Would You Rather? Honda Civic vs Toyota Corolla

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Piggybacking off our earlier match between the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, this week’s throw-down will be between the 2024 Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.

While neither model sells quite like it used to, due to the popularity of their crossover equivalents, there are few mass-market rivalries as long lived as the Civic and Corolla. Be you someone in the market for basic transportation on a budget or an individual that wants something more sporting than the character-free CUVs that currently dominate the market, Japanese automakers still have your back.

But we’re here to decide which company is selling the better car, which will be hard considering just how many different trims these vehicles have. Both can be bought as either sedans or hatchbacks and come with an array of powertrains that take the vehicles from ho-hum commuters to serious performance vehicles.

On the Hondas you start with a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine boasting 158 horsepower and 138 lb-ft of torque. However, neither number really comes on line until you’ve breezed past 4,000 rpm, making it fairly peaky. While the base 2.0-liter found in the Toyota does offer a tad more power at 169 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque, the Corolla needs to be even higher in the rev range to tap into it and it feels less polished.

Climbing the trim ladder at Honda will yield a 1.5-liter turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4 offering 180 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. Here, torque comes in very early at just 1,700 rpm making for more immediate acceleration that will continue building horsepower to the redline. Toyota takes a different approach by hybridizing its VVT-i, offering better overall fuel efficiency and perhaps longevity. But the Honda still ends up being faster on paper unless the hybrid Corolla happens to be an XSE trim.

In all cases the above vehicles used continuously variable transmissions. However, those opting for the top-trimmed performance models will find six-speed manual transmissions at the ready from both brands. In the case of the Honda Civic Si, it’s been paired with a limited slip differential and mated to a 1.5-liter turbo offering 200 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque. However, the 2.0-liter turbo in the Type R sets the performance benchmark with 315 hp at 6,500 rpm and a whopping 310 pound-feet of torque between 2,600 and 4,000 rpm.

Toyota’s performance behemoth is the GR Corolla, which utilizes a bespoke, rally-derived three cylinder that’s only 1.6 liters in displacement and has a turbocharger pushing a wild amount of boost. The manufacturer claims it pushes out 300 hp at 6,500 rpm and 273 lb-ft starting at 3,000 rpm. It’s also the only vehicle in this article that comes with all-wheel drive, making it quicker off the line than the Honda Civic Type R.

But testing has shown that the Honda makes the better track-day option and faster once it gets rolling, as the car seems to have been exclusively set up for that purpose. By contrast, the GR seems oriented toward remaining fast in inclement weather and on less-than-perfect roads.

Pricing reflects what you’re getting in most cases. A base Toyota Corolla sedan in the LE trim comes with a starting MSRP of $22,050. Interestingly, the hybrid version of the LE isn’t much more at $23,500. The only exception is the more sporting XSE hybrid, which starts at $27,150 and offers more grunt at the expense of fuel economy. Outside of the GR Corolla, which is supposed to start around $36,500 if the dealer hasn’t affixed any markups, the most expensive trim is the feature-rich hybrid XLE at $27,250.

Honda’s offerings start at $23,950 for the base sedan, making them a tad more expensive than the Toyota in general. More ample trims that bring in the stronger engine (like the EX-L or Sport Touring) tend to retail on either side of $30,000. This is likewise true of the sporting Si model, which is supposed to start at $29,100. Meanwhile the Civic Type R costs $44,795 and you’ll still find dealers marking them up despite the fact that the vehicle has been around a few years.

Regardless of what you’re taking home, the fuel economy on all models is quite good. Though the clear winner are the efficiency focused hybrids from Toyota. While the Corolla was already trending toward having slightly better fuel economy than the Civic in comparable trims, the hybrid models absolutely blow everything Honda has away.

That said, your author would suggest the difference between the other trims is narrow enough not to matter and could be easily offset by someone having a heavier than average right foot. Though anecdotal evidence would seem to indicate that the turbocharged Hondas are the most prone to bleeding off the miles per gallon when under sustained load and Corollas tend to come with slightly larger fuel tanks — improving their maximum range between refueling. 

But this is where the Toyota advantage starts to evaporate, as it’s the Honda Civic that’s the nicer vehicle to occupy. While perfectly suitable for all your commuting needs, the Toyota has a much more rudimentary cabin. The Honda Civic boasts more supportive seats, a better driving position, and rear space that’s actually fairly well suited for adults. It likewise feels like the more responsive vehicle in most trims and boasts a better suspension.

The Honda is noticeably more comfortable and frankly looks like the more expensive vehicle from the inside in literally every trim. Cargo space is also a little better in the Civic and it houses nicer materials/features, especially if you’re willing to spend a little extra. It’s close. But it’s not so close that we cannot give the Civic the edge here. Even in their most-expensive trims, the Honda is the comfier place to park your bottom. But you do end up with a larger vehicle, with the difference being most obvious when comparing the hatchbacks.

Technology is a little more complicated. While displays are prettier in the Honda and it comes with more standard hardware, Toyota is offering just as many standard driving aids and your author has found its infotainment system nicer to use. Honda has likewise been caught (along with General Motors, Kia, Subaru, Mitsubishi, and Hyundai) sharing user information with data brokers. That in itself, would be enough for me to give the technological victory to Toyota on principle.

Reliability is likewise debatable. The Corolla has been with us since 2018, while the Civic landed on our shores in 2022. Data would suggest that both vehicles should boast above-average reliability. But anecdotally, you’re generally going to find more people praising Toyota products. Whether or not that’s warranted in an era when most manufacturers seem to have fallen off slightly is another matter. Regardless, both models see identical warranties from the factory and should outlive a majority of the competition under proper maintenance schedules.

However, those inclined to nitpick will want to know that annual repair costs reported on the Corolla is typically about $5 less than the Civic. That seems too narrow of a difference to make any financial purchasing decisions upon. But it’s another data point to have and you’ll need all you can get when deciding between the two models.

Deciding which is best likely comes down to what you’re hoping to get out of a vehicle. Were your author asked to select between them as a rental, he’d invariably select the Honda Civic. It’s simply the nicer space to occupy and this circumvents much of the data harvesting I’m so adamantly against. But those hoping to maximize their dollar over a lifetime of ownership might be better served by purchasing one of the cheaper Corolla Hybrids, which boast truly excellent fuel economy at an exceptionally low price.

As of now, Honda has nothing to counter this particular corner of the market with. But there will be a hybrid variant of the Civic coming next year that may undermine Toyota’s efficiency advantage.

The performance trims are an entirely different ball game. The Honda Civic Si offers excellent value for money against the Type R, which has received a staggering amount of praise from anyone who has taken it on a track. But the GR Corolla costs less and seems better suited to variable road conditions and winter weather by nature of its all-wheel drive system — even if it feels less refined than the Hondas.

[Images: Honda; Toyota]

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Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • MaintenanceCosts MaintenanceCosts on May 12, 2024

    If I were shopping in this segment it would be for one of two reasons, each of which would drive a specific answer.

    Door 1: I all of a sudden have both a megacommute and a big salary cut and need to absolutely minimize TCO. Answer: base Corolla Hybrid. (Although in this scenario the cheapest thing would probably be to keep our already-paid-for Bolt and somehow live with one car.)

    Door 2: I need to use my toy car to commute, because we move somewhere where I can't do it on the bike, and don't want to rely on an old BMW every morning or pay the ensuing maintenance costs™. Answer: Civic Si. (Although if this scenario really happened to me it would probably be an up-trimmed Civic Si, aka a base manual Acura Integra.)

  • Olivehead Olivehead on May 14, 2024

    The Honda Civic wins on looks and interior material quality and style. The Civic looks like a scaled down "real" car (i.e., midsize) while the Corolla never lets you forget what it is-a compact car, harkening back to the Tercel, etc. No comparision either in the interior materials of the Civic (a notch below Acura level) and general layout. There too, the Corolla comes off as a compact runabout. The Civic hatchback is especially cool.

  • 3-On-The-Tree I don’t think Toyotas going down.
  • ToolGuy Random thoughts (bulleted list because it should work on this page):• Carlos Tavares is a very smart individual.• I get the sense that the western hemisphere portion of Stellantis was even more messed up than he originally believed (I have no data), which is why the plan (old plan, original plan) has taken longer than expected (longer than I expected).• All the OEMs who have taken a serious look at what is happening with EVs in China have had to take a step back and reassess (oversimplification: they were thinking mostly business-as-usual with some tweaks here and there, and now realize they have bigger issues, much bigger, really big).• You (dear TTAC reader) aren't ready to hear this yet, but the EV thing is a tsunami (the thing has already done the thing, just hasn't reached you yet). I hesitate to even tell you, but it is the truth.
  • ToolGuy ¶ I have kicked around doing an engine rebuild at some point (I never have on an automobile); right now my interest level in that is pretty low, say 2/5.¶ It could be interesting to do an engine swap at some point (also haven't done that), call that 2/5 as well.¶ Building a kit car would be interesting but a big commitment, let's say 1/5 realistically.¶ Frame-up restoration, very little interest, 1/5.¶ I have repainted a vehicle (down to bare metal) and that was interesting/engaging (didn't have the right facilities, but made it work, sort of lol).¶ Taking a vehicle which I like where the ICE has given out and converting it to EV sounds engaging and appealing. Would not do it anytime soon, maybe 3 to 5 years out. Current interest level 4/5.¶ Building my own car (from scratch) would have some significant hurdles. Unless I started my own car company, which might involve other hurdles. 😉
  • Rover Sig "Value" is what people perceive as its worth. What is the worth or value of an EV somebody creates out of a used car? People value different things, but for a vehicle, people generally ascribe worth in terms of reliability, maintainability, safety, appearance and style, utility (payload, range, etc.), convenience, operating cost, projected life, support network, etc. "Value for money" means how much worth would people think it had compared to competing vehicles on the market, in other words, would it be a good deal to buy one, compared to other vehicles one could get? Consider what price you would have to ask for it, including the parts and labor you put into it, because that would affect the “for the money” part of the “value for money” calculation. An indicator of whether people think an EV-built-in-a-used-car would provide "value for money" is the current level of demand for used cars turned into EVs. Are there a lot of people looking for these on the market? Or would building one just be a hobby? Repairing an existing EV, bringing it back into spec, might create better value for the money. Although demand for EVs is reportedly down recently.
  • ToolGuy Those of you who aren't listening to the TTAC Podcast, you really don't know what you are missing.