Review: Battle of the hatches: Corolla is cheaper, but Civic wins for driving dynamics, design

Review: Battle of the hatches: Corolla is cheaper, but Civic wins for driving dynamics, design

Canadians love their hatchbacks, and both the 2022 Honda Civic Hatchback and 2022 Toyota Corolla Hatchback feature the hatchback.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

Canadians are obsessed with SUVs and pickup trucks, but there’s no denying the practicality and utility of a compact car, especially a hatchback. They’re relatively affordable, spacious and fuel efficient. The competition is stiff, but these two rivals are going strong: the 2022 Honda Civic hatchback and the 2022 Toyota Corolla hatchback.

Both hatches are popular in Canada. Out of the 43,556 Civics sold in Canada in 2021, about 7 per cent, or nearly 3,050, were hatchback models, according to the auto maker. By comparison, Toyota Canada sold nearly 7,000 Corolla hatchbacks last year, which was about 17 per cent of all Corollas.

Compared with the competition, Volkswagen Canada sold 5,876 regular Golfs (not including Rs and GTIs) in 2021, Mazda sold 6,324 Mazda3 hatchbacks and Hyundai sold only 734 Velosters last year.

Corolla clearly leads the pack, but that may change with the Civic hatchback’s major redesign for 2022. Here’s how they stack up against each other.

Looks

The Globe and Mail compared the 2022 Honda Civic Hatchback (top) to the 2022 Toyota Corolla Hatchback (above).Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

For 2022, the Honda Civic gets redesigned with a new look that’s far less flashy and aggressive as the last generation. Gone are the massive air vents at the front and rear, replaced with a more streamlined and sophisticated design.

My tester’s sharp red colour, a $300 option, a honeycomb front grille, beefy 18-inch wheels, dual rear exhaust tips and a sloping roofline give it a European flair, which attracts compliments. A small corner window in the C-pillar also improves rear visibility for the driver, while creating an open, airy feeling for rear-seat riders.

The Corolla hatch, on the other hand, looks similar to last year’s model; there aren’t many significant changes for 2022. Its exterior is conservative and subdued. Its tall, boxy design is tasteful and reserved, typical of a Toyota.

A gently sloped windshield, my tester’s 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, and a stunning colour – dubbed Galactic Aqua Mica – which looks different depending on the light and time of day, are gorgeous.

Interior

The Corolla’s interior is a bit lacklustre compared with the Civic (top).Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

The Civic hatchback is larger than the last generation, growing 35 millimetres longer in its wheelbase and 12 millimetres wider in its rear track. That translates into more interior space, especially in the rear, where legroom has increased by nearly 36 millimetres. At 5 foot 6, the rear seats suit me fine. But the sloping roofline compromises headroom, if you’re taller.

The Civic’s interior is bold and modern with a sunroof, retro honeycomb air vents, a 10.2-inch digital instrument display, and a nine-inch colour touch screen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. Hard dials for the volume and the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, are handy. USB ports are also located within the driver’s eyesight and reach. Two USB ports for rear-seat passengers are also useful.

The Corolla’s interior is a bit lacklustre compared with the Civic. Don’t get me wrong, it’s clean and uncluttered. It just doesn’t feel as contemporary as the Civic’s. But my “SE Upgrade” trim adds nice extras, such as a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, wireless charging and an eight-inch centre touch screen.

As with the Civic, hard buttons for the volume and HVAC system are useful. There are two front USB ports, but good luck finding them. They’re hidden from the driver’s sight.

When it comes to the rear seats, the Corolla provides better headroom, thanks to its boxy, tall, upright design. But legroom is a little tight, if you’re taller than 5 foot 6.

Performance

The Civic hatch is a blast to drive; it has a gutsy, 180-horsepower, 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that’s smooth, sporty and composed. Behind the wheel, it feels more agile and powerful than the Corolla with its 168-horsepower, two-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine. Sure, the Corolla isn’t the fastest out of the gate, but when you need power to merge or overtake slower-moving vehicles on the highway, it does the trick easily.

The suspension is forgiving on both vehicles, soaking up bumps in the road. Hats off to both companies for offering a six-speed manual transmission; it creates a more engaging and fun drive. However, the stick on the Civic costs the same as the CVT, or continuously variable transmission. On the Corolla, the CVT costs $1,000 more than the stick.

On the fuel economy front, the Civic averaged an impressive 6.4 litres per 100 kilometres combined driving over nearly 350 kilometres, while the Corolla came in at 7.4 litres per 100 kilometres combined, driving more than 300 kilometres.

Technology

Both the Civic and Corolla get top marks for including numerous standard safety and driver assistance technologies. Dubbed the “Honda Sensing” suite, the package includes traffic jam assist, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist. The system now uses a single-camera system with a longer, wider field of view than the previous radar-and-camera-based system.

Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 package adds extras like automatic high beams and a precollision system with pedestrian and bicycle detection in addition to lane-departure alert and high-speed range dynamic radar cruise control.

Cargo

The 2022 Toyota Corolla Hatchback trunk features a cargo net.Petrina Gentile/The Globe and Mail

The Honda Civic has 693 litres of cargo space, while the Corolla has 660 litres. Both are big, offering more space than some small SUVs. On the Civic, the cargo opening has widened by 40 millimetres, so it’s easier to get items into the space. There’s also a cargo net that stretches across the rear to add privacy. A cargo net or cargo liner cost extra on the Corolla.

The verdict

The made-in-Indiana Civic hatch costs more than the Japanese-made Corolla hatch – $28,000 versus $21,450. While both vehicles are impressive, the Civic edges out the Corolla for its fuel efficiency, more spirited driving dynamics and bolder interior and exterior design. No wonder the Civic is Canada’s best-selling passenger car for 23 years and the 2022 North American Car of the Year award winner.

Tech specs

2022 Honda Civic hatchback (Sport Touring trim)
  • Base price/as tested: $28,000; $35,431 (plus a destination charge of $1,700)
  • Engine: 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder with 180 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque
  • Transmission/drive: Six-speed manual/front-wheel drive
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 kilometres): 8.5 city/6.3 highway; 7.5 combined
  • Alternatives: Toyota Corolla, Mazda3, Hyundai Veloster N, Volkswagen Golf, Subaru Impreza
2022 Toyota Corolla hatchback (SE Upgrade trim)
  • Base price/as tested: $21,450/ $25,486 (plus a destination fee of $1,720)
  • Engine: Two-litre four-cylinder with 168 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque
  • Transmission/drive: Six-speed manual/front-wheel drive
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 kilometres): 8.4 city/6.7 highway; 7.6 combined
  • Alternatives: Honda Civic, Hyundai Veloster N, Mazda3, Volkswagen Golf, Subaru Impreza

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