AladdinSane
:-)

Ann

Been driving Toyota Camrys for years. Decided maybe I'll get a Civic instead, just something different. Drove the Civic, very low to the ground, but decided to place an order for one. Then for fun went to Toyota to drive the Corolla. Big difference in handling, smoothness, and my ankles didn't turn getting out. Cancelled Civic order and went back to Toyota. No comparision.

AJ

There is actually NOTHING better about the Corolla over the Civic. The Corolla S looks nice but that's about it. The Corolla does NOT handle or drive better than the Civic. If the Corolla didn't have the "Toyota" name, no one would even bother buying it. I've owned both and drove both of these new models and you're nuts if you think the Corolla is better at anything. I also got the 2 year free maintenance/roadside assistance with the Civic.

YD

I own a corolla S 2010 and very happy with the performance and acceleration . I tested drive civic before I bought corolla and found it is very sluggish and noisy on acceleration. Unhappy with acceleration I choose corolla. Recently I drove my friends civic 2013 and I am convinced that corolla accelerates much faster and happy with my choice. I don't have the skills of a test driver, but my friend also feels corolla is much quicker than his car.

Steve W

Just make sure you get the automatic transmission with the Civic. I have the 5-speed manual on my 2013 and I HATE it. The clutch and the gearbox feel like they're a mile apart. Honda really got it wrong there...

Rod McStiffert

Civic has it all over the 2013 and 2014 Corolla.....Corolla is for old Ladies...as a matter of fact camry is a big bore too...real crap

Nick Steil

I find these comments and commercials about the Mazda 3 having great resale value rather funny. I bought a 2013 Mazda 3 GS (middle of the trim levels) total-ish amount financed was about 32000. In 11 months and 17000 kms later I decided the car was too small and needed a bigger ride. So I went on over to a local Honda dealer, they gave me a trade appraisal using all sorts of methods (calling mazda dealers, comparing to autotrader...etc. I was given an appraisal of 20000. That is not good resale value. Considering how a Honda Civic EX brand new is about 25000 and a 3 or 4 year old Civic EX is going for a cost of about 4000 dollars less than new. THATS RESALE VALUE

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