By on November 5, 2019

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.

2020 Toyota Corolla - Image: Toyota Canada

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]

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28 Comments on “Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic Just Might Pull Off Wins This Year...”


  • avatar
    MorrisGray

    The hatchback looks very nice although I don’t usually care for a hatchback. The naturally aspirated motor is a plus in my opinion and especially with the manual transmission. Not sure about the sedan yet and I wish they had the same 4 cyl motor in the Corolla as offered in the Camry but with a manual! That would seal the deal!

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    If only the Civic looked like the Corolla or the Corolla drove like the Civic. Either way, small car fans have some compelling choices still yet.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    The Corolla hatchback is best looking econobox ever made…

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      It has good bones and potential, but it’s slow. I’m holding out hope for a GT-S version as well as a Fit SI (the dealer installed performance package is good, but doesn’t bump the power).

  • avatar
    thejohnnycanuck

    Can’t say as I’m surprised. We purchased a new Corolla Hatch with the 6spd manual this summer and it really deserves all the accolades being heaped upon it. It looks great, drives great and the build quality is impeccable.

    And if the Corolla Hybrid is eventually responsible for the demise of the Prius then it’s another win.

  • avatar
    Carrera

    I really wanted to like the Corolla hatch but I need the back seat on occasion and the sedan is much better for that, although I heard the previous generation 2014-2019 has a roomier back seat. My 2014 manual S has been flawless in its 116,000 miles. Doesn’t make my heart flutter but the manual is way better than the CVT

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Honda, Toyota, Hyundai, and Kia are smart keeping smaller affordable cars in their lineup. Build the customer loyalty and customers will trade up to their higher profit margin vehicles. Eventually there will be a downturn in the economy and the Big 2 and 1/2 will not have the more affordable and fuel efficient vehicles. Large pickups and big suvs will eventually become less popular and much less attainable.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      I don’t disagree with the strategy, but all during the last downturn and with 4 dollar plus per gallon gas the number one selling vehicle was…the Ford F150

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    Challettunity!

  • avatar

    How people choose Corolla over Mazda3, or Focus (RIP), is beyond my comprehension. Last year I rented Corolla and it was the most dreadful car I had the honor to drive, ever. Regarding Focus I was not very excited but at least I felt alive and did not notice any issues with AT.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Both the Focus and the Mazda3 have marginal rear seat room, and the Focus has earned a poor reliability reputation (due to the Powershift automatic) that even laymen are quite aware of. So hardly surprising.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      I drive a Focus now and used to own a Mazda3. Corolla is on my list for next car. Cars change and people change. This Corolla is apparently much better than the previous one you rented,but I have driven neither as of yet.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    This is concerning. Honda and Toyota will get the vast majority of compact car buyers, which is still a pretty substantial group. They will build brand loyalty. In 5 to 10 years when the CUV and SUV craze tanks, they will have a huge advantage over our domestics.

    I’ve given up caring very much about what other people drive and seldom comment on this new CUV or that anymore. I don’t have any say in it so what’s the point. But it bothers me that a lot of my money may end up getting spent to bail out our Big 3 auto makers again. Time will tell but I bet I prove right.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Yeah, and station wagons and minivans will be back any day now too.

      This isn’t a phase…the car has simply returned to the form factor it had by in large before the “longer, wider, lower” days of the 60s.

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      Nah, that’s doubtful but economy cars will be back I bet. Economic trends, which can’t be disputed, show the majority of the nation getting less affluent and those who are affluent are moving into large urban areas.

      Sure Trump’s turning this around a bit but he’s not going to be in office past 2024, if he even survives 2020 (he should but who knows?). Just wait. Around 2025 or so the SUV and CUV market will start shrinking. How dramatically is what time will tell.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        Once the pedocrats take power again, there won’t be a middle class that can buy new cars.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          That is the plan, part of the sustainable future of Agenda 2030.

        • 0 avatar
          Superdessucke

          I didn’t want to get too political but, yeah, that’s what I mean. Trump is one of a kind. I can’t wrap my mind around anyone who would replace him and continue the fight to try to rejuvenate the middle class. Even if a Republican gets elected in 2024, odds favor it being a rino who will be in a constant state of apology.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Second picture: Was unaware that Honda has adopted grid fins (cf. Sergey Belotserkovskiy).

    (One questions the effectiveness of any stabilization provided if the grid fins aren’t in contact with the airstream. Honda, you’re doing it wrong?)

  • avatar

    Ford and GM can no longer build competitive sedans and compacts. What is disturbing is that they are making the same mistakes in producing their trucks that they did in cars. The interior quality in GM trucks has a lot to be desired, and Ford’s assembly quality has been poor. It is not the changing market that is hurting the big two, but the inefficient way they go about building their product.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Ford still builds cars, they just sell them in the parts of the world where they can make money doing it. I don’t like it because I still like cars, but it hardly seems like an inefficient approach.

      Furthermore, shouldn’t midsized cars be growing for these makers as well as these owners “trade up”? They aren’t because the first chance these folks get they are dumping these chumps for crossovers or trucks.

  • avatar
    pathfinderdoorhandle

    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.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      pathfinderdoorhandle

      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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