In the automotive journalist profession, we rarely get the opportunity to test anything other than fully loaded new cars. Call us spoiled.
Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder
Power: 158 hp, 138 lb-ft.
EPA Fuel Economy: 31 mpg city, 41 mpg hwy, 34.1 mpg observed average
CAN Fuel Economy: 7.8 L/100 km city, 5.8 L/100 km hwy, 6.9 L/100 km observed average
US Price: Honda Civic LX Automatic costs $20,275 after destination charges
CAN Price: Honda Civic LX Automatic costs $21,785 after destination charges
So when the rare opportunity to evaluate the base model of a popular new car presents itself, we jump on it, especially when that particular model just happens to be the AutoGuide.com 2016 Car of the Year award winner – the Honda Civic. Already impressed by the top-of-the-line Touring model with its turbocharged engine and gee-whiz technology, we wondered what the entry level LX trim would be like. Would it leave an equally good impression as its topline sibling?
SEE ALSO: 2016 Honda Civic Touring Review
Starting at $19,475 after destination charges in the U.S., the Civic LX comes equipped with a manual transmission, or for an extra $800, it can be had with a continuously variable automatic transmission.
A New Strategy
For that price, the 2016 Civic LX sedan comes equipped with a standard rear view camera, LED running lights, automatic climate control, automatic headlights and digital gauge cluster. That’s a lot of features for the money, something Honda was not all that inclined to offer in the past. But with the success of cars like the Hyundai Elantra and Kia Forte, Honda has been forced to add more content into the brand’s cars at lower price points.
This is none more evident than with the option packaging for the new Civic. On any trim level, including the base LX, the Honda Sensing package can be added for an extra $1,000. That means for just $21,275 after destination charges, the Civic can include lane departure warning, collision mitigation, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control and active lane keep assist.
Of course, to achieve such a low price point, money had to be saved in other places and the Civic LX wears gaudy wheel covers, has a one-speed intermittent wiper, no heated mirrors and a smaller five-inch color touchscreen instead of 7-inch screen found in all other trim levels. Interestingly enough, in Canada, the Civic LX automatic only costs $1,510 more, which with current currency conversion, actually makes it cheaper. And in the Canadian Civic LX features like the 7-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and heated seats are all included.
Focused on Efficiency, Not Performance
Enough about features. Let’s get to the meat and potatoes of the new Civic. While the new 1.5-liter turbocharged engine is stealing all the headlines, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder has also been included in the new Civic as the base engine. Still using multiport fuel injection instead of direct injection, the 2.0-liter unit develops 158 hp and 138 lb-ft of torque. That’s an increase of 15 hp and 9 lb-ft over the outgoing model.
Even with increased powered and a minor weight reduction, the 2016 Civic LX doesn’t feel any more powerful than last year’s Civic. It’s only around town that an increase in mid-range torque can be felt. There’s definitely a bigger gap in performance between the 2.0-liter and 1.5-liter turbocharged engine than the 2.0-liter and the old 1.8-liter unit. Still, the new base engine is an improvement and better matches up with the competition.
And it really shines when it comes to fuel efficiency. Officially rated at 31 mpg city and 41 mpg highway when equipped with the CVT, the 2.0-liter four-pot betters the smaller, less powerful 1.8-liter engine by 1 mpg in the city and 2 mpg on the highway. In fact, the 2.0-liter matches the new turbocharged engine’s city fuel economy numbers and is only off by 1 mpg when it comes to highway cruising. During a week with the car, I was able to achieve a 34.1 mpg observed average.
Still a Baby Accord
During my time with the 2016 Civic Touring I described it felt like driving a baby Accord and the same is still true for the base model. With 16-inch wheels and higher profile tires, the already smooth riding Civic is even more compliant over rough road surfaces. Steering is firmer than I’ve found in recent Civics, but isn’t exactly sporty. Think of it more so as reassuring.
SEE ALSO: 2016 Honda Civic Review
Wearing 215 mm wide tires, the 2,751 pound Civic LX handles corners in a class-average way, some of which may be attributed to a slightly smaller front stabilizer bar than all other Civic models and the 55 series profile tires.
Not So Base Inside
Stepping inside the base model of an older Civic really did feel like a trip down market – like leaving Nordstrom and heading to the Dress Barn. With the new car, that’s no longer the case. The interior of the LX is almost as nice as the higher-end models. It’s just as stylish and most of the materials are of a good quality, minus a few dummy buttons. It doesn’t feel like a $20,000 car.
The front seats are comfortable and the seating position is low. More than one person who sat behind the wheel of the car commented about how low they were positioned. This might have to do with continued complaints about the last generation Civic not having enough headroom. Now people over six-feet tall can easily fit inside the Civic.
The 2016 Civic has lost some of its old quirks like the inside-out windshield wipers and split-level gauge cluster, but has gained more rear legroom, now totaling 37.4 inches. Trunk space is also impressive, offering 15.1 cubic feet.
The Verdict: 2016 Honda Civic LX Review
Honda set out to prove it could build a conventional compact car better than the competition and aside from controversial styling, it looks like the manufacturer may have succeeded. Not only is the loaded up Touring model great, but I’m hard pressed to think of any entry level compact car that can match the efficiency, power, quality, equipment and space of the 2016 Honda Civic LX. Even in base form, the Civic still impresses.
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