New Toyota Corolla vs Honda Civic

These hybrid hatchbacks from Honda and Toyota are two of the best family cars you can buy. But which should you choose?...

New Toyota Corolla vs Honda Civic header

The contenders

New Toyota Corolla 1.8 Hybrid Design

List price £31,780
Target price £29,680

A significant update for Toyota’s frugal family hatch includes a power hike, a bigger battery and an improved interior; it’ll be a strong contender

Honda Civic 2.0 e:HEV Sport

List price £31,795
Target price £31,179

The current class leader is good to drive and practical, with a user-friendly interior – but can it keep up with the Corolla when it comes to running costs?

It’s all well and good being crowned the What Car? Family Car of the Year, but all that attention is a double-edged sword. You get to enjoy the glory, but you also end up being the prime target everyone wants to beat. Indeed, it’s barely been a month since our 2023 awards and the latest Honda Civic has to get back out there and defend its honour again.

This time it’s up against the recently updated Toyota Corolla, a car that has a bone to pick with its compatriot. You see, until recently this family hatchback didn’t have many similar hybrid rivals to contend with, so the Civic has very much muscled in on its territory.

Take a look at the Corolla and you’d be forgiven for thinking that we’ve photographed the wrong version. We haven’t. We promise. The external changes are so limited that you have to look closely to spot the tweaked headlights and new mesh front grille pattern, which have been introduced along with a couple of new paint colours and fresh wheel designs.

We’re testing both of our contenders in mid-range trims, with the Civic in Sport guise and the Corolla in Design. With the exception of the Honda Civic Type R hot hatch, the Civic comes with just one engine option: a 2.0-litre unit combined with two electric motors. A 2.0-litre engine is available in the Corolla too, but we’ve gone for the latest 1.8-litre version, because it’s more powerful than before, with enough punch to make it our pick.

New Toyota Corolla rear panning


Performance, ride, handling, refinement

If you need to get places in a hurry, the Civic is the one to go for. With a power output of 181bhp, it can dash from 0-60mph in just 6.8sec. The Corolla’s 1.8-litre engine pumps out 138bhp and takes a rather more sedate 9.6sec to complete the same sprint, but don’t dismiss it purely on this basis.

The new Corolla has more than enough muscle to tackle everyday driving – unlike the weedy 120bhp version it replaces. This makes for a much more relaxed experience when you need to venture beyond city limits and is in keeping with the Corolla’s generally laid-back nature. In fact, the only time you might wish for a bit more punch is when you need to overtake a dawdler on a country road with a fully loaded car.

New Toyota Corolla badge

The hybrid system in the Civic works differently from the Corolla’s, with the petrol engine acting as a generator to power the electric motors at low speeds and driving the wheels directly only at high speeds. The Corolla’s set-up is more conventional, because the engine sends power to the wheels most of the time, with assistance from a single electric motor.

Our contenders’ automatic gearboxes make for smooth progress, and both cars can whisper along on electric power with their engines off for short periods around town. You’ll hear the Corolla’s engine fire up more frequently, though.

As you build up speed, you’ll soon notice more tyre rumble in the Civic. While wind and engine noise are well suppressed in both cars, the Corolla remains more hushed at motorway speeds.

The Corolla’s soothing ride also means it’s more comfortable, isolating occupants from bumps on the road effectively, with very little fidgeting. There’s enough control to prevent it from feeling wallowy along undulating roads, too. It’s worth noting that our test car was fitted with the smaller, 16in wheels that you’d find on the entry-level Icon in the UK, rather than Design trim’s standard 17in items, but we know from previous experience that the Corolla is almost as comfy on the larger wheels.

Honda Civic rear panning

In contrast, the Civic has fairly firm suspension and keeps a tighter rein on body movements. Thankfully, the ride remains fairly settled when tackling rougher roads and occupants aren’t jarred uncomfortably; they’re just more aware of what state the road surface is in as they go over it.

The pay-off for the Civic’s firmer suspension is that it’s surprisingly good fun to drive along a winding road. There’s plenty of grip, and the meaty, precise steering provides enough feel to give you confidence. There isn’t much body lean through corners, either. The Corolla handles fairly well, too. However, its front tyres run out of grip sooner and it doesn’t change direction with quite the same level of agility, although its slower steering is fully in keeping with its more relaxed manner. Its tighter turning circle makes it a bit easier to manoeuvre in town, though.

Also consider