Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic Just Might Pull Off Wins This Year

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

As selling compact passenger cars to Americans is no longer a responsibility borne by domestic automakers, Japan is left shouldering much of the burden in a segment it’s always excelled in. Western car sales are on the decline and, with the Detroit Three pulling out, Japan saw both a challenge and an opportunity.

The biggest players, Toyota and Honda, chose to expend every round in their magazines in the hopes of scoring hits. The Civic and Corolla diversified, upping their game and pulling further ahead of rivals like the Nissan Sentra and Mazda 3.

If capturing a bigger share of the pie while stabilizing their own softening sales was the goal, Honda and Toyota seem to have succeeded. With two months left in 2019, it’s increasingly looking like both models could finish 2019 with a sales increase.

For Civic, 2017 was the nameplate’s high-water mark. The Corolla, previously split between two models riding atop different platforms, is now whole again. The Corolla iM, formerly the Scion iM, is now the Corolla Hatch, sharing its TNGA architecture with the new-for-2020 Corolla sedan. For the first time, Toyota is offering a hybrid variant for those who aren’t ready to be seen in a Prius.

Corolla sales peaked in 2016.

With October out of the way, we can now see the Civic has eked out a slim year-to-date gain of 0.6 percent. At the halfway point in the year, Civic sales were down 4 percent. Over at Toyota, Corolla sales through the end of October are only off 2018’s figures by 0.3 percent. That’s a difference of 832 vehicles. At the end of June, Corolla volume was trailing 2018 by 5.3 percent.

Both models are making headway, though the Corolla seems to owe its improving sales picture to the presence of the hatchback model. Despite the new and improved sedan, sales of that bodystyle are trailing 2018 figures to a mild degree (Toyota doesn’t separate the two bodystyles in its sales tally, but this website does). On the other hand, sales of the vastly improved hatch, which bowed partway through 2018, significantly outpaced those of the disappointing iM.

It’s this year’s rise in hatchback sales that has propelled the Corolla to within striking distance of a year-to-date sales gain — a feat all automakers still in the compact car game dream of (and one Mazda won’t achieve, despite having an all-new 3). The fact that you can’t buy a new Focus or Cruze anymore will help both automakers capture new buyers, though exactly how many is anyone’s guess.

Unlike at Toyota, things are not all-new at Honda, but the well-regarded current-gen Civics just gained a mid-cycle refresh that adds content and — in some cases — improved performance through revised gearing. We’ll have a review of the latest Civic Si for you later this week.

[Images: Toyota, Honda]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Pathfinderdoorhandle Pathfinderdoorhandle on Nov 06, 2019

    Encouraging side note: Toyota is running a print ad in the buff books extolling the availability of a six-speed MANUAL in the Corolla sedan. The headline reads something along the lines of "Gas. Clutch. Shift. Repeat." Not sure it's going to "save the manuals" but it can't hurt.

    • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on Nov 06, 2019

      Agree. It is a solid "slow car fast" type proposition and doesn't look like it spin out in a Pep Boys circa 1997 like the Civic.

  • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on Nov 06, 2019

    Crossovers are cars. Taking a car platform, raising a bit and tacking a hatch on the rear just makes it a taller wagon. I fail to see all of the hate and frankly, whenever I travel up North I am reminded why people want some ground clearance given the state of the roads.

    • Pathfinderdoorhandle Pathfinderdoorhandle on Nov 06, 2019

      Good point. But most owners/proponents of cut utes cite the higher seating position that lets them see farther down the road as the main reason for their vehicle choice. Of course, that doesn't count for much when every third rig on the road in front of you is a four-door F250 dually. Kind of the same mindset that tells people at a concert or sporting event to stand up so they can see the show better; if everyone remained seated they could all see equally well!

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  • Marty The problem isn't range; it's lack of electricity in multi-unit building parking. All you need is level 1 - a standard 120v wall socket - and if you're plugged in 10 hours overnight you get 280 miles per week or more. That's enough for most folks but you can use public charging to supplement when needed. Installing conduit circuits and outlets is simple and cheap; no charge stations needed.