Thanks for writing to us at Top Gear. Here's my take on the Toyota Altis and Honda Civic:
1. Toyota Altis - absolutely painless to drive, the path of least resistance. Very comfortable, composed and surprisingly well-sorted--suspension-wise--on the revised and face-lifted Altis. This is the lounge of the two cars you picked. If you'll be slogging through traffic daily, it's hard to beat the Altis. Resale value is, of course, excellent; nothing ever breaks, long-term maintenance is very affordable and Toyota's dealer network is SO extensive you'll have choices upon choices on where to have it serviced. It lacks some sex appeal, admittedly, but the comfort and refinement are its strongest suits.
2. Honda Civic - the Civic feels sportier, and more importantly, has that premium feel of heft and weight like a proper luxury car which even the highly refined Altis doesn't have. It does feel a bit more harsh, thanks to the firmer suspension and the more supportive but equally firm seats. I'm 50-50 though on the instrument cluster and dashboard design, I feel it's too gimmicky and might not age well. But it drives sharp, as you would expect from any Honda. Resale value is just as good as the Altis, but long-term maintenance costs more than Toyota's.
If you want something different--leaning more towards an even sharper and sportier feeling car--take a look at the Mitsubishi Lancer. Personally, I'd pick this as my choice mostly due to the driving enjoyment, feel and sharpness of the car. There's surprisingly minimal harshness from the big wheel on the top-model EX variant with sports suspension and 18-inch wheels and tires. But it lacks that last bit of refinement from the Toyota Altis, or the feeling of a premium high-quality product you get from the Honda Civic. You do get a Rockford Fosgate designed sound system which is fantastic! Plus, of course, that scintillating (for a regular C-segment car) drive.
Another great car would be the Ford Focus. It rides slightly better than the Lancer but is dynamically equal to it. The only downside--and this is very serious for me--is the overly long gearing. It feels slow on the uptake while driving in town. Out on the highway, it feels very composed and relaxed even when you throw big speeds. Cruising at 140kmh in the Focus is child's play.
There you have it, my personal take on each car. Good luck and keep us posted!
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