Editor’s note: You may want to read more of Autotrader’s model vs. model comparison car reviews as well as the 2016 Honda Civic review, the 2016 Ford Focus review and Buying a Used Honda Civic: Everything You Need to Know.
If you’re interested in a fuel-efficient new compact car, your shopping list probably includes the 2016 Ford Focus and the 2016 Honda Civic. Both tout impressive gas mileage, along with reasonable pricing and surprisingly involved driving experiences. But which one is better? And which one should you get? We’re taking a close look at both models to help you decide, but first let’s see what’s new with the Civic and the Focus for the 2016 model year.
2016 Honda Civic
The Civic was completely redesigned for the latest model year. Currently offered as only a coupe and a sedan, the Civic will add a hatchback variant and a high-performance Type R model soon. Compared to its predecessor, the new Civic is longer, roomier and loaded with more standard and optional equipment. See all 2016 Honda Civic models available near you
2016 Ford Focus
The Focus offers two major changes for 2016: an available automatic transmission for its tiny 1.0-liter 3-cylinder engine and Ford’s new SYNC 3 infotainment system. See all 2016 Ford Focus models available near you
Although the latest Honda Civic is too new for reliability ratings, the outgoing model has earned much better than average scores from Consumer Reports for nearly a decade. With that said, the new version makes major mechanical changes, so those ratings might see a hiccup. Regardless, the Civic will probably offer better dependability than the Focus, which has seen worse-than-average or average ratings since its most recent redesign in 2012.
As for warranty coverage, these two models are identical — 3 years or 36,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper protection and 5 years or 60,000 miles of powertrain coverage. The result: Short of a major meltdown with the redesigned model, this category goes to the Civic.
Drivers who prioritize fuel economy will want to choose between three Focus engines. The base-level Focus uses a 160-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, which returns up to 27 miles per gallon in the city or 40 mpg on the highway. The optional EcoBoost 1.0-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder touts 123 hp and boasts up to 30 mpg city/42 mpg hwy. Finally, there’s the fully electric Focus Electric, which offers no gas mileage at all, but rather an electric motor that gives the hatchback a 76-mile range and can be fully recharged in 4 hours.
Right now, the Civic offers only two engines. Base models offer a 158-hp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, which boasts up to 31 mpg city/41 mpg hwy. Drivers who want more power can upgrade to a 174-hp 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which boasts an impressive 31 mpg city/42 mpg hwy.
The result: While the Focus is competitive with the Civic, the Ford’s age shows, as the Honda offers more power and better gas mileage. The exception is the Focus Electric, which boasts a fully electric motor — something the Civic doesn’t offer.
In crash testing carried out by the federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, both the Civic and the Focus earned a perfect 5-star overall score. The Civic also earned a coveted Top Safety Pick+ score from the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, while the Focus came up short due to an average Acceptable rating in the firm’s small-overlap front crash test.
As for safety features, the Civic is leagues ahead of the Focus. While the Ford offers respectable equipment — standard side-curtain airbags, a backup camera, anti-lock brakes, an optional blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert and a lane-departure warning system — the Civic has all that, plus forward-collision warning, automatic braking, adaptive cruise control and Honda’s excellent LaneWatch blind spot camera. If you prioritize safety, the Civic is the compact car you’ll want.
As you might have guessed from our Safety section, the Civic is way ahead of the Focus when it comes to technology. In addition to all the extra safety features, the Civic touts an available 10-speaker audio system (compared to 6 speakers in the Focus), LED headlights, automatic wipers, a power passenger seat and heated rear seats — none of which you can get in the Focus.
The Ford’s lone saving grace, however, is its SYNC system. We prefer the new SYNC 3 system to nearly every other infotainment system on the market, as it’s intuitive, quick to respond and easy to learn. If you spend a lot of time in the car, the Focus’ better infotainment interface may matter more than the Civic’s additional features and equipment.
Although the Civic has topped the Focus in virtually every one of our categories, the Ford does have one advantage over its Honda rival: pricing. It starts at just $18,000 with shipping compared to $19,600 for the Civic — a pricing difference that continues as you progress through the trim levels. The Focus also offers a hatchback and two high-performance versions — the Focus ST and RS — which are not yet available in the Civic.
Does that mean the Focus is a better value? Not quite, since we think the Civic’s many benefits still give it an advantage over the Focus, even when you consider the price difference. But a low price certainly helps to make up for the Focus’ shortcomings.
Although the 2016 Ford Focus is a good car, it offers one of the oldest designs in the compact-car segment. Since the Civic offers the newest design, Honda has a huge advantage here, whether you’re interested in technology, safety features, safety ratings, driving experience, fuel economy or reliability. We highly recommend the Civic over the Focus, and we’d only go with the Ford if you’re offered a really, really good deal.