Pour one out for the affordable, economy coupe.
Engine: 2.0L I4
Output: 158 hp, 138 lb-ft
Transmission: CVT, FWD
US fuel economy (MPG): 29/36/32
CAN fuel economy (L/100KM): 8.3/6.6/7.5
Starting Price (USD): $22,005 (inc. dest.)
As-Tested Price (USD): $23,605 (est, inc. dest.)
Starting Price (CAD): $23,660 (inc. dest.)
As-Tested Price (CAD): $28,060 (inc. dest.)
Moments ago, the 11th-generation Civic debuted in prototype form. It’s a sedan, and a Euro-friendly hatchback will join it down the road. But the coupe will not. This 2020 model year is the last, as changing market trends kill the two-door. (And manuals on everything Honda other than the Civic Si and Type R).
When this happens, the segment the Civic coupe rode in for nearly 30 years will disappear from North America. Your cheapest choice for a two-door in 2021? The $25,995, turbo four-cylinder Chevrolet Camaro. Even with the included destination charge that’s a heck of a deal, but it isn’t really the same proposition as the Civic, is it?
Chances are, if you’re of a certain age, you have a memory involving a Civic coupe. Maybe it was that fart-can-equipped trouble-maker in the high school parking lot. Maybe it was your first car, the one that fit your life inside it as you moved to college. To give it the proper send-off, we grabbed a Coupe in modest Sport trim and pointed it towards home—its home, that is.
Getting into the Civic Coupe is a welcome sort of culture shock. The life of a car journalist is typically a musical chairs tour of the top trims of most models. This tester, however, is the Sport model, just one step up from the base. It has cloth seats! Okay, they have leatherette sides, but you’re hardly living the bougie lifestyle in here. The seat bases look flat, but they’re pleasantly squishy, so it’s easy to get comfortable—with the manual six-way adjustments.
Our Canadian-spec tester does enjoy a few added perks over the US equivalent. There’s standard heated seats—because of course—and a power moonroof. But the basics are the same. That means the same low seating position that every Civic has. After a string of crossovers, it’s refreshing getting into something so close to terra firma. You feel in control behind the wheel, yet the view out front still makes it easy to place the nose of the car. It’s good you sit so low though, as headroom isn’t exactly generous. With the moonroof there’s 36.5 inches (928 mm) for your noggin; it’s only an inch less than the sedan, but it’s enough to feel ever so slightly cramped.
Not nearly as bad as the folks who have to sit in the back, though. Headroom drops another 2.0 inches (52 mm), so most folks of legal driving age will be hunching over back there. The chunky C-pillar add to the claustrophobia, and limit rearward visibility for the driver, but not as badly as, say, the Mazda3 hatchback. Of course, getting back there feels almost like a trip through time, manually folding the front seats forward and dodging the seatbelt. Maybe this stops teens from cramming their car full of friends—or maybe it stops their friends from even wanting to hang out. This far removed from our own teen years, we can’t remember.
The dash design is busy, but a healthy helping of physical buttons means it’s easy to maneuver. Quality is mixed: most of what you touch is good, but the plastic around the cupholder is not nice, and there’s a seam on the metal-look plastic door handle that catches our hands every time we touch it.
Honda’s infotainment system dates the Coupe more than anything else. Truth be told it’s fine, and the Sport does include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility where the base model doesn’t. That’s surely key for young drivers. Honda was one of the first to actually worry about center console clutter too, and I appreciate the passthrough for wires to head to the storage shelf within the console. The layout should keep the screens out of view too—another win.
Keeping you (and your wallet) safe
Any car meant for newer drivers should have a strong lineup of safety kit. The Civic Coupe does a decent job here, with automated emergency braking, lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning, auto high beams, and forward collision warning. The rear-view camera doesn’t provide the sharpest image in the class, but it does offer dynamic guidelines, which makes squeezing into tighter stall parking a lot easier. Honda LaneWatch, which pops a camera feed from the passenger side mirror into the central infotainment screen, is equipped on our Can-spec Sport tester, but you’ll need to graduate to the EX trim in the US for it.
The IIHS rates the Civic a Top Safety Pick, but not this one. The Sport misses out on the LED headlights necessary for the rating. The Coupe does pick up a five-star rating from the NHTSA, however.
Then there are the running costs. This is a Honda Civic, and one that runs a naturally-aspirated engine at that. Treat it without complete contempt and the thing will probably be ready for the next generation’s trip to college. It sips regular fuel to the tune of a 32 mpg average (7.5 L/100 km), but we averaged the 36 (6.6) highway figure during our week with the Sport.
Bringing it back home
There was only one real destination to take the Coupe during our week with it. Alliston, Ontario is pretty much a straight shot up from Toronto—and Honda Canada’s HQ, coincidentally. If we happened to take a few squiggly detours to get there, what’s the harm?
The Civic gets the job done. Our tester is the CVT model—yes, Honda’s manual shifters are great, but the CVT is more representative of the average buyer. It’s fine: other manufacturers have since eclipsed the Civic’s transmission, specifically Toyota with its physical “launch” gear, but the Coupe’s CVT is a solid and predictable pairing. The 2.0-liter engine produces just 158 hp and 138 lb-ft of torque, but also only has to shift around 2,850 lb (1,292 kg). It’s enough to get up to highway speed, and pass as needed, but not much more. Perfect for the teen with the new license, then.
There’s still that inherent Civic goodness to the Coupe’s handling too. It’s not what you’d call sporty by any stretch of the word, but the front wheels respond to your inputs quickly and accurately. There’s a nice balance here that you quickly trust, and the compact dimensions mean it’s easy to place on the road.
To wit: we get to Alliston quicker than expected. We putter around the parking lot, full of unique bits of goodness, including a handful of S2000s, plenty of current Type Rs, and clean ’90s-era hatchbacks. This plant has been building the Civic since before the Coupe joined the lineup, and will continue with the 11th generation next year. Another plant in Greensburg, Indiana handles demand. The hatchback is built in the UK.
Nobody knows I’m here, and there’s no fanfare. When the Coupe departs from the market at the end of the year, the response will largely be the same.
Verdict: 2020 Honda Civic Coupe Review
The Civic Coupe feels tailor-made for young, new drivers. It looks sporty, but doesn’t have enough firepower under the hood to get them into serious trouble. It handles tidily, but safely, and isn’t lugging around the extra half ton a modern compact SUV is, so if the worst does happen, it will cause less damage to whatever is in its way. That lightness means less stress on parts, and contributes to admirable fuel economy figures. The Sport wraps all that up in a package under $24,000 (or $28,060 CAD, as tested).
Affordable and reliable can only get you so far, though. The idea that bigger automatically is safer has taken hold, and that has hit the affordable coupe market hard. Same too for practicality—real or perceived—even if most North American driving trips happen with just a single person in them.
Despite the 10th-generation Civic’s shouty styling, the single word we kept coming back to to describe it was “modest”. That trait was what made the Coupe a blank canvas for tuners in the 90s, and for parents to gift to their kids to kick off the next stage of their life. But modesty isn’t a valuable commodity in the current market, so the Coupe’s days were always numbered. We’ll miss the segment when it’s gone.