Before Cars.com's $20,000 Compact Sedan Challenge in November 2013, we took a detailed look at how our long-term 2013 Honda Civic stacked up individually against the 2013 Nissan Sentra, 2013 Toyota Corolla (before the 2014 redesign) and 2014 Kia Forte.
For 2013, the Civic gained notable improvements after a half-hearted 2012 redesign. Our yearlong goal with the Civic was to assess those changes against other compact sedans that entered our rotating fleet of manufacturer-provided test cars. Below, see how well the updated Civic performed head-to-head against three of those competitors in the following categories: cabin quality, noise, handling, acceleration, braking, ride, gas mileage, seats and roominess, and multimedia usability.
Both the Civic and Nissan Sentra were redesigned for 2013 and had a lot of new goods to show off. Our Civic's $19,755 price with destination and automatic transmission was close to the Sentra's $21,370 asking price, which was unlike the optioned-out Forte EX or pricey Corolla S we also pitted against the Civic. The results were close, but in the end, the Sentra won us over in five categories over the Civic's four; we preferred the Sentra's quiet comfort and higher fuel economy.
Comparing a redesigned 2013 Civic to the ancient 2013 Toyota Corolla was a lopsided battle since the Corolla looked and felt dated before its 2014 redesign; we tested the 2014 Corolla in our $20,000 Compact Sedan Challenge. Still, the 2013 was the only Corolla on sale at the time of our head-to-head comparison. On top of the Corolla showing its age, it was also saddled with ridiculous options such as $1,999 wheels. The Civic won eight categories to the Toyota's one — ride quality — in a no-brainer decision.
Comparing the Civic head-to-head with this particular Forte was controversial. The Forte we drove was a loaded EX trim level with the more powerful engine and enough options to raise the MSRP by $6,000 over a base Forte's price. The Forte dominated seven of the categories to the Civic's two wins of fuel economy and handling. However, we contended that a Forte LX without the higher price tag would have a similar competitive advantage. That proved accurate as a 2014 Forte LX won our $20,000 Compact Sedan Challenge against the 2013 Civic, redesigned 2014 Corolla and four other compact sedans.