The new Civic is definitely the gold standard for the affordable small sedan.
The Honda Civic is one of the best-selling cars in the world. Dating back over forty years through ten generations, it has earned itself millions of diehard fans, loyal buyers, and a community that is known worldwide as “Civic Nation”. This year marks the introduction of the tenth iteration of Civic, quite possibly the most interesting one yet. We recently tested the base model with the 2.0L powerplant (see review here), but this is the one I was most excited about. I took a surprisingly warm week in February to boot around with a 2016 Honda Civic Touring, the highest trim currently available.
At first glance, it becomes immediately evident that the new Civic is considerably larger than its predecessor. Almost three inches longer and two inches wider than the outgoing model, the car is one of the largest in the compact segment. In fact, it’s almost identical in length to a 1993 Honda Accord, a testament to how much cars have grown in the past two decades. Also very obvious is the polarizing new styling – the new Civic almost looks like a hatchback at first glance. The front end looks like an evolutionary development on the last model mixed with the new Accord, but the rear end is highlighted by large taillights. Overall, the design works well, causing the Civic to stand out over its rivals.
Honda insists that the added size is to ensure maximum safety as well as increased passenger space in the cabin. I’ll take their word for it, because rear seat passengers didn’t complain in the slightest, and I was very comfortable up front. Even with the equipped sunroof, headroom was nothing to scoff at. The trunk was also generously large, easily gobbling up luggage from an airport run I had to make during my week with the car. The leather seats were also exceptionally comfortable, with plenty of bolstering and lumbar support for longer drives.
It’s not just a matter of increased space inside the car – Honda has done a swell job redesigning the interior of the 2016 Civic. The complicated two-tiered dash that debuted for 2006 is now gone, replaced with a conservative dashboard that cleanly houses all of the Civic’s features. A 7” touchscreen with Honda’s latest infotainment system sits in the center, and also houses Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, on par with other models in Honda’s latest lineup. The gearshift is located at a higher height than in most other compacts, at the perfect level proportionate to the armrest.
There are a series of nice touches on the interior, like the touch-capacitive volume control slider on the steering wheel. If you don’t like touch-sliding, this also functions as two regular buttons. Between the front two seats lives an unusually large center console. Honda claims this is large enough to hold several iPads or even a small purse. Materials overall are also very good, with flawless fit and finish, exactly what we have come to expect from the Honda brand. The parking brake is electronic, which is a personal gripe of mine in a compact. This is also the case for manual transmission models.
Beneath the Civic’s hood lives another innovation for the Honda brand. The 1.5L turbocharged four-cylinder is the first time a turbocharged motor has been sold under the Honda brand. The only North American product under the umbrella to use a turbo was the first-generation Acura RDX. This motor is tuned for efficiency as well as sportiness, and boasts power numbers of 174 horsepower at 6,000RPM and 162 lb-ft of torque at 1,700RPM. The only available transmission with the turbo (for now) is the CVT, which is a unit that Honda has perfected surprisingly quickly. All of this is good for a 0-100 sprint in 6.9 seconds.
On a surprisingly sporty note, the CVT’s virtual “gears” actually mimic an upshift on wide-open throttle around 6,000RPM. There is a “Sport” mode on the shifter, though no paddle shifters are available and there is no way to manually shift through the gears. A little bit of turbo lag makes itself obvious right off the line, but throttle response through the power range is actually very good. Ride quality is also exceptional, thanks to the thicker anti-roll bars front and rear. Brake-based torque vectoring minimizes understeer, and the new Civic handles more competently than any of its ancestors.
Also remarkable was the fuel economy on the new model. Whereas all previous models used naturally aspirated four-cylinder powertrains, the new model’s smaller-displacement turbocharged setup is good for excellent mileage. In combined driving, I averaged 7.1L/100km throughout my test, with highway numbers dipping as low as 6.5L/100km. On one city jaunt, with a full carload on board and making full use of the vehicle’s electronics, we saw the numbers go as high as 10.0L/100km. The Civic will accept regular 87-octane fuel, and the tank holds 47L in total.
Honda has priced the base Civic DX to start at an aggressive $15,990, and it’s pretty well equipped even at that price. Our loaded Touring tester is slotted above all of the others, and holds a sticker of $26,990. While this might seem steep for a compact, it’s important to consider the level of equipment that’s on board. This model includes heated leather seats (front and rear!), powered front seats, in-dash satellite navigation, wireless charging, intelligent key, 17” alloys, and the full suite of Honda Sensing technologies on board.
It’s almost unbelievable to accept just how much technology that you can get in a regular compact Honda sedan nowadays. For instance, the Honda Sensing safety pack is one of the best in the business, and includes a series of features designed to keep the driver and passengers safe and sound at all times. This includes but isn’t limited to adaptive cruise control (ACC), lane keeping assist (LKAS), collision mitigation braking (CMBS), lane departure warning (LDW), and forward collision warning (FCW). This package is also available as a standalone option (all-in-one) on the LX and EX trims, but is standard on our Touring.
In general, our team at DoubleClutch.ca has held the current Mazda3 in the highest regard within this price bracket and segment. A fully loaded model in sedan form is $29,280, and still doesn’t offer the level of technology that the Civic does. The only benefit to the Mazda is that even in its top-trim model, a manual transmission is offered. We’ll have to see what Honda comes up with for the high-performance Si model expected to release later this year.
The 2016 Honda Civic Touring has won a series of awards amongst our media colleagues since its release a few months ago. It was very close to winning one of our own awards, but at the time of voting we hadn’t had an extended go in the car yet. As of this writing, the new Civic is definitely the gold standard for the compact segment, and will definitely cause its rivals to be playing catch up in the coming years to try and beat sales. With its loyal fanbase and sportier models not far behind, I have no doubts in my mind that the Civic will spend the next couple of years with record sales worldwide.