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.
Engine: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, 158 hp, 138 lb-ft; 1.5-liter turbo 4-cylinder, 174 hp, 162
Transmission: Six-speed manual (LX-trim only) or continuously variable automatic
Fuel Economy: Up to 31 miles per gallon city, 42 highway and 35 combined with the 1.5-liter turbo
Base Price: $18,640, excluding destination charges
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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