Driver's Seat: Inspired by austerity, a showdown between Corolla, Civic

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Reuters, July 7: Pope Francis said on Saturday it pained him to see priests driving flashy cars, and told them to pick something more "humble." ... "A car is necessary to do a lot of work, but please, choose a more humble one. If you like the fancy one, just think about how many children are dying of hunger in the world," he said.

2013 Honda Civic vs. 2013 Toyota Corolla: The "What Would Jesus Drive?" showdown.

Prices: Civic EX-L with Navi Sedan, $24,555; Corolla S, $21,729, but that includes a $1,030 option package for navigation and another $825 for some odds and ends.

Marketers' pitch: "Things can always be better," for the Civic, which can be read two ways. The Corolla says it's "Smart from every perspective."

Humility: I am not a flashy car fan. My mothership is an air-cooled Volkswagen Beetle. The rest of the family fleet features a 2013 Kia Soul, a 2008 Pontiac Vibe and a 2004 Mazda MPV.

So, readers, I am not poking fun at the Catholic leadership. I'm poking fun at these two cars. Seriously, not even that: Simply when I think of austere, these two models quickly come to mind. But do they fit the bill?

I'll compare first impressions now, and then take them on the road next.

Inside: The Civic and the Corolla take two vastly different approaches to the interior.

The Civic's dashboard veered sharply with the 2012 model, offering a two-part gauge setup -- with the rpms and other info on a wide display in front, and a digital speedometer above and farther away -- and turning off reviewers in droves (this one included).

But it grows on you. This time around, I like it just fine. Honda has upgraded some of the materials and it looks and feels nicer, but the main premise is the same.

The Corolla stays in the mainstream. A dial speedometer and tachometer provide the main focus, and other gauges surround it.

Driver's Seat: The Civic's leather seats were very comfortable. But Honda sets its seats for a tremendous amount of lumbar support and this usually leaves me achy. The Civic and I found a compatible arrangement, and the steering wheel telescoped and tilted, but I never found a truly comfortable position.

The Corolla's cloth seats and I fit together nicely, and a week in the seat did not leave me with any aches or pains.

Friends and stuff: Rear seat passengers will find two different worlds. The Civic's rear compartment is plenty tight. My feet just fit in under the seat, and my head brushed up against the ceiling. Legroom was not bad.

The Corolla rear seat offered better accommodations. Headroom and foot room were great and my knees didn't even approach the front seats.

Play some tunes: The steering wheel radio controls on the Civic were among the easiest I've found yet. And the stereo sound is tremendous.

The Corolla's stereo sound was quite pleasant as well, and the steering wheel buttons worked fine. But getting from here to there on the CD menu could be infuriating. It takes five button pushes to switch from CD to radio and back if the map is on, although the steering wheel control can spare you from this.

Still, too complicated. As a bonus, the "Source" touch screen button was often balky. So maybe save that $1,030 on the fancy stereo, and buy a $150 Garmin.

Hot and cool: In keeping the cabin temperature just right, the Civic again tries a little creativity. A big knob adjusts temperature, and a smaller one operates the fan. Various buttons then move the air from head to shoulder to knees and toes, knees and toes.

The Corolla has big three dials performing the same functions. Easy peasy.

Next week: Let's go for a spin.


Scott Sturgis, a freelance auto writer, can be reached at First Published July 17, 2013 4:00 AM


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