They may be small in stature, but make no mistake – these vehicles are the titans of the auto industry. Compact cars are the cornerstone of their respective manufacturers; their volume sales keep the lights turned on and replenish the funding for new development. If their modest sensibility doesn’t interest you – consider this: without the Honda Civic, there’d be no new Acura NSX, and it’s highly unlikely that Toyota would have gotten so tragically close to winning Le Mans if it hadn’t been for all those millions of beige Corollas sold.

Reliable, economical, practical – those aren’t the buzzwords of excitement and desirability. But millions of Canadians put their faith in those words, since their daily driver represents not only a significant chunk of their savings, but also their trust that it won’t let them down and will keep them and their families safe.

There are more compacts sold in Canada than any other passenger car, and of these, the Honda Civic and Hyundai Elantra lead the segment.

While it’s never again managed to reach 2008’s zenith when it was the best-selling vehicle in the country, the Civic has been Canada’s most popular passenger car for nearly two decades.

Slotting in between the subcompact Fit and the mid-sized Accord, the “compact” Civic sold nearly 65,000 units here last year. Needless to say, that’s a position that Honda would not relinquish without a fight.

The Elantra, on the other hand, is truly an underdog. From a low of 11,814 sold in 2008, the Elantra’s more than tripled its sales – even knocking the mighty Toyota Corolla off its second place on the podium.

Both of these cars have been fully redesigned, offer new powertrains and are laden with technology and features at a decent price. While either one would do an admirable job of fulfilling a buyer’s needs – the question remains, who does it best?

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