Vancouver, B.C. – I don’t need to say it again; the automotive industry is about as competitive as it’s ever been these days. The year-over-year updates and improvements that we’re seeing nowadays, all the way from the sub-compact entry-level market, all the way up to the upper echelon of premium luxury, is pretty unprecedented. The sheer pace of technology has all but ensured a much quicker pace of vehicle development. In Honda’s case, their new Civic, in my opinion is the current gold standard in the compact mainstream class. In the top-end Touring model that I sampled last year, it delivers an astonishing amount of features for the money, impressive fuel efficiency, and the styling can even be considered edgy once again – depending on who you ask.
Honda has been on a roll lately, pretty much all of their new products or even their updated existing products are generating the good kind of buzz. In terms of the midsize mainstream sedan class, the Accord moves back into my #1 slot, because all of the small updates add up into an excellent overall pick. The new Pilot (reviewed here) packs in a lot of family-friendly technology, and it does a good job borrowing several items from the more-premium Acura MDX. The HR-V subcompact crossover impresses with its unrelenting focus on versatility and excellent space efficiency for people and their stuff. The new Civic, being the most important model sold by Honda, is being introduced to the market in a slightly different manner.
Honda has confirmed the re-introduction of the Civic hatchback, the hotter Si, and the race-ready Type-R. The difference here is that all these launches are staggered. After ensuring the success of the new Civic Sedan, Honda is now ready to release the two-door Civic Coupe. There’s a lot riding on every new Civic, so Honda flew me out to beautiful Vancouver to check it out. Toronto is only starting to thaw out and green up again, but Vancouver is a different kind of nice. You really owe it to yourself to visit sometime.
The new Civic Sedan is a big departure, not only from the previous-generation, but from pretty much all of its peers. It has grown in length and width, and proportions have also changed significantly. The roofline, for example, is a lot less upright and is more fitting on a coupe. The 2016 Honda Civic Coupe, more specifically, cuts about 2.5cm out of the overall height for a lower, more aggressive stance. The Coupe’s more trim dimensions also sees the overall length shortened – the rear overhang is reduced by a whole 10cm.
The complex taillight shape may not work for everybody, but I think the coupe offers those people a solution by joining the two taillights together with a red section of trim that also doubles as a subtle rear lip spoiler. In short, the 2016 Civic Coupe is still funky like the sedan, but I like how the side profile isn’t as wedge-shaped as it was in the previous-generation Civic Coupe. To my eyes, it looks particularly good from the rear ¾ angle.
Inside, the new Civic Coupe is a very familiar place to be if you’re familiar with the sedan. The dashboard is pretty much the same (including that lack of a volume knob on the infotainment unit), save for a few unique items specific to the coupe. Rear seat legroom is surprisingly good, but headroom is reduced a little bit compared to the sedan, thanks to the more aggressive roofline. The Sedan is stronger in this regard, but the Coupe will work in a pinch if you need to drive your co-workers out for a quick lunch run. Other than the longer doors and seat colours, you’d be hard-pressed to find all the differences between the sedan and coupe. One item specific to the turbocharged coupes are the steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters – a first for the Civic.
Under the hood, the powertrains don’t change from the sedan. At the entry level, the LX Coupe gets the base naturally-aspirated 2.0L four-cylinder engine, good for 158hp @ 6500rpm, and 138lb-ft of torque @ 4200rpm. The next step up is the turbocharged EX-T, with its 1.5L engine, making 174hp @ 6000rpm, and 162lb-ft of torque from 1700rpm all the way up to 5500rpm. The top-end Touring trim also gets the 1.5L turbo-four. If you want to do things yourself, a nicely-shifting six-speed manual transmission is only available on the base LX. At this time, stepping up to the EX-T means a CVT automatic is your only choice.
The paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, if equipped, give the Civic Coupe seven “virtual” gear ratios to pick from. It’s a nod to the feeling of performance in a different era, because these “pre-set” gear ratios really are counter-intuitive to how a CVT automatic works. In order to extract the most from the engine, the driver just needs to depress the accelerator to the floor, and the various computers will figure everything out, including where to hold the engine’s revs to. In practice, though, the paddle shifters add a useful degree of control when it comes to engine braking when driving through the mountains – like we did from Vancouver to Whistler. “Shift” quality is actually pretty good when you tug on one of the paddles.
In the driver’s seat, the improved “premium” feel that Honda has gone after is quickly apparent. They’ve paid close attention to touch points, and the overall driver’s interface. Like with the sedan, Honda has emphasized the lower hip point, and as somebody who likes to sit as low as possible in any vehicle, the additional seat travel downward is welcome. On the road, the Civic Touring Coupe receives (slightly) firmer springs, dampers, and stabilizer bars. The firmer feel of control is welcome, but the changes add up to a ride that still remains composed and not too stiff – the Civic Coupe is still an every-day car, after all.
Pricing and value for money have always been a hallmark of the Civic. There is a difference with the Coupe, however – the bottom-end Civic Sedan DX is not replicated in the Coupe. The base Civic Coupe LX starts at $19,455 when equipped with the six-speed manual. Adding the CVT automatic bumps that price by $1,300 to $20,755. The mid-level EX-T, at $24,555, adds larger 17-inch wheels, Honda’s excellent LaneWatch blind-spot camera, push-button start, power moonroof, fog lights, remote engine starter, and dual-zone climate control, among other things.
The next question is whether you’re looking for Honda’s excellent Honda Sensing active safety suite. Just like the Sedan, it adds the alphabet soup of: Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), and Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS). Adding Honda Sensing to either the base LX CVT or EX-T is only an additional $1,000, and the Touring model already comes with it as standard equipment. My fully-loaded Touring tester stickers for $27,555, and adds premium features like full LED headlights, leather seating surfaces, Garmin navigation, and wireless phone charging – the last item is a Canadian exclusive.
Honda has positioned the Civic Coupe as a more stylish member of the Civic family, and they’ve largely succeeded. The two-door compact coupe market isn’t quite what it was in the 80s and 90s, but Honda thinks there’s still a demand for a two-door solution. To that end, Honda didn’t just lop off two doors off the sedan and called it a day. The rear-end design of the coupe should be more attractive to more people, and the bright colours available (mostly on the Touring model) add an additional element of funkiness. Like the Civic Sedan, the amount of premium features and technology (such as the standard Apple Carplay & Android Auto integration) available is very impressive at this price point. Style, reliability, efficiency, and a car you can depend on every day is why Honda continues to be on a roll, and the Civic delivers on these items. I’m really excited to see what the five-door, Si, and Type-R models bring to the table.