Well, if Honda wanted to make an impression with the all-new 2016 Civic, they’ve succeeded.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Click on any picture to see a larger version.
Pricing: 2016 Honda Civic
Base price (EX-T trim): $24,990
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $26,685
While you’ll recognize it as a Civic on some levels, Honda has went to extraordinary lengths to make their best-seller a stand-out in terms of styling, equipment and performance.
Under the Hood
Where to start? Although the exterior changes are what you’ll notice initially, I want to head into the engine bay first. Honda’s new turbocharged 1.5-litre 4-cylinder makes its debut here and man, is it sweet. Cranking out 174 HP and 162 lb.ft of torque (that’s available at a low, low 1700 RPM), it’s mated to a continuously-variable transmission (CVT). The combination makes for impressive fuel economy – Honda rates it at 7.6 L/100 km (31 US mpg) in the city and 5.6 L/100 km (42 US mpg) on the highway. I averaged 7.7 L/100 km (31 US mpg) during my week in the car, which included plenty of commuting and driving with a heavy foot.
The 2016 Civic’s dramatically redesigned exterior has some serious wow factor. The sedan is longer and wider, as well as lower. And that makes for a distinctly different-looking Civic. It looks more upscale and even bigger than it really is. The styling includes steeply-raked rear glass and roofline – it could almost be considered a fastback design. And you can’t miss the plethora of striking creases in the bodywork, particularly toward the back, where they lead your eye to a set of expressive tail lights with LED light bars. Honda also threw in some fake vents in the lower rear fascia corners, but they look just fine to me.
The somewhat heavy-handed chrome wing across the entire front fascia can’t be missed, and it is flanked by new headlight pods that look great with their integrated LED daytime running lights. The 17-inch “aero-design” wheels are handsome, but perhaps a bit overstyled for some tastes.
In the end, Honda has come up with a slick sedan that looks like a sleeker, more modern baby Accord. And from most angles, that is a good thing.
They didn’t hold back inside either. The interior styling is at once sleek, modern and clean. Honda gives the new Civic some nice materials, with plenty of soft-touch plastics to be found. The EX-T’s manually-adjustable heated fabric seats are comfortable and very well-bolstered, inviting you to do some sporty driving.
The Civic’s leather-wrapped steering wheel has a new layout with completely redesigned buttons. I’ve heard people bemoaning the loss of track up/down buttons for their music, but the left directional pad can do exactly that – just a new look and functionality to get used to. A cool detail – the volume control: not only can you tap up or down, but the ridged area between up and down is a touch-sensitive strip, so you can slide your fingertip to adjust the volume. Pretty nifty! I loved the slick all-digital speedometer screen with an integrated driver information system that allows you to display trip computer stuff, audio information, phone and even a turbo boost gauge.
The Civic’s centre-mounted 7-inch touchscreen is crisp, clear, and very responsive – although I still appreciate a knob for volume control. There are no hard buttons or knobs to be found here. I thought the 8-speaker sound system was very good, and there’s a dual-zone automatic climate control system to keep everyone happy.
I was duly impressed by the crazy amount of driver assistance technology for this vehicle class. In this trim, the Civic packs a backup camera (with multiple viewing angles), forward collision warning system, collision mitigation braking system, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, road departure mitigation system, LaneWatch video blind spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow. On higher trim levels, like my review car, you’ll also get some nice high-end touches like a sunroof, a proximity entry system, push-start ignition and remote start.
Just a quick note on the safety technology – while almost all of it performs well and is completely unobtrusive, the front collision warning is a bit too sensitive in my opinion. I often found myself coming to a stop behind a vehicle at a red light, and the screen started flashing “Brake” even though I had almost slowed to a stop already. If that gets on your case, you can disable it in town with the quick tap of a button.
The good news keeps on coming. If you’re expecting a tiny, subcompact rear seat, you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise. I was taken aback at how spacious the new Civic’s rear seats are – at least the two outboard ones. The new-found length of the Civic has not been wasted. At 5’10”, I had a good 3-4 inches of head room to spare, and sitting behind the front seat set for my driving position, I also had 2-3 inches of knee room and plenty of foot room under the seat as well – nearly enough to stretch out.
The middle position is narrow and straddles a floor tunnel, but was roomy enough to keep the pig in the middle of our three kids happy. With two sets of LATCH anchors, you will be able to accommodate two child seats with ease. The middle seatback folds down to become an armrest with two cupholders, but you won’t find any charging ports or upper air vents in the back.
I loved how much attention was lavished on the Civic’s storage abilities. Regular readers will know that I put a lot of emphasis on this, as I tend to carry quite a bit of stuff and am always looking for places to put it. Honda did a great job in this department. There is a large rubberized area at the front of the console under the centre stack – there is a cut-out to route cables from underneath where you’ll find plugs (including the USB for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) and another large rubberized drop-in bin.
The centre console is home to a deep well which houses some cupholders (that slide forward and back), another USB plug and a sliding armrest lid that flips up to reveal further organizational bits and storage – all of which makes for a very flexible space.
The 428 litre trunk felt spacious during a couple of heavy-duty shopping trips, and the 60/40 split rear seats (they can be remotely unlatched from the trunk) can be folded down to allow for a sizeable pass-through for bigger items or more cargo space. The one thing missing, which drives me crazy considering how easy it would be to add, is an inside handle for the trunk. That means you’ll need to put your hand on the trunk lid to close it, and either get your paw prints on the trunk or get your paws dirty if you drive your car in winter conditions. Ugh.
The little turbo engine is very well done, and is a great match for this 2900 pound (1315 kg) front-wheel drive sedan. Yes, Honda made it lighter than the last generation – an impressive feat considering it’s bigger and it’s packed with technology. The CVT has Drive, Sport and Low modes. In Drive, the vehicle is responsive but you’ll need to overcome a bit of lag before it really pours it on. Snick the lever into Sport and you won’t have to wait for anyone or anything. The responsiveness is transformed and power comes on immediately. Coupled with the smooth CVT, the engine delivers in a very linear fashion, even pushing you back into your seat once the revs build a bit. Need to pass someone on the highway? No problem for the little Honda turbo. Of course, it’s docile as all get out around town. You can also pick an ECON drive mode which takes things down a notch to save on some fuel – I found this mode to be completely drivable and usable.
The Civic’s ride is also incredibly refined for this class and price point. The hits are pretty well dampened, and the whole car feels well put together. And it’s still a Civic so you can expect some fun in the handling department. A little body lean doesn’t detract from the pleasure of throwing this thing into corners where it never hesitates to play, and it has surprisingly tenacious grip while retaining its composure at all times. I was very impressed with the suspension set-up.
I don’t think I can overstate how much work Honda has done in terms of noise control. I had a beef with the previous generation Civic’s noisiness, and there’s a night and day difference when it comes to the 2016. Road noise is very well dampened, and wind noise is a non-issue, even at highway speeds. You’ll hear some engine noises when you step on it, but they become negligible as soon as the CVT drops your revs below 2000 RPM.
The brakes are outstanding – powerful and easy to modulate – and I found the visibility out of the new Civic to be excellent, including shoulder-checking.
The 2016 Honda Civic one of the most modern vehicles I’ve been in. Everything feels new and well thought-out. The car handles well, performs well, is efficient, gets some sleek and modern styling inside and out. On top of all that, it remains a good value and you can count on stellar Honda reliability as part of the package.
Is this a glowing review? You bet it is. In my opinion, this is the best car in the category and I’m not the only one who thinks so – AJAC (the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada) just handed the new Civic the 2016 AJAC Canadian Car of the Year “Best New Small Car” award.
WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was high. Although she prefers a bigger vehicle, she said it feels big inside, and she enjoyed how refined the whole experience was behind the wheel.
I can’t recommend this car enough – it’s the one I’d buy. If you’re in the market for a compact sedan, the 2016 Honda Civic is going to be tough to beat and deserves to be on your shopping list.
I predict the Civic will continue to be a best-seller. Great work, Honda!
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Wheaton Honda.
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