We drive three of the most popular family saloons in Singapore to find the one with the most compelling mix of space, performance and efficiency.
FEW folks would disagree that the Toyota Corolla Altis is the all-time most popular family saloon in Singapore. The model, which is renowned for its reliability and frugality, is the top choice among buyers looking for a trusty runabout.
The current Corolla Altis has built on these strengths with its more attractive design and improved driveability, which it needs to compete with its two rivals in this story.
Hot on the heels of the Toyota is the Hyundai Elantra. Introduced last year, the Elantra eschews the curviness of its predecessor for cleaner lines and a bolder face. To further impress buyers, the Elantra is also roomier and more refined than the old one.
These traits will worry Toyota and Honda, which will undoubtedly remember that the Elantra (then known as the Avante) was Singapore’s best- selling new car back in 2009.
Worrying Toyota and Hyundai in this shoot-out is the all-new Honda Civic, which recently won “Best Family Saloon” at the 2016 ST-Torque Awards.
The Civic is a vast improvement over its lacklustre predecessor, has an eye-catching design and promises to deliver the performance that its fans crave.
Will the new Civic emerge victorious in this contest? Continue reading to find out!
TOYOTA COROLLA ALTIS 1.6
Surprisingly, Toyota’s 1.6-litre 4-cylinder with 121bhp and 154Nm is the quickest from zero to 100km/h.
The group’s most comfortable space has the softest seats and the coldest air-con, but the Altis’ dashboard design is less attractive than the others’ and the infotainment system could be more intuitive.
Corolla has the cushiest bench and similar legroom to the Civic, but is the sole contender without rear air-con vents. Comparatively small doorbins make it the least practical.
Corolla’s chrome- ringed dials look elegant, but the blue backlighting makes the digits less legible and may not be to everyone’s liking.
Corolla’s 470-litre volume is least ideal for bulky items due to the narrow aperture, and its tiny boot light makes loading/ unloading at night less easy.
HYUNDAI ELANTRA 1.6
Hyundai’s 1.6-litre 4-pot with 128bhp and 155Nm is the most powerful engine in this comparison.
The most solid of the three cockpits has the most amenities as standard, which include ventilated seats, a blind spot monitor and three driving modes. Also has six airbags – four more than either rival.
Elantra is less suited to taller occupants due to its relatively ungenerous legroom, but makes up for this by providing a more supportive bench and better-placed air-con vents.
Elantra’s conventional instrument meters are the easiest to read at a glance, while the secondary display has the sharpest graphics.
Elantra’s 458-litre boot is the smallest but the most flexible, as it has the squarest shape and is the only one with anchoring points.
HONDA CIVIC 1.6
Honda’s 1.6-litre 4-cylinder with 125bhp and 152Nm is the most refined engine of the three.
The snazziest and most high-tech, with a digital instrument cluster, touch-enabled volume control and an electric parking brake. But rearward visibility is the most limited in the Civic.
The roomiest backseat also provides the most generous footwell space, but the low seat squab makes ingress/egress trickier than the Civic’s two rivals here.
Civic’s digital cluster plays an attractive animation upon start-up. Drivers can choose to activate or deactivate the tachometer and eco-indicator.
Civic’s 519-litre boot is the biggest, but the substantial wheel-arch intrusions reduce its usefulness. Like the Elantra, there are convenient backrest release levers.
The Toyota Corolla Altis ticks all the right boxes when it comes to family saloons. It’s spacious for its size, cheap to run and, most importantly, is the most affordable contender in this contest.
However, despite its surprisingly lively performance, the Corolla Altis cannot match the handling of its rivals. And the cabin’s practicality could be better, too, for those small storage points leave little space for loose items.
The Hyundai Elantra would have been the victor in this shoot-out if its interior packaging was more efficient. However, the Elantra’s key strengths, which include its responsive drivetrain and superb build quality, make up for the packaging disadvantage.
Also enhancing the Elantra’s appeal are its standard features, some of which are usually only found on more expensive models. Indeed, the ventilated seats, blind spot monitor and multiple driving modes combine to make the Elantra an excellent choice.
The Honda Civic is our firm family favourite. It may not have the Corolla’s efficiency or the Elantra’s equipment, but the Civic’s whole package is even more compelling.
Although it isn’t the quickest car of the trio, the Civic’s refined drivetrain and poise through corners make it the most fun to drive. The accurate helm is another bonus on the go.
Meanwhile, the Civic’s striking design makes it stand out on every road and in any carpark, while the advanced cockpit and its all-digital instrument panel help ensure that the model will remain modern for years to come.
PHOTOS TAN MENG CHOON
ART DIRECTION SEAN LEE