As one man can defeat ten men, so can one thousand men defeat ten thousand. However, you can become a master of strategy by training alone with a sword, so that you can understand the enemy’s stratagems, his strength and resources, and come to appreciate how to apply strategy to beat ten thousand enemies.
– from The Book Of Five Rings by the samurai warrior Miyamoto Musashi, some time around 1645
It is a shadow war. Over successive generations, the battles have been played out in various parts of the world. Though they won’t admit it, Toyota with the Corolla and Honda with the Civic, have been at each other’s throats. Superficially, they pretend as if they operate in different segments, but deep within, they know that when anyone, in any part of the globe, wants a reliable, comfortable, thoughtful sedan, it is either the Corolla or the Civic.
This war is between them, and them alone, and in the process other enemies simply cannot match up and fall by the wayside.In India, the Civic kept moving from strength to strength, as its arch-rival was getting older and somewhat unfit for what can be billed as a fight between true equals. The Civic, like a true samurai, endured the wait for a battle-ready contender for a long time, and now, with the new Corolla Altis, Toyota has finally empowered its warrior. The two rivals have been itching for a fight, and so the latest iteration of the legendary war unfolds in the country.
In strategy, your spiritual bearing must not be any different from normal. Both in fighting and in everyday life you should be determined though calm.
Both the Corolla Altis and the Civic appeal to different individuals in different ways. The Civic is youthful, while the Altis is mature. The Civic is sharp and designed to look quick and fast, while the Altis is rounded and has a majesty of bearing while on the move. The Civic breaks new ground when it comes to sedan design, while the Altis improves upon what already works. The Civic appeals to those with a sporty mindset, while the Altis is for whom such things usually don’t matter.
As a warrior, the Civic calls attention to itself because of its inherent design details. To enumerate a few: the strong curvature over the front wheel arches, the incorporation of the mirrors on the doors, teardrop shaped headlamps, afterburner-like taillamps, a sharply raked windshield, a low waistline... all these contribute to a sedan that looks like it’s naturally aggressive. The Altis is just the opposite. It is more ninja-like, designed to merge with the surroundings rather than ask to be noticed. It is staid, and its sheer unadventurous styling is its biggest strength. Like in the case of the Civic, where some were maybe put off by its aggression, the Corolla is like a dependable, trustworthy friend. Its design is just another logical extension of its predecessor, and its lines are designed to appeal to a mass of human beings, cutting across age, geography and sometimes even economic status. By looking like a smaller version of its elder sibling – the Camry – the Corolla Altis gives the prospective purchaser a feeling that he is getting something more premium than what he paid for.
Thus, both the cars have their own adherents when it comes to design and appearance, but from our side, it has to be the Civic for faithfully following one of the seven tenets of bushido – courage. The fact that its appearance need not please everyone on earth is an act of courage.
Corolla Altis: ***
Know the smallest things and the biggest things, the shallowest things and the deepest things. From one thing, know ten thousand things. When you attain the Way of Strategy there will not be one thing you cannot see.What was applicable to the exteriors of the Corolla Altis, applies on the inside as well. It is an area that anyone would be instantly at peace with and in a state of familiarity. There is nothing inside that will jar the viewer, a zone of serenity, if you please. It is a well thought-out place, with decent quality of plastics in different shades to remove monotony. Of course, the faux wood is not to everyone’s liking – though it would be considered luxurious by many. The multi-function, leather-clad steering wheel too has faux wood inserts, which don’t endear themselves to us. The controls for the stereo and the airconditioning look as if they can take a bit of hard use, but the overall layout will take some time getting used to. The Altis has also several nooks and crannies to store irregular stuff. The rest of the car is what you’d expect from Toyota, with the quality of materials or design making the grade. And the Altis is rich in useful features, like an auto-dimming mirror, split rear seats, HID headlamps with washers etc.
In keeping with its path-breaking nature, the Civic’s dash is from the future. If it was primarily designed with a hybrid powertrain in mind, we wouldn’t be surprised. The speedometer is essentially a display that throws large digits, the tachometer has pride of place in the centre and the two-level dashboard with an altogether different sort of plastic finish means the Civic has distanced itself from every other car, not just in its own category. Its single-most attractive feature of course remains the steering wheel. It is the sign of the true warrior, who does not shy from the fact that he is one. Sporty, great to hold and gorgeous to look at, it is almost like the katana.
Thus, both cars have divergent ideas of what appeals. The Altis is for everyone, from the chauffeur to the owner and everyone in between plus it is pretty loaded too, while the Civic is meant for the driver-owner. And the latter are people we respect.
Corolla Altis: ****
In all skills and abilities, there is timing. There is timing in the whole life of the warrior, in his thriving and declining, in his harmony and discord.
Now the weapons are drawn. The Altis’ 16-valve DOHC inline-four, featuring VVT-i, displaces 1794cc to develop 130 bhp at 6000 rpm and 17.3 kgm of torque at 4200 rpm – a bit more powerful than its predecessor. The 1.8-litre motor is a Toyota staple in most emerging markets and is known for its never-say-die spirit. And it’s especially popular due to the fact that like a disciplined samurai, it never drinks more than what’s necessary. The Altis engine is surprisingly buzzy, not as refined as it could have been. Power is seamlessly transferred to the front wheels via a five-speed manual gearbox, while a four-speed automatic is available as an option.
The revised output of the Altis seems more to match what the Civic has been offering all this while. 130 bhp at 6300 rpm and 17.5 kgm at 4300 rpm is what you get from the Civic’s 16-valve DOHC 1799cc i-VTEC too. This too gets a five-speed manual, while as an option, there is a five-speed automatic. Again, there is nothing unpredictable from the Civic. Its rev-happy nature is in line with the rest of the car and it’s something like a boy-racer’s dream, albeit a well-off boy-racer.
When put to the test, the Altis attains 60 kph in 5.36 seconds, the 100 kph, which mark in 11.23 seconds and a top speed of 194 kph, which is more or less what one would expect from it, though the car was yet to break-in with regular use. Compared to this, the Civic’s swordsmanship seems much better. 60 kph comes up in 5.07 seconds, the century mark in less than 11 seconds and a close top speed of 191 kph. Where the Corolla beats the Civic is in the initial passing speeds; 7.8 seconds for the 80-120 kph dash versus 8.4 for the Civic. So when it comes to only the timing, the Honda seems to be more accomplished in using its katana. But there’s more to it. Where the Honda engine revs to kingdom come, the Altis engine bounces back from the rev limiter with a vengeance and almost cuts power, as if castigating you for attempting something like that. However, its high-revving nature and gearing means that the Civic is not as driveable in urban conditions as the Altis. The Altis is much better in this aspect, its gearing is more suitable, with the third cog being immensely flexible. The Civic is better on open roads while the Altis is more driver-friendly in the city. When it comes to gearshift quality, the Altis’ gearbox is a bit long-legged. Though shifts are positive, it does not snick as neatly as the Civic, which allows for more sporty, quicker throws.
A good samurai should ideally be adaptable across all conditions, be it on the highway or on congested streets. So is there a proper winner in this part of the battle? Maybe, maybe not. The Corolla Altis may not be a sporty car, but that does not mean its drivetrain is deficient. For relaxed driving and for urban conditions, it is unbeatable. And its timings are not all that bad either. However, for those who love driving, there is no question: the Civic is the one for the enthusiast. And these are the people we respect.
Corolla Altis: ****
You must look down on the enemy, and take up your attitude on slightly higher places.How do these two contenders behave on the road? The Corolla’s suspension setup comprises McPherson struts at front and torsion beam at the rear, while it is the same with the Civic at the front, while at the rear is a double-wishbone package. On paper, it seems like the Civic is better when it comes to ride and handling, but that is not the case.The non-independent suspension system in the Corolla Altis may be simple, but it is effective. This samurai has chosen its weapon well to make passengers comfortable. The Altis rides very well on normal roads and when the going gets tough, it doesn’t unsettle it much either. It is more forgiving for the rear passengers and absorbs impacts much better than the Civic. Besides this, the seating is also higher, which makes it easier for passengers to get in and out. The Civic, on the other hand, does not like the rough patches too much. It transfers the bad sections to passengers and rides low as well. A fully loaded Civic has the tendency to bottom out and does grind its belly on speedbreakers or steep ramps.
But when it comes to handling and cornering, the Civic is the master. Right from the go-kart like driving position and steering feedback to the car’s underpinnings, the Civic rewards the driver with more precision – its boy-racer mentality means it is a clever tool to challenge corners. The Corolla, on the other hand, is capable but it does not come through as sorted and integrated as the Civic is on tight curves. Besides, at high speeds, the steering loses some of its feedback and becomes vague. Both cars wear similar 195/65 R15 rubber, and grip is not an issue.
Thus, these warhorses have their individual strengths. The Corolla pampers the driver and rear passengers with better ride comfort and a smoother driving experience, but it is the Civic which is the better handler. And so the battle evens out here.
Corolla Altis: ****
By knowing things that exist, you can know that which does not exist.As the battle draws to a close, it is clear who the victor in this iteration of this never-ending war is. It is the Civic, but that is because the judges are driving enthusiasts. If that were not the case, it would not have been an easy victory, for the Corolla is an accomplished samurai with a well-stocked arsenal of features. As a true mercenary, it will faithfully follow the code of bushido and serve the masters well... for as much life it has in its veins. It is for those who want a relaxed, less high-strung machine that is forgiving across all conditions and fulfilling every need except one. When that need – that of catering to the enthusiast driver – arises, it has to be the Civic.
Passages reproduced from The Book Of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi, who was a samurai of repute. The book is considered one of the classics on
military strategy, and now, has become a management tool too.