At the halfway point in the calendar year, the 2013 Honda Civic was outselling the 2013 Ford Focus by 23,919 vehicles, making the Focus a runner-up to the Civic in the compact car category. Neither model is the best-selling vehicle in its segment -- that laurel is bestowed upon the aged Toyota Corolla -- but both are arguably more appealing than the small car sales champ. Here, we'll try to determine which one is the better Corolla alternative. But first, a few highlights.

2013 Honda Civic Highlights

Honda redesigned the Civic for 2012 but gave the 2013 version of the popular model a thorough refresh, including a stiffer structure for better crash-test performance, refined interior design and materials, revised exterior styling, re-tuned steering and suspension and additional standard convenience features.

2013 Ford Focus Highlights

Following a complete redesign for 2012, which included the late debut of a Focus Electric model, the 2013 Focus lineup gained a new performance-tuned ST variant with far more horsepower and torque than Honda's racy Civic Si model.

Fuel Economy

Ford offers the 2013 Focus in 4-door sedan and 5-door hatchback body styles. The most popular Focus models are equipped with a 160-horsepower, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine paired with a 5-speed manual gearbox or a 6-speed automated manual PowerShift transmission. A Super Fuel Economy Package can be added to the Focus SE models equipped with the PowerShift transmission.

In addition to these mainstream versions of the Focus, the 5-door hatchback variant can be configured as the 252-hp performance-tuned Focus ST with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and a 6-speed manual transmission. Ford also offers the Focus Electric, a pure electric vehicle with 76 miles of driving range.

Like the Focus, the 2013 Civic is available in mainstream, performance and fuel-efficient variations. An electric model is not offered, but Honda does install a hybrid powertrain or a natural gas powertrain in its compact car, which comes in 2-door coupe and 4-door sedan flavors.

The most popular Civic models have a 140-hp 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine paired with a 5-speed manual gearbox or a 5-speed automatic transmission. As is true of the Focus, one version of the Civic is designed to get better fuel economy than the others, and it carries a trim designation of HF, which stands for High Fuel.

For even better fuel economy, the Civic Hybrid employs a mild-hybrid gas-electric powertrain. Unlike many hybrids, though, the Civic cannot travel at low speeds and for short distances on electricity alone. Honda also offers the Civic with a natural gas powertrain, and a performance-tuned version of the Civic is also for sale. Dubbed the Civic Si, it gets a high-revving 201-hp 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine and a 6-speed manual transmission.

If you assume the less powerful Civic models are more fuel-efficient than the Focus, think again. According to Environmental Protection Agency estimates, the Civic Si gets 25 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving, while the Civic HF returns 33 mpg combined. Compare that to the Focus ST at 26 mpg and the Focus SE with the Super Fuel Economy Package at 33 mpg. Beyond this, we're comparing apples and oranges. The Civic Hybrid is rated to return 44 mpg in combined city and highway driving, but the Focus Electric is rated 105 mpg equivalent (mpge). Choose the Civic Natural Gas and you'll get 31 mpg.

As the data demonstrates, the Ford Focus is more powerful and more fuel efficient than the Honda Civic.

Safety

Both the Ford Focus and the Honda Civic earn a Top Safety Pick Plus rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, reflecting passing grades in the tough new small overlap frontal-impact crash test. However, the Civic does slightly better in that individual assessment, scoring a Good rating, compared to the Ford's Acceptable rating.

Both models also earn a 5-star overall crash-test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, though the Civic Coupe is given a 4-star overall rating due to a lower side-impact protection score for the front-seat passenger.

Based purely on crash-test ratings, we'd say the Ford and the Honda are evenly matched. Despite the addition of a standard reversing camera and text-messaging capability to the Civic for 2013, features also included on all Focus models except the basic S Sedan version, we give the nod to the Ford.

One reason is that all models except the Focus S Sedan are equipped with MyKey technology, which allows the vehicle's owner to program speed alerts and limits as well as seat-belt-use alerts. Plus, all Focus models except the S Sedan come with SYNC Bluetooth connectivity and 911 Assist. This feature activates upon airbag deployment, alerting authorities of an accident and speeding rescuers to the scene of the collision. Also, Ford offers rain-sensing wipers and parking-assist sensors for the Focus, items absent from the Honda's feature list.

Reliability

Until the Ford Focus was redesigned for 2012, it enjoyed a reliability record similar to that of the Honda Civic. Since 2012, however, Consumer Reports says Focus reliability is much worse than average, a situation resulting in part from complaints about the car's PowerShift transmission and its MyFord Touch technology.

In consideration of this change of fortune for the Ford, combined with the fact that the 2013 Civic was the highest ranked small car for initial quality by J.D. Power, we name the Honda as the clear victor in this category.

Value

A Ford Focus S costs about $1,500 less than a Honda Civic LX, but it also comes with less equipment. A Focus SE costs about $350 more than a Civic LX, but it includes a set of aluminum wheels on top of the MyKey and SYNC with 911 Assist technologies discussed above. Add every option to a Focus and it prices around $2,000 higher than the Civic, but the Ford is also offered with a greater array of options and ways to personalize the car. With the Honda, you get what they give you.

If the Focus SE and Civic LX are reasonably aligned in price and equipment, the Ford gains an edge with a better warranty than the Honda, as well as a roadside assistance program, which Honda doesn't provide. According to ALG, however, the Honda retains its value much better over time.

We could go back and forth like this all day. Instead, we're calling this one a tie.

Technology

In the previous section, we mentioned that Civic buyers get what Honda gives them. The reason is that the Civic lineup offers few options from the factory, leaving buyers to choose from a handful of dealer-installed upgrades. By contrast, Ford offers a variety of optional upgrades, including features related to technology.

For 2013, the Honda Civic gains standard Bluetooth connectivity with streaming audio capability, Pandora Internet Radio capability, text-messaging capability, a USB port and a reversing camera. Upgrade to more expensive models and the Civic can be equipped with automatic climate control, a navigation system and multiview reversing camera.

Compare that to the Focus. The SE model includes SYNC Bluetooth connectivity and music streaming, a 911 Assist service (which is free but works only when a paired phone is inside the car) and programmable MyKey safety features. Moreover, the Focus lineup is offered with a reversing camera, rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry with push-button start, a MyFord Touch infotainment system with navigation, automatic climate control and more. Buyers can even select an Active Park Assist system that steers the car into a parallel parking space while the driver operates the pedals.

From a technology standpoint, the more complete car is the Ford Focus.

AutoTrader's Advice

This might come as a shock, but the Honda Civic is superior to the Ford Focus only with regard to reliability, and mainly because Focus buyers aren't happy with the optional PowerShift automated manual transmission or the MyFord Touch infotainment system. The two cars tie in terms of value, and the Focus is probably better when it comes to fuel economy, safety and technology.

The bottom line: When buying a small car, don't leave the Ford Focus off your consideration list.

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Christian Wardlaw is passionate about the cars, trucks, and SUVs people actually buy, not the models about which they fantasize. An industry veteran and former editor-in-chief of Edmunds.com, this father of 4 loves to inform and entertain everyday car buyers.

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