Honda Civic: 2016 Car of the Year Nominee

The Civic is Honda’s most popular model in the world. Since it went on sale in the early 1970s, more than 35 million of these cars have been sold.

Aside from its showroom success, the Civic is also Honda’s longest-running nameplate. Part of the reason it has been so successful over the past 40-odd years is that it brings together a mountain of admirable qualities like fuel efficiency, long-term reliability, safety and versatility, all into one affordable car.

To keep it ahead of rivals that continually get better, the company completely overhauled this compact sedan. But is the new 2016 Civic a meaningful update compared to its predecessor, which was, admittedly, less than stellar? Let’s explore.

To topple rivals like the Toyota Corolla or Ford Focus, Honda engineers benchmarked cars that are a class above, targeting models like the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class. The result of this reach are immediately obvious the moment you plop your rump in one of the Civic’s seats.

Its cabin is light years ahead of the outgoing model’s, which featured a two-tier dashboard resembling something from an alien spacecraft. The new interior is flush with top-shelf soft plastics, grown-up design and cutting-edge technology. This is a perfect example of how you do a small-car cockpit.

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Naturally, the 2016 Civic’s exterior has also been treated to a complete redesign. Mirroring its interior changes, the overall look is much more sophisticated and grown up. It’s simultaneously handsome and interesting. When’s the last time you could say that about the Civic?

These styling changes hide massive engineering enhancements. The car features an all-new platform that makes it longer, wider and lower than the outgoing model. This gives customers more interior space including a much more hospitable back seat, a larger trunk (clocking in at 15.1 cubic feet) and even a slightly lower curb weight.

There are revolutionary changes under the hood as well. The new Civic’s base engine is a 2.0-liter VTEC four-banger. It delivers a class-competitive 158 horsepower and 138 lb-ft of torque.

But the more interesting engine is a 1.5-liter turbo, the first force-fed mainstream Honda powerplant in, well, ever! It delivers 174 horses, a muscular 162 lb-ft of twist and up to 42 miles per gallon highway. The turbo engine is matched exclusively to a continuously variable transmission. The entry-level engine can be paired with one of these “gearboxes” or, in the car’s most basic form, a six-speed stick.

Augmenting all of this goodness, the Civic also offers much of the latest technology. Dual-zone climate control, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and even Honda Sensing, the company’s suite of advanced driver-assistance technology, is on the menu.

Add it all up, and the new Honda Civic is a strong contender in our 2016 Car of the Year shootout. Will it win? It could, but not if our other five competitors have a say. We will announce the winner on December 15.

Discuss this story on our Honda Civic Forum