Cheap and cheerful is gone. The 2016 Honda Civic sedan has raised the bar for a compact car to new levels. After realizing that the 9th generation 2012 Civic was a dud, and quickly adding band-aids for 2013, Honda has gotten very, very serious with the all new 10th generation Civic. In fact, for awhile there the automotive analyst and journalist community was sensing Honda was losing its mojo. After updates to the Accord, the new Pilot, the HR-V and now the New 2016 Honda Civic, it is clear Honda is back. Honda’s development name for the new Civic is “EPIC” Civic and it fits. To achieve this “epicness” Honda benchmarked not only the usual suspects, but also the C-Class entries from Audi, BMW and Mercedes.
For reference, the 2016 Honda Civic has 5 basic trim levels: LX, EX, EX-T(urbo), EX/Leather, Touring.
More Expressive Styling: While still quickly identified as a Honda, the new Civic is much more expressive than any Civic before it. The car is larger with a 3.0-inch increase in overall length and a 1.2-inch increase in wheelbase. The car is 0.8-inches lower and going back to an old Honda trick, its cowl is 1.6-inches lower giving better forward visibility. The car is lower and wider to give it the look of a more premium car. The Civic adopts its own version of Honda’s evolving face using an upscale looking grille. Innovative front lighting gives the car a unique look. LED daytime running lights are standard. The top-of-the-line Touring model has LED headlamps as well. The bodyside is creased as is today’s fashion with a slight bulge over the front wheels leading to a upper body character line ending in a muscular bulge over the rear wheels. The C-Pillar has a sharp crease separating the roof from the rear fender. The standard LED taillamps are huge V-shaped affairs.
Interior Much, Much More Upscale: The front edge of the instrument panel sweeps below the windshield in a smooth unbroken arc from A-Pillar to A-Pillar and continue down the door trim panel. This adds a sense of width to the car. The instrument panel pad feels very high quality and nowhere near the hard plastic some cars in this class had in the past. The seats are very comfortable – at least in the EX-L trim level with leather interior – and trimmed in high quality leather. The instrument cluster includes a digital speedometer surrounded by an analog tachometer. Nicely done. Honda has paid a lot of attention to the transformer-like center console. The conventional shifter is where you would expect, but ahead of the shift lever is an area for your cell phone or iPad mini. Next to the driver’s knee is the switch for the electronic parking brake. There is a sliding lid that reveals cupholders and space to hold an iPad. Since all Civics have keyless start, there is storage for the key in the console.
Two Engines – Both Upgrades to Predecessor – Honda’s First Turbo in USA: The base engine for the 2016 Honda Civic is a 2.0L double overhead cam 4-cylinder with 158-horsepower (the old Civic had a single overhead cam 1.8L 4-cylinder with 143HP). The upscale engine is Honda’s first turbo in the USA, a 1.5L double overhead cam 4-cylinder turbo with 174-horsepower. The base engine is available with a 6-speed manual transmission or CVT. The Turbo is available only with the CVT. The 2.0L I4 has more power than Corolla, Elantra or Mazda3. The base Ford Focus with a 2.0L 4-cylinder has 160-horsepower edging out the base Civic by a couple of ponies. The Turbo is bested by entries like Ford’s 252HP EcoBoost 4-cylinder Turbo in the Focus ST (manual transmission only) and 350-horsepower in the Focus RS, but those are rarefied enthusiast entries, not mainstream like the Civic Turbo will be.
Joins Democratization of Technology Club: As with many car lines down the price spectrum, Civic now comes with a long list of available technology features capping out with its Honda Sensing system that includes adaptive cruise control with low speed follow, lane keeping assist, road departure mitigation, forward collision warning, lane departure warning. Honda Sensing is standard on the top of the line Touring model and optional for $1,000 on the lower spec models. Even the base LX is pretty well equipped with automatic headlights, auto up/down power windows, ambient interior lighting. LCD color audio system, electronic parking brake and automatic climate control. You get Lane Watch and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto when you move to the EX model. When you go the EX-T you get the 174HP Turbo engine, heated seats XM and HD radio and dual zone automatic temperature control. When you pop for leather, you get an 8-way power driver’s seat. Touring gets the full package: Honda Sensing, rain sensing wipers, LED headlamps, power passenger seat, navigation.
Driving the Civic Turbo: Honda is, after all, an engine company and the new 1.5L Turbo shows that. It has good power to move the car easily. It is smooth and nicely damped from the interior. The engine is quiet even when outside the car. The CVT, a usually reviled transmission type, has been developed to a point where you cannot really tell it’s a CVT. While you expect Honda to provide an outstanding powertrain, it is the solidity, ride, handling and braking that set this Civic apart from its predecessors and many other small cars out there today. It appears that they implemented many of the lessons learned when benchmarking European luxury car competitors. It is that good. No complaints on the dynamics of the car at all.
Pricing: The base price of the 2016 Honda Civic LX is $18,640 with $835 destination and delivery on top of that. The top of the line Touring Edition comes in at $26,500 with $835 D&D. Comparatively, a 2016 Ford Focus S starts at $17,225 with $875 D&D. The Focus S does not have the feature load of the Civic LX. It lacks a 6-speed manual transmission, automatic climate control and one-touch windows all around. The Focus Titanium with (almost) all the boxes checked comes in at $26,125 plus $875 D&D. So from a MSRP standpoint, the two cars are pretty close and Ford dealers are more likely to go for the deal vs. a hot out of the box Civic.
Now for the Nitpicks: There are, of course, no perfect cars even though Consumer Reports contends the Tesla Model S is better than perfect. Here are my nits for the Civic. 1) The steering column adjustment lever is a long reach under the instrument panel. Even though you might not use it often, it is tough to get to. 2) Radio volume control is a slide on the touch screen for the audio system. Might not be too much of a problem once you figure it out, but it would fail the rental car test. 3) Blind spot monitoring system with cross traffic alert is not available. Honda contends this is not now appropriate for the Civic class of car even though several competitors offer it. It appears that Honda is depending on Lane Watch to handle this important safety chore, but Lane Watch will not help you pull out from between two Suburbans in a parking lot and warn you of approaching traffic. Honda used a similar rationale on the Accord where Blind Spot Monitoring is only available on the top of the line. 4) Honda has lowered the front seats by about 1.5 inches. This reduces the hip to floor distance, creates a more laid-back driving position and hampers ingress/egress. The higher seat height in the previous car was better.
Overall: Great Job on the EPIC Civic.