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Comparison: 2022 Honda Civic Touring vs Toyota Corolla XSE

Driving.ca logo Driving.ca 2022-05-19 Elle Alder , Brian Harper
2022 Honda Civic Touring and Toyota Corolla XSE © Provided by Driving.ca 2022 Honda Civic Touring and Toyota Corolla XSE

Brian Harper: The compact sedan segment may have lost some of its shine over the past decade as buyers flocked to crossovers, but it still generates appreciable sales volumes, especially our two rivals here, Elle. In the Honda Civic, we have, for the past 23 years, the best-selling car in Canada. In the Toyota Corolla, the number one selling nameplate worldwide with more than 50 million leaving factories since the model first debuted in 1966.  

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The Civic has been redesigned for 2022, now in the 11th generation of a line stretching back to 1972. The Corolla is now three years into its 12th generation. So, this is a four-door sedan comparison that’s as fair as it gets. We are testing the top trim levels from each manufacturer — the $30,265 Civic Touring versus the $29,590 Corolla XSE. Both are mainstream cars comprehensively equipped with features that were once the purview of luxury cars. Initial thoughts?  

Elle Alder: It’s hard not to come into this with a handful of preconceptions. The Corolla is a car celebrated for its trustworthy sameness and reliability, whereas the Civic is a mainstay for its emphasis on value and content. Appearing in these top trims, both cars load up on aesthetic and functional features — a great way to assess their potential and their limitations. 

Approaching the two, Toyota is clearly trying to spice up the Corolla’s decidedly beige reputation with sharper, “sportier” styling than the relatively conservative new Civic. Sit down inside, however, and the Corolla is your same old ticking-the-boxes Toyota interior. The Civic, on the other hand, balances the neutral exterior with a progressive cabin that feels significantly more modern and welcoming. 

Both cars share plenty of similar feature content but differ in execution. Heated front and rear seats, wireless charging, and navigation top the lists, along with safety technologies such as blind spot and cross-traffic alerts. Continuously variable transmissions keep both engines quiet and thrifty, with gear-simulating paddle shifters if you want a different stretch of the power band. Both come ready with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, though the Civic has wireless support. And while both cars’ driver assistance suites include adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance, Honda’s feels far more refined, trustworthy, and smooth. There’s plenty more that they differ on, however, isn’t there?

BH: Well, the biggest difference between the two is found under the hood. The Civic is powered by a small-displacement, 1.5-litre four-cylinder that pushes out a solid 180 horsepower thanks to its turbocharger. Toyota, meanwhile, continues to eschew the turbo route (although perhaps that could be changing), sticking with a tried-and-true, naturally aspirated 2.0L four, this one putting out a milder 169 hp. Keeping in mind that neither of these cars is a sport sedan, acceleration is acceptable if not particularly inspiring, though it is clear the Civic has more verve when the gas pedal is given a prod — credit the turbo motor’s maximum 177 pound-feet of torque reached at a low 1,700 rpm, versus the 2.0L’s 151 lb-ft of torque reached at 4,400 rpm. Interestingly, the Corolla’s CVT includes a physical first gear used for initial acceleration, before handing off to the transmission’s pulley system. The fact the Honda mill also delivers better fuel economy is a bonus. 

TAKE A DEEPER DIVE INTO CIVIC VS COROLLA SPECS

The one caveat, at least for buyers who keep their vehicles for a long time — I’m talking eight to 10 years, if not longer — is the simplicity and renowned reliability of the Toyota motor. As someone who faced a hefty bill when the turbo in my own (not a Honda) sedan failed, it is something to consider.

EA: In the short term, most headaches in either car should be covered under warranty. Both manufacturers offer similar three-year, 60,000 km warranties, in addition to further coverage including five-year, 100,000 km powertrain warranties and assorted other specific coverages. Shoppers looking at outright purchases, long-term ownership, or even resale value would also do well to consider the extended warranties available from the manufacturers (not third-party). Honda offers extended coverage up to eight years/200,000 km; Toyota only offers seven years/200,000 km.

BH: I was amused by your earlier description of the Civic’s exterior styling as “neutral,” considering its predecessor always struck me as being hurriedly approved by a design committee with two minutes to go before quitting time on the Friday afternoon of a long weekend. The new 2022 model is sporty and fresh without the Transformer-like weirdness. Equally, kudos to the Toyota designers who penned this generation of Corolla, the blandness of the past replaced by styling with a distinct European flair.

You’re right about the Corolla’s cabin, though. It’s very much a form-follows-function approach that neither offends nor inspires — it just is. The Civic’s interior layout, as you said, is much more progressive. Particularly, I found the Honda’s front seats far more comfortable, with better bolstering and more thigh support. And the hexagonal trim piece along the dash that also houses the vents is inspired in its simplicity.

EA: In general, then, it seems we’re agreed that the Civic makes a better impression and offers a more pleasant experience all around. A better drive, greater efficiency, nicer cabin materials, dual-zone climate control (surprisingly absent in the Corolla), greater comfort on long highway journeys — the more that I weigh, the more I like it. 

That turbocharger seems our greatest hang-up, but that shouldn’t be taken as casting doubt upon the Honda’s probable reliability — indeed, the balance sheet still seems to favour the Honda as a decisive winner. 

BH: Not a hang-up, Elle, just a thought. But, yes, we both agree the Civic is the champ here. It’s not that the Corolla is disappointing as much as the Civic is just so damn impressive, with a drive, a look, and an overall goodness that all manufacturers should strive to not just emulate but surpass, with the realization it will take a mighty effort to do so.

EA: That really does tie this off neatly. The new Civic and Corolla are two very strong products at similar price points. Whether looking at the short term or the long haul, it seems hard to go wrong with either; still that Honda truly shines. We’re fortunate to live in a time when regular cars have gotten to be this good , and advances like those in the Civic can only continue to raise the bar ever higher. 

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