Toyota Corolla Altis vs Honda Civic: Who should buy which?

Jason · May 23, 2021 11:00 AM

Toyota Corolla Altis vs Honda Civic: Who should buy which? 01

It is no secret that in the past half a decade, demand for C-segment sedans have dwindled significantly. Where the Toyota Corolla Altis and Honda Civic used to rule the roost, now they battle for scraps left by SUV contenders. 

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Today, we compare the range-toppers of each model, the Toyota Corolla Altis 1.8G (RM 134,505) and the Honda Civic 1.5 TC-P (RM 134,661) to see, which one is better suited to carrying out daily duties and ferrying your family. If you were reading this expecting to find out which is better at a drag race, you're at the wrong place (it's the Civic by the way).

On the outside - Both are attractive, in different ways

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Starting with the Corolla Altis' front fascia, it looks modern, with a ebb and flow to its lines that is pleasing to the eye. Sure, it is not as radical as the Civic's, but all in all, this is a fine interpretation of a modern four-door sedan.

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The front end of the Civic is indeed rather attractive, and it looks just as fresh as the day it was launched. So much so, the Civic is still selling rather well, despite the rise of SUVs. I've never been a fan of the Civic's rear end. but well, the hordes and hordes of Civic buyers proves that I am wrong (am I, though?).

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Of the two rumps, the Civic's is more fussy

When it comes down to the design direction, the Corolla Altis is a graceful but traditional three-box sedan, while the Civic has a more swoppy, fastback-like profile. Both are alluring, but if you like to attract eyeballs, the Civic garners more attention. 

Also readHow does the Honda Civic continue its rise when rivals like the Preve, Lancer, and Sylphy failed?

On the inside - Civic is the practicality king, has better interior

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Feels a bit spartan, doesn't it?

If ever there was a chink in the armour of the Toyota Corolla Altis, it is indeed the interior. The dashboard design looks pretty decent and is well built, but there's not much to get excited about in here. The most glaring part of the cabin would be the floating central infotainment screen, which looks and feels cheap, and sticks out like a sore thumb.

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Practicality wise, the Corolla Altis is again, decent. There is just about enough space to fit 4 occupants comfortable. There is a glaring lack of storage sulutions and cubby holes in here, which is rather disappointing. 470 litres of boot space and 60:40 split folding rear seats ensure some semblance of practicality, but class-leading, it is not.

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Acres of space in here

Inside, the Civic's dashboard design and layout looks and feels more futuristic, even if build quality isn't necessarily better than the Toyota. There's nothing to irritate you and it reeks of - dare I say it - sportiness here. Ergonomics wise, the Civic's execution does feel more slick and well-executed.

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Absolutely cavernous at the back

Interior packaging? Well, The Civic has the Corolla Altis licked in this department. Storage spaces abound, cubbies aplenty. Where the Toyota is a twin-size bed, the Honda is king-size. The way it manages to eke out so much space everywhere is a marvel. 519 litres of boot space is also class leading. If space and practicality are your top priorities, then the Civic is the default choice. 

Also read: COTY 2020 – Why younger rivals still can’t unseat the 2020 Honda Civic (FC) from its throne?

Driving experience - Corolla Altis aces ride and handling, but isn't very fast

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Masterful ride and handling

There are no two ways about it, the ride and handling of the Corolla Altis is masterful. If driving is all you care about, place your booking for one of these today. It's suspension tuning blesses it with an expensive, supple ride. Yet, it is just as talented when asked to string a few bends together. Fluid, dynamic, class-leading (yes, I said class-leading).

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Ride and handling good, but not great

Would it matter much ultimately? Ride comfort, yes. Handling? Probably not so much in this segment. The Civic is by no means awful to drive. It does possess a comfortable ride, but you won't call it supple. Handling is on the safe side, predictable and tied-down. To the many C-segment sedan shoppers, this will be more than enough to please them.

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Smooth but ultimately not that quick

The tables are turned in the performance stakes. The Civic, with its 1.5-litre, VTEC Turbo powerplant (173 PS, 220 Nm) murders the Corolla Altis' 1.8-litre, naturally aspirated Dual VVT-i unit (139 PS, 172 Nm) in a straight line. The Civic serves up easy, effortless torque that makes everyday driving a cinch. In the Corolla, well, be prepared to floor the throttle a lot if you want progress. Icing on the cake? The Civic's RM 90 annual road tax (the Toyota costs RM 279)

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Turbocharging gives the Civic effortless torque

In saying that, the transmission tuning of the Corolla Altis does feel more polished compared to the Civic (both run CVT-type transmissions). It's just that bit more responsive and smooth when you put your foot down, whereas in the Civic, it feels just a bit gruff, but only ever so slightly. We're really splitting hairs here, but it is indeed something noteworthy.

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Also noteworthy is that both cars come with a full suite of ADAS that buyers of this segment now have come to expect. Even in the safety equipment stakes, both cars are well stocked.

ADAS & Safety Equipment
  Toyota Corolla Altis Honda Civic
Aibags 7 6
ABS, TCS, ESC Yes Yes
Adaptive Cruise Control Yes Yes
Autonomous Emergency Braking Yes Yes
Lane Departure Warning Yes Yes
Lane Keep Assist Yes Yes
Blind Spot Monitor Yes Yes

Conclusion

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Much as I enjoy a car that drives well, not everyone is looking for a driving experience that sets their hair on fire in this segment. They just want a supple, quiet and soothing car. And yes, the Toyota Corolla Altis delivers just that, one that happens to drive exceedingly well. Be that as it may, it falls short inside and isn't as practical and roomy as the family it should really be.

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The Honda Civic. Well, as a car to fulfill your daily needs, this one ticks all the boxes, in all the right departments. It doesn't do any given thing supremely well, and that's alright, because it is a consummate all rounder. It does everything you ask of it, with minimal fuss. Sure, its successor is already revealed, but its remarkable that the FC-generation Honda Civic is still at the sharp end of this class. And it is my pick of the two. 

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Jason

Road Test Editor

Jason's foremost passion is all things automotive, where he spent his formative working years as a Product Planner and Trainer. An Advanced Driving Instructor by training and an all-round enthusiast, Jason loves going into intricate details about driving dynamics. Will drive anything with 4 wheels and a steering.

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