First Review: 2016 Honda Civic Pulls Away from the Pack

By Allyson Harwood on October 18, 2015 7:57 PM

New Civic Sets a New Standard

If you ever want to see the direction in which the compact car segment is going, you can look at the Honda Civic. It has long been seen as the trendsetter in the compact car segment, and the benchmark by which all others are measured. The Civic expertly walks that line between serving up safe, reliable transportation and offering some of the best steering, handling and driving dynamics in the segment. The competition gets tighter all the time, and cars like the Mazda3, Hyundai Elantra and Ford Focus continue to get closer to what the Civic has to offer. But for 2016, Honda has raised the bar yet again with the 10th generation of its highly popular compact car.

In addition to four-door sedan and two-door coupe body styles, the new Civic lineup will also include a 5-door hatch version. And joining the venerable, performance-focused Civic Si will be an even higher-performance Civic Type-R. There are no plans for hybrid or natural-gas versions. The bread-and-butter Civic sedan will be the first model to go on sale, and that's the first 2016 Civic we got to drive.

Hey, Good Looking

This Civic's styling is such a dramatic change from the previous model that it takes no time to notice the difference. It is sportier, more elegant and more modern at once, and it's simply better looking than you expect a compact sedan to be.

The Civic's cockpit is notably more upscale for 2016. We drove the new top-of-the-line Touring trim, which gave us the chance to see the most upscale interior available. The materials quality was excellent, and this model had attractive leather seats with a black accent leather strip down the middle, navigation system, push-button start, and segment rarities like Apple CarPlay and seat heaters for rear passengers. The screen in the center stack serves as control center for climate control, navigation, audio and CarPlay. The system is easy enough to use, but it would be nice if the audio system had dedicated volume and tuning knobs. The cabin felt roomy, with more headroom and legroom than expected in the back seats (passengers well over six feet tall fit comfortably), and the interior is quieter than in past Civics. One quibble: there is a shelf-like platform on the bottom of either side of the back seats, which takes away foot room on the sides and makes it harder to get out. The trunk is huge, with pull levers that make it easy to put down either side of the 60/40-split rear seat.

2016 Honda Civic Inside and Out

Road Manners

The new Civic feels decidedly sportier than the previous sedan, but doesn't sacrifice ride comfort in the process. Handling and steering are excellent, making the Civic agile and responsive when cornering. The 2016 Civic is lower, wider and longer, and is on a redesigned chassis. In addition, the body uses generous amounts of high-strength steel. The end result is a compact car that feels both sporty and stable. The Civic is pleasant on the highway - neither firm nor mushy - and it feels precise but not jumpy or high-strung. It's a balance that should please commuters and driving enthusiasts alike.

There are two new engines for 2016. We drove both the base 158-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder and the 174-horsepower 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, both with the continuously variable transmission, but spent more time with the 1.5. The Civic has plenty of get up and go; this optional engine is one of the most powerful in its class. Power delivery is surprisingly smooth, thanks in large part to an excellent continuously variable transmission (CVT). With the turbo and CVT pairing you get up 31 mpg in the city and 42 on the highway, which is better than in the less powerful 2.0-liter, even when the 2.0-liter is matched to a 6-speed manual (that transmission is only available in the LX). That fuel economy is also comparable to that of the subcompact Honda Fit.

Feature Presentation

Another way the new Civic has set itself apart from the compact-car crowd is with features that were previously only available in larger, more expensive cars. All trim levels of the Civic are available with Honda Sensing, a suite of safety features that includes adaptive cruise control, road departure mitigation, forward collision warning, lane-keeping assist and lane departure warning. Also available are LaneWatch, which uses a camera to show you what's in the right-side blind spot, Apple CarPlay and remote start (standard on EX and up). A rearview camera is standard, as are an electronic parking brake and auto headlights. You can even get rain-sensing windshield wipers, a 450-watt, 10-speaker audio system and LED headlights.

Bottom Line

The LX starts at $19,475, which is only $165 more than it cost for the 2015 model. The next level up, the EX, starts at $21,875, which is less than it cost in 2015. The EX-T is a new trim level for 2016, which adds the 1.5-liter turbo engine, and starts at $22,200. The EX-L, the next step up, begins at $23,035, and the new fully loaded Touring trim has a base price of $27,335. The Civic is slated to go on sale next month, and we expect to hear more about the other Civic variants in upcoming months.


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