2016 Honda Civic Review

When Honda set out to redesign the Civic for 2016, it had a lofty goal in mind: to build the best C-Segment vehicle in the world.

That may seem like a rather logical objective, after all who wants to benchmark mediocre rivals? That wouldn’t make any sense. So, instead of going after competing vehicles like the Toyota Corolla, Dodge Dart or Volkswagen Jetta, Honda product planners trained their target on something else.

Like a Marine Corp sniper, they targeted the latest crop of premium small cars, products like the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class. They wanted to deliver a vehicle with segment-leading refinement, safety, efficiency and dynamics, everything people need in a compact offering and plenty of up-level extras they crave.

2016 Honda Civic 02

High-Stakes Game

The Civic may be a small car, but for Soichiro’s team, it’s a big deal. This nameplate has been sold in the U.S. for more than four decades with American buyers snapping up some 10 million of them since “Tricky Dick” Nixon was president. Globally, it’s Honda’s most popular model with nearly 35 million sold.

ALSO SEE: 2016 Honda Civic MEGA Gallery

Understandably, the stakes with this all-new, totally redesigned, completely overhauled 10th generation Civic are higher than Colorado following the passage of Amendment 64. Honda needed to blow everyone away with this car after hawking somewhat lackluster offerings for the past few years.

The last couple Civics have been rather uninspiring. Sure, they were fine cars — economical, safe and reliable — but they didn’t bring the thunder, which is what people expect from Honda. Luckily for everyone, the 2016 model is the real deal.

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She’s a Looker

One area where this longstanding nameplate finally eclipses rival small cars is design, a feature its predecessor completely lacked. With odd proportions and a weird interior, the outgoing Civic looked like more like something you’d cook a frozen pizza in than drive.

The 2016 model has some unexpected style, with an arching roofline, short rear end and muscular fenders. Is that a bit of Nissan Maxima or Mazda3 I see? There are far worse designs to borrow from.

2016 Honda Civic Rear 01

To my jaundiced eyes, the 2016 Civic is one of the most attractive compact sedans available today. It’s an undeniably strong effort, which chiseled good looks, tasteful styling elements and an overall handsomeness that’s guaranteed to age gracefully, unlike the outgoing model.

A Solid Foundation

And all that visual panache hides a totally new architecture that provides increased dimensions. This car is nearly two inches wider and has a 1.2-inch longer wheelbase than today’s Civic sedan. Its body is also 2.9 inches lankier. Thanks to these changes, the company claims it has the largest cabin in the compact segment.

It’s much the same story when it comes to storage space. The trunk has been expanded by more than 2.5 cubic feet, with total volume clocking in at 15.1 cubes. This makes the 2016 Civic one of the most capacious C-Segment sedans available.

2016 Honda Civic Body 02

Despite the injection of growth hormones, this car hasn’t gained any weight. In fact, the overall structure is lighter thanks to the increased use of ultra-high-strength steel, something that also helps boost torsional rigidity by 25 percent. Depending on the model, overall weight is down between 50 and 100 pounds.

In typical Honda fashion, the new Civic promises to be an extremely safe car. Sporting its next-generation ACE body structure, it’s projected to earn five-star safety ratings across the board from NHTSA, but that’s not all. It’s also on track to be crowned with Top Safety Pick+ honors from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

That New Engine Smell

Matching the overwhelming newness of its platform, the 2016 Civic also features a pair of fresh powerplants. Ahead of the firewall, LX and EX versions are graced with a 2.0-liter VTEC four-cylinder engine. It puts out 158 horses and 138 lb-ft of torque, figures that are class competitive. A continuously variable automatic transmission is standard across the board except in the LX model where you can choose a six-speed manual.

2016 Honda Civic Engine 01

Uplevel EX-T and EX-L trims both feature a 1.5-liter turbocharged four with direct injection and a specially tuned CVT. According to Honda, this is the most powerful non-Si Civic ever offered in America. Output clocks in at 174 ponies and 162 lb-ft of twist.

On paper, this is a pretty appealing engine lineup, but the fuel economy figures these powertrains provide are even more intriguing. The base engine with a CVT is estimated to deliver 31 miles per gallon city, 41 highway and 35 mpg combined.

2016 Honda Civic Powertrain 05

But the turbo should be even more economical. Models so equipped are expected to return up to 42 miles per gallon highway (31/42/35)! That’s more than a Mazda3 or Nissan Sentra and is on par with a Ford Focus equipped with their 1.0-liter three-cylinder EcoBoost engine. Was Ebenezer Scrooge this miserly? Hardly!

Interior Enhancements

Mirroring the styling improvements made to the Civic’s exterior, its cabin has also been completely revamped for 2016. Gone are the middling-quality plastics, wonky two-tier dashboard and strange design elements that brought to mind a Picasso painting.

ALSO SEE: Top 5 Things You Should Know About the 2016 Honda Civic

In place of all this is a much more grown up, mature looking interior. Richly grained soft plastics abound as do high-quality trimmings. Even hard materials, which are used sparingly, look a cut above what’s normally found in the C-Segment.

2016 Honda Civic Interior 01

Given the Civic’s size increase, it should come as no surprise that it’s also more spacious and comfortable inside. Front occupants are treated to a slightly lower seating position and more legroom. Naturally, the aft accommodations have grown as well. Rear-seat knee-room has increased by more than two inches and six-footers should have no issue fitting back there.

TECHtonic Features

But modern cars cannot launch without all the latest high-tech goodies. Customers expect advanced features in today’s vehicles and the 2016 Civic offers plenty of them.

A five-inch touchscreen is standard in LX models but higher-trim variants receive a seven-inch display that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Both iPhone users and Google fanatics should be happy, as they can safely make calls, search the interwebz and receive text messages while driving.

2016 Honda Civic Display Screen 02

Regrettably, engineers have kept one loathsome element from the outgoing Civic. The 2016 model still features a confounding volume slider in lieu of a proper physical knob. Why, Honda? Why do you have to make a simple process exponentially more difficult? For shame!

Somewhat assuaging this gripe is a segment-leading 10-speaker, 450-watt audio system. It should provide a rockin’ good time.

Aside from all that, the 2016 Civic also features a host of standard equipment, things like automatic climate control, an electric parking brake, auto up/down power windows and more.

2016 Honda Civic Tail Light 01

As for options, the car can be dressed up with snazzy LED illumination for the headlamps, DRLs and tail lights. You can also get Honda Sensing, the company’s suite of advanced driver-assistance technology, which offers things like road departure mitigation, forward collision warning and even adaptive cruise control.

The Drive

Putting the 2016 Civic in motion validates most of the promises made by Honda. The car is refined, surprisingly fleet and enjoyable to pilot.

The feel of its electrically boosted power steering system is quite surprising. It does a pretty convincing imitation of an Audi, that is, effort is extremely light at parking-lot speeds but it bulks up promptly as speed increases, providing a direct and predictable connection to the front wheels.

2016 Honda Civic Driving 05

This rack’s ratio is unexpectedly quick, giving the Civic an almost scalpel-like feel. Fortunately, despite the rapid turn-in, it’s not the least bit nervous, something that’s probably addressed by the company’s Straight Driving Assist feature. This helps the car track like it’s on rails, automatically compensating for crowed roads, keeping you on an even keel.

The Civic’s steering has improved nicely, though a little more heft in the tiller would be nice.

As for braking, this car’s pedal is reassuringly firm, controlling discs at all four corners. Given its confidence-boosting performance you’d think it’d be grabby, but fortunately that’s not the case. Overall, this arrangement feels just about perfect.

Honda is happy to tout how quiet the 2016 Civic’s interior is. Air leaks have been reduced by 58 percent, the car features a flush-mounted acoustic-glass windshield and its doors have triple seals. All of these enhancements do indeed make for a silent cabin, though it doesn’t seem appreciably quieter than the interiors of rival cars.

2016 Honda Civic Side 01

Both of the new Civic’s engines perform well. The base 2.0-liter unit is all most drivers will ever need. It’s responsive, well isolated and feels surprisingly lively, even when paired with the continuously variable transmission. This gearless ratio-swapper is surprisingly livable, though I still prefer traditional step-ratio transmissions.

This car’s up-level 1.5-liter turbo provides even more thrust than the base engine. It responds well at lower engine speeds because of its prodigious torque output. The extra oomph is appreciated if not really necessary.

All told, the 2016 Civic is near the top of its field when it comes to driving dynamics, though it may not be valedictorian. The Mazda3 is still a formidable competitor and even Ford’s Focus is a lot of fun to drive. A proper comparison test is needed to determine which of C-Segment offerings most entertaining.

The Verdict: 2016 Honda Civic Review

With sharp design, a higher quality interior and stellar fuel economy, it’s safe to say the 2016 Civic is the best one ever. It’s slated to go on sale in the U.S. next month and will carry a base price of $19,475, including $835 in destination charges. A fully optioned model can be had for around 27 grand.

2016 Honda Civic

As it has with previous generations, Honda will undoubtedly sell hundreds of thousands of these cars ever year and that’s not even counting the coupe, hatchback, Si and Type R models that are still in the works. The new Civic is a home run and perhaps more importantly than that, it’s the first small Honda in a long time that’s actually worth getting excited about. And hey, they may have just reached their goal; this could be the world’s best C-Segment model.

Discuss this story on our Honda Civic Forum

  • danwat1234

    Does the 2016 Civic have auto start/stop? I assume not but I wish it would so the engine shuts off when the car is stopped.
    Also, the CVT. If you floor it from a stop, at what MPH does the engine reach 4500+RPM? Typically with a small car CVT (including the newer Subaru CVT and Carolla CVT) , there is a ‘long first gear’ so the engine doesn’t reach peak output until about 30MPH so from 0-29MPH you don’t have full power. Argh. Is this car different?

  • roundthings

    That is a whole lot of ugly.
    Compact cars need to stay COMPACT. It’s getting ridiculous. Seriously, if you care about rear seat leg room then get a midsize.
    I’d take the new Cruze over this, although that’s grown by 3 inches as well.

  • In addition to your points, the only thing I have to add is a request for a way to pry off that ridiculous chrome bar on the grille. Other than that, I think the design is gorgeous inside and out, and would love to test the dynamics of the car. But I definitely agree that auto start/stop should be a must for any new car, and that tall-geared CVTs suck.

  • bill

    Why so FUGLY!!!!!!! Previous generation civic was a much sharper car! And what happened to the 2016 Concept Civic! That used the base of the 9th generation civic design and expanded upon it. Now it looks like an Accord = BORING!!!

  • danwat1234

    What Brian Cooley of Cnet call’s the ‘mighty morphin power ranger’ bar or something like that

  • So glad I got a 2013 Accord. The new Honda cars are ugly.

  • Every new generation of Honda looks uglier than the last. What the hell has their design team been thinking over the past decade??

  • tre916

    The ’06 coupe looked perfect, and the ’15 sedan looked better than ever, but this looks like a Crosstour; this, looks awful.

  • Jamie

    Who buys a CVT? They’re horrible. I wouldn’t go near a car with a CVT. Had one once. Never again. A dealer near me is selling leftover ’15 Accord EX-L V6 sedans for under $27K…with natural 6 speed transmissions…..a steal. That’s the only Honda automatic I would buy.

    Of course a vast majority of Civic owners don’t even know their car has a CVT. They accept that droning awful performance b/c they blindly purchase an appliance with a Honda badge.

  • Tony

    “Wonky two tier”. I love my ’09 LX Coupe. Fuel efficient, compact, and easy on the eyes. This looks like a futuristic toaster with doors.

  • danwat1234

    With the right computer controls, it can really feel like it has gears. You can floor it and it’ll stay in the same ratio if you have it set to manual in a Carolla CVT.

  • Felix James

    Dear Honda: Give me back my volume control knob.

  • Rickers

    I love the two tier dash as well.

  • Jamie

    Puleeeeze. I had a Lancer GTS with a CVT. It was much better in manual mode but it still sucked. In auto mode it was horrible. A Corolla CVT? Yeah an underpowered car with a CVT to boot. A car custom built for the don’t-know-any-better demographic who are content with a droning slow appliance.

  • danwat1234

    140HP isn’t too bad. My old Civic has 106HP when new with a slushbox and it’s fast enough. New ‘regular’ non si Civic is 158HP or 174HP(1.5 T). Should be fast enough if the RPMs can reach peak torque levels quickly after full throttle is requested. But typically CVTs are sucky at low speeds with a ‘long first gear’. But at higher speeds it brings up the engine quickly.
    It’ll be interesting if the new si is offered with the CVT and also manual

  • Jamie

    140hp sucks. As long as their are CVT’s, it makes shopping easy for those who like an engaging drive. Simply cross them off the list. CVTs suck. Give me a Mazda 3 or Jetta 1.8t over a Civic any day. Both will blow the doors off a Civic and are more fun to drive and cost the same.

  • Wu Pace

    Used to be good when they had manual transmission. I think 2001-2003 Civics are by far the best looking ever made. Can’t beat the 1999 Si peppiness of the engine.

  • Wu Pace

    Agreed. Now sure who’s approving the design. Same goes with Acura. Most cars they get better with age. Honda and Acura went the other way.

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  • Kinetis

    Judging all CVTs and newer generation CVTs based on one experience you had with a mediocre Lancer CVT is kind of unfair to the other CVTs. I’ve heard CVTs from Honda and the Subaru WRX CVT are ok.

  • Jamie

    I owned one CVT. I’ve driven 2 Altima CVTs, 4cyl and 6cyl. The 6cyl was decent. And the CVTs in the current Civic have been said to be horrible by almost all Car Mags. Probably why sales have slumped. The Accord CVT is better yet many say it sucks. I’ve never heard anyone complain about the 6spd auto in the Accord V6. The best review I’ve heard of a CVT is that they’re “ok.” or tolerable. Not much of an endorsement.

  • mchan1

    Seems that Honda finally put some insulation materials to address the NVH issue that has plagued ALL Hondas models for years!

    Will tall people actually fit in the rear seat considering the sloping rear roofline?

    It’s Terrible that many auto makers are making sloping rear rooflines, for what… minimizing drag? Many Civic users do use the backseats to transport people esp. those with families!

  • Jacky

    i dont

  • Jacky

    crosstour?? go look agian son. you r fukin blind as fuk

  • tre916

    And you’re dumb as fuck.
    Move along.

  • Dave

    AutoGuide can you please list me the rival cars that are quieter than this 2016 Honda Civic?

  • Fred Suza

    Check your specs on the Jetta 1.8 Turbo 0-60. No way will it blow away the Civic turbo which is in the 6,8-7.0 range for 0-60. A Mazda 3 with the 2.0 engine will NOT beat the Civic . Even the 2.5 liter falls a little short. Great cars yes but the Mazdas are known for Noise problems that the civic has very little of. I have a Mazda 6 Touring (2014) and while it is peppy I believe my Mazda is a little slower than the turbo civic I tested. Were you thinking of the 2.0 turbo that is on some Jettas?

  • Fred Suza

    Agree. But, definitely not as good as the Mazda’s auto 6 speed.

  • Fred Suza

    I think the rear of the 2016 looks better that the Bubble on the back of the crosstour. In any event maybe some other people don’t like the crosstour since Honda is discontinuing it.

  • Fred Suza

    Full torque comes in at 1800 RPM and away it goes!

  • Fred Suza

    A little sandpaper and black paint should fix that.

  • danwat1234

    But that’s still not full HP output, which then would translate to more torque at that speed if the engine could ramp up to 6000RPM at that MPH.

  • Fred Suza

    To me it doesn’t matter. My 2014 Mazda 6 Touring has 184 HP and 185 Foot Lbs of torque at 4500 RPM but the new civic beats it to 60 handily (6.8 second versus my Mazda’s 7.2 -7.5, depending on which report you believe). I am not that great on technology, but early on Torque from a turbo seems to make a great deal of difference.

  • danwat1234

    Wow 6.8 seconds from the 1.5 liter turbo? Pretty darn quick!