Dueling Compacts: Two Class Leaders Manage a Win in 2019

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Not that long ago, we posited that the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic would buck the declining passenger car trend and eke out a sales win in 2019. Several things were working in the models’ favor — name recognition, diversity of choice, and the elimination of domestic rivals.

In this market, in this era, breaking even counts as a win. And that’s just what the Corolla and Civic did last year.

Now that most manufacturers have rolled out full-year U.S. sales results (we’ll have a full tally for you Monday, once Ford gets its act together), we can see that the Civic neither increased or decreased its volume in 2019, at least in terms of percentage. Static at 0.0 percent, Civic volume amounted to 325,650 units — some 110 vehicles below 2018’s total. So, technically a loss, but too small of one to even register as such.

Helping the Civic in 2019 was the continued production of three bodystyles and several power flavors, including the very desirable mid-pack Si. Content received a boost for 2020. The model’s high water mark came in 2017, when Civic sold over 377,000 vehicles in the U.S.

As low-end buyers coped with the loss of the Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze, both offered as a hatch or sedan, Japanese automakers stood to gain disenfranchised customers in search of a new brand. Toyota seized upon the opportunity to boost appeal by rolling out a new Corolla hatch for MY2019, followed a year later by an equally revamped sedan boasting a new platform and upgraded power. In your author’s neighborhood, the 2020 model proliferated overnight. Joining it was a hybrid variant aimed at eco-conscious shoppers who dislike the idea of piloting a Prius.

With 2019 at an end, we can see that the effort paid off. Corolla sales rose 0.4 percent to 304,850 units, making it the only Toyota-badged passenger car to see a yearly gain (the Camry sunk 1.9 percent, which is hardly a death blow, and the returning Supra doesn’t count).

Drawing back a bit, Honda’s U.S. business saw sales rise 0.2 percent, comprising a 0.3-percent climb at the namesake brand and a 1-percent drop at Acura. Toyota volume declined 1.8 percent, overall, with the Toyota brand falling 2 percent and the Lexus brand slipping by a nearly imperceptible 0.1 percent.

[Images: Toyota, Honda]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Superdessucke Superdessucke on Jan 05, 2020

    I think the Corolla XSE hatch is great-looking. If they offered a performance version it would definitely be on my shortlist as a commuter car.

  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Jan 06, 2020

    I've been driving a 2020 Corolla LE insurance rental for the last three weeks, and I like almost everything about it, except for the CVT. The thing is definitely let down by it. Rapid acceleration is a myth, as the CVT takes a couple of seconds to figure out that you actually want to accelerate. The thing acts like it has a slip or flare problem, but I assume that's normal behavior. The other maddening thing is the Entune, Alexa, and Apple CarPlay, which I gave up on after a couple of days with the car. I installed three different apps on my phone, and registered on Entune, but still couldn't get CarPlay apps or Alexa to work. Toyota has a long way to go to make in-car apps user-friendly. But the electronic (and automatic) parking brake, automatic headlights, automatic high beams, and automatic climate control? They all work pretty much as expected. The thing also has an electronic brake hold feature which comes in handy in the drive-thru.

  • Grg I am not sure that this would hold up in snow country. It used to be that people in snow country would not be caught dead in a white car. Now that white cars have become popular in the north, I can't tell you how many times I have seen white cars driving in the snow without lights. Almost all cars are less visible in a snow storm, or for that matter, rain storm, without lights. White ones become nearly invisible.
  • Douglas I have a 2018 BMW 740e PHEV, and love it. It has a modest electric only range compared to newer PHEV's (about 18 miles), but that gets me to the office and back each day. It has a small gas tank to make room for the battery, so only holds about 11 gallons. I easily go 600 or more miles per tank. I love it, and being able to take long road trips without having to plug in (it just operates like a regular Hybrid if you never plug it in). It charges in 75 minutes in my garage from a Level 2 charger I bought on Amazon for $350. Had an electrician add a dryer outlet beside the breaker box. It's the best of both worlds and I would definitely want a PHEV for my next car. 104,000 miles and ZERO problems with the powertrain components (so far).
  • Panther Platform I had a 98 Lincoln Mark VIII so I have a soft spot for this. The Mark VIII styling was not appreciated by all.
  • Grant P Farrell Oh no the dealership kept the car for hours on two occasions before giving me a loaner for two months while they supposedly replaced the ECU. I hate cords so I've only connected it wirelessly. Next I'm gonna try using the usb-c in the center console and leaving the phone plugged in in there, not as convenient but it might lower my blood pressure.
  • Jeff Tiny electrical parts are ruining today's cars! What can they ...
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