Dueling Compacts: Two Class Leaders Manage a Win in 2019

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
dueling compacts two class leaders manage a win in 2019

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]

Join the conversation
2 of 13 comments
  • 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.

  • Jeff S Still a nice car and I remember these very well especially in this shade of green. The headlights were vacuum controlled. I always liked the 67 thru 72 LTDs after that I found them bloated. Had a friend in college with a 2 door 71 LTD which I drove a couple of times it was a nice car.
  • John H Last week after 83 days, dealership said mine needs new engine now. They found metal in oil. Potential 8 to 9 month wait.
  • Dukeisduke An aunt and uncle of mine traded their '70 T-Bird (Beakbird) for a brand-new dark metallic green '75 LTD two-door, fully loaded. My uncle hated seat belts, so the first time I saw the car (it was so new that the '75 models had just landed at the dealerships) he proudly showed me how he'd pulled the front seat belts all the way out of their retractors, and cut the webbing with a razor blade(!).Just a year later, they traded it in for a new '76 Cadillac Coupe de Ville (they had owned a couple of Imperials in the '60s), and I imagine the Cadillac dealer took a chunk out to the trade-in, to get the front seat belts replaced.
  • CaddyDaddy Lease fodder that in 6 years will be on the 3rd owner in a poverty bound aspirational individual's backyard in a sub par neighborhood sinking into the dirt. The lending bank will not even want to repossess and take possession of this boat anchor of a toxic waste dump. This proves that EVs are not even close to being ready for prime time (let's not even talk about electrical infrastructure). EVs only exist in wildly expensive virtue signaling status-mobiles. FAIL! I know this is a Hybrid, but it's a Merc., so it will quickly die after the warranty. Show me a practical EV for the masses and I'll listen. At this time, Hybrids are about the way to go for most needing basic transportation.
  • Jeanbaptiste The bubble free dash on the R32!