Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic Just Might Pull Off Wins This Year

As selling compact passenger cars to Americans is no longer a responsibility borne by domestic automakers, Japan is left shouldering much of the burden in a segment it’s always excelled in. Western car sales are on the decline and, with the Detroit Three pulling out, Japan saw both a challenge and an opportunity.

The biggest players, Toyota and Honda, chose to expend every round in their magazines in the hopes of scoring hits. The Civic and Corolla diversified, upping their game and pulling further ahead of rivals like the Nissan Sentra and Mazda 3.

If capturing a bigger share of the pie while stabilizing their own softening sales was the goal, Honda and Toyota seem to have succeeded. With two months left in 2019, it’s increasingly looking like both models could finish 2019 with a sales increase.

For Civic, 2017 was the nameplate’s high-water mark. The Corolla, previously split between two models riding atop different platforms, is now whole again. The Corolla iM, formerly the Scion iM, is now the Corolla Hatch, sharing its TNGA architecture with the new-for-2020 Corolla sedan. For the first time, Toyota is offering a hybrid variant for those who aren’t ready to be seen in a Prius.

Corolla sales peaked in 2016.

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With October out of the way, we can now see the Civic has eked out a slim year-to-date gain of 0.6 percent. At the halfway point in the year, Civic sales were down 4 percent. Over at Toyota, Corolla sales through the end of October are only off 2018’s figures by 0.3 percent. That’s a difference of 832 vehicles. At the end of June, Corolla volume was trailing 2018 by 5.3 percent.

Both models are making headway, though the Corolla seems to owe its improving sales picture to the presence of the hatchback model. Despite the new and improved sedan, sales of that bodystyle are trailing 2018 figures to a mild degree (Toyota doesn’t separate the two bodystyles in its sales tally, but this website does). On the other hand, sales of the vastly improved hatch, which bowed partway through 2018, significantly outpaced those of the disappointing iM.

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Image: Toyota Canada

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It’s this year’s rise in hatchback sales that has propelled the Corolla to within striking distance of a year-to-date sales gain — a feat all automakers still in the compact car game dream of (and one Mazda won’t achieve, despite having an all-new 3). The fact that you can’t buy a new Focus or Cruze anymore will help both automakers capture new buyers, though exactly how many is anyone’s guess.

Unlike at Toyota, things are not all-new at Honda, but the well-regarded current-gen Civics just gained a mid-cycle refresh that adds content and — in some cases — improved performance through revised gearing. We’ll have a review of the latest Civic Si for you later this week.

[Images: Toyota, Honda]

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