Everybody loves a good comeback story.
US Pricing: 2016 Civic Touring Sedan begins at $27,335 after destination charges
CDN Pricing: 2016 Civic Touring Sedan begins at $28,485 after destination charges
EPA Fuel Economy: 31 mpg city, 42 mpg hwy
CDN Fuel Economy: 7.6 L/100 km city, 5.5 L/100 km highway
The Civic once ruled the compact car world. It was the poster child for affordable, efficient fun. But over the past decade or so, things changed. Despite strong sales, the Civic went from front-runner to also-ran.
Honda admits the brand started to design the Civic with other mainstream compact car competitors like the Toyota Corolla and Hyundai Elantra in mind instead of focusing on the Civic’s own core strengths. This lead to a bland, soulless compact car. Although it was capable, efficient and reliable, it wasn’t much more than that.
For the 2016, Honda has completed what the company considers the most ambitious and comprehensive new model overhaul ever for the Civic. After a few hours behind the wheel, I have to agree with them.
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Civic, Is That You?
It starts with an all-new architecture that is a great departure from the 2015 Civic. The new car is longer and wider with a lower roofline. The exterior mimics the new Accord up front and features a slope-back tail design that maximizes aerodynamics for efficiency.
SEE ALSO: 2016 Honda Civic Review
The extra set of windows sandwiched between the front passenger side windows and A-pillars in the 2015 Civic are gone and the side view mirrors are no longer mounted on the doors. There are two small windows added to the rear doors due to the extreme angle of the rear roof line.
Inside, the driver sits lower in the 2016 Civic compared to the 2015 model, behind a modern, yet simple single-tier electronic gauge cluster. Other changes immediately noticeable inside the new Civic’s cabin is the switch to electronic parking brake and a change back to conventional right to left windshield wipers instead of the bus like inside-outside wipers.
Baby Accord Inside
Topping the new family of Civic sedans is the Touring model. Although a starting price of $27,335 after destination charges may seem like a large chunk of change for a compact car, take a moment to see what’s included for that price. Adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, dual-zone climate control, remote engine starter, display audio with Apple Car Play and Android Auto as well as wireless phone charging are all present and accounted for.
Although the seven-inch color touchscreen still lacks any hard buttons, like a volume knob, the operating system software in the 2016 Civic is better than most HondaLink setups. And the navigation system has received a major upgrade, as it’s now powered by Garmin.
And speaking of upgrades, the 2016 Civic’s interior design and quality of materials is vastly improved over the previous model. I’d argue the overall interior execution may be better than that of the larger Accord.
All Drivers Welcome
A big issue I had with the 9th generation Civic had to do with headroom. With the optional sunroof, my head would brush the roof-liner even when the driver’s seat was set to the lowest position.
With front seat headroom officially rated at just 37.5 inches, I was afraid this would be an issue in the 2016 Civic as well. But that’s not the case. The power seat lowers enough to provide cranial capacity for my six-foot-plus frame.
Ready to Haul
And the space theme continues in the back. Again, the numbers of 36.8 inches of headroom and 37.4 inches of legroom may not sound all that accommodating, but the rear seat has a ton of space. Adults over six feet tall fit with space to spare and the seat cushions are soft and comfortable.
The trunk can swallow up a very impressive 15.1 cubic feet of gear, making it one of the largest in the segment. My test car offers a bit less space at 14.7 cubic feet since the Civic Touring features a subwoofer dangling down a bit from the rear shelf.
But my favorite storage touch is the center console. By removing the parking brake handle, a larger center bin has been added equipped with a sliding armrest. Inside the bin a floating shelf and floating dual cup-holder can slide fore and aft or removed altogether for optimum storage space.
Power and Choice
Like the exterior and interior, under the hood there has been a revolution for 2016. There is now a choice of engines for regular Civics with upper trim models, the EX-T, EX-L and Touring, receiving an all-new 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It cranks out an impressive 174 hp and162 lb-ft of torque, making the Civic far more class competitive with other higher-end compacts. With a peak boost of 16.5 psi, the best part of the new turbo engine may be the fact it runs on regular grade gasoline.
For now, the only transmission that can be had with turbo engine is continuously variable automatic. Honda did state before my test drive that a manual transmission is being developed for the 1.5-liter engine, but Honda was very guarded as to what context it will be used and when it will be available.
During my drive I noticed the drivetrain is a bit delayed off the line, a result of the CVT and turbocharger. But once underway the power is most definitely there. The run from 30 to 60 mph happens deceivingly quick and the Civic should hold its own in a straight line against the Mazda3 Grand Touring 2.5-liter and the Jetta 1.8T.
Is the Sporty Nature Back
Many times during my introduction to the new Civic, Honda claimed the sporty, fun to drive nature of the car had returned. After a day behind the wheel I’m not so sure about that. It doesn’t have the same lively, ready to attack the road feeling the Mazda3 and Volkswagen Golf do.
What the Civic does do is drive like a far more upscale, larger car – an aspect more important to today’s average compact car consumer. Once again I find myself describing it as a baby Accord. Riding on 215/50R17 tires, the Civic Touring is quiet and vibration free on the road. The engine can get a bit buzzy at higher rpms though.
The suspension swallows up road imperfections well and goes about its business in a way not expected in a small, mainstream car. Steering is light and not the most direct, but the Civic behaves in a predictable way even when tossed into a corner with too much speed.
Despite gaining in size, a loaded up Civic Touring is still only 2,923 pounds, which is lighter than a 2015 Civic EX-L. With an aerodynamic shape, efficient engine and that low curb weight, the Civic is now one of the most efficient compacts on the market, rated officially at 31 mpg city and 42 mpg with the turbo engine. And remember, this is while having the ability to turn out 174 hp when needed.
The Verdict: 2016 Honda Civic Touring Review
The 2016 Civic is improved in almost every conceivable way. Not just a substantial improvement over the 2015 model, the new Civic is easily one of the best entries in the compact market. Watch out world, it appears Honda is back.
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