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2017 Honda Civic

Civic earns its third Best Buy title despite strong newcomers

Last year, we said the new Honda Civic was a game-changing car, where it won not just its Small Car category, but took home our Overall Winner title as well. This year, it's clear that the competition still hasn't mastered the rules to the Civic's new game. Despite aggressive challenges from the new Hyundai Elantra and Chevrolet Cruze, the Honda Civic once again finds itself at the top of the list as our Small Car Best Buy for 2017.

It Does Everything Better, For Less

Modern small cars are amazingly sophisticated, offering features and technology that were unheard of at the price or simply didn't exist just a few short years ago. But despite many small cars offering high-tech features like collision warning, automatic braking, lane keeping assist, and active cruise control, the 2017 Honda Civic manages to make those features work better.

For example, active cruise control was also available in the Hyundai Elantra, but only the Civic's system allowed full stopping and brake holding in traffic, making commuting in heavy traffic a snap. The Civic and the Chevy Cruze both had lane-keeping assist, but the Civic's system kept the car in a straight line, while the Cruze was content to "bounce" between the lane markers like a pinball. While both the Elantra and Cruze offer blind-spot detection, the Civic offers Lane Watch, a camera that lets you look at what's in your blind spot, rather than just a yellow light warning you.

It even extends to simple things like interior design. Take the Civic's logical arrangement of cupholders, nooks and bins. We particularly liked the center console bin, a clever arrangement of sliding armrest, adjustable cupholders, and deep storage that put the others to shame.

To top it off, the Civic managed to accomplish all this while still being the least expensive car in our test, even though all three cars were fully loaded top-line models.

High Style, Driving Sophistication

There's no denying the visual impact of the 2017 Honda Civic. The bold design grabs your attention, and it's hard to believe this much styling sophistication, including touches like LED taillight accents, is on a car with a starting price of only about $19,500.

That surprise and delight continues inside. Yes, the design is on the busy side, but it's equally obvious that Honda makes sure function is a priority. Switches and buttons are all intuitively located, the gauges are big and bright and the seats are wonderfully comfortable, despite lacking adjustable lumbar. That clever center console is also properly padded, and at the same height as the door armrest to maximize comfort. And while there's hard plastic to be found -- this is an affordable sedan of course -- the Civic's use of soft-touch surfaces where you want them speaks to the attention to detail that permeates every aspect of the Civic's personality. Gratefully, Honda didn't forget the rear seat passengers, giving them a broad, comfortable, and supportive bench with heaters for the outboard occupants. About the only ergonomic hiccup is the infotainment system's lack of a volume knob, which we can at least partially forgive thanks to the integration of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus the cool touch-sensitive rocker switch for volume on the steering wheel.

On the road, the combination of the Civic's excellent 1.5-liter, 174-horsepower turbocharged engine and the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) simply outclassed the other two cars in the test, neither of which could be considered slouches. Longtime fans of the Civic will feel a wave of nostalgia for their first Honda when they turn the small steering wheel, feel the feedback and power the Civic through a corner. Newcomers to the car will finally understand what their friends have been talking about. While the ride is a little stiffer than the Elantra and Cruze, it's hardly disagreeable, and the payoff in handling is worth it. And don't think that you have to spend big to get this kind of chassis sophistication; the base-model Civic LX, with its manual transmission and its non-turbo 2.0-liter 158-horsepower engine, sacrifices nothing when it comes to driving pleasure.

A Civic for Everyone

The new Civic model year brings with it new body styles and new models. We've already seen the introduction of the Civic Coupe, and soon we'll be able to get our hands on the new Civic hatchback, the first hatchback version of the Civic available in the U.S. since 2005, and the first 5-door Civic since the 1980s-era wagons. There's also a new Civic Si on the way, with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that will put out more than 200 horsepower, and the forthcoming Civic Type R will push the performance envelope even further.

But if you can't wait, don't. The current Civic model range spans from the LX, starting at less than $20,000 including the destination charge, to slightly more than $27,000 for a fully equipped Civic Touring model like our test car. Yet you don't have to get the most expensive model to get all the good stuff. A Honda Sensing package bundles systems like forward collision warning, lane departure warning, collision mitigation braking, active cruise control with low-speed follow, and road departure mitigation for about $1,000 above the price of an automatic-equipped Civic, meaning you can get into a Civic sedan with all those features for a little more than $21,000. Plus there's Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, standard automatic climate control, standard electronic parking brake with brake hold...the list goes on and on, but the point is obvious: the Civic wins on value at every level.

Then there's Honda's historically excellent resale value, its equally famous reliability, and the fact that the Civic offers the best fuel economy not just from the EPA, but in our real-world evaluations, too. Ownership isn't just satisfying, it's virtually pain free.

More 2017 Honda Civic

If you want to soak up more of Honda's latest winner, read our 2017 Honda Civic full review. Ready to take the next step? Build and price your own Civic to unlock its Fair Purchase Price, 5-Year Cost to Own and more. And if you want to cover all your bases, head straight to our Compact Car Buyer's Guide.

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