The all-new 2016 Honda Civic represents a comeback, having been driven into the ditch of dullness previously, with cheap interiors, boring design, and sappy performance. The new Civic is larger, nicer, more sophisticated. The Touring model feels like a premium car disguised as an economy car.
This new, 10th-generation 2016 Civic is nearly three inches longer on a one-inch longer wheelbase, with a front track and overall width that’s two inches wider. Pushing the limits of the compact class, the new Civic is nearly the same size as the midsize Chrysler 200.
Inside and out, sitting and underway, it feels like a cut above a compact sedan, more like a small midsize. It is arguably the new class leader.
The 2016 Civic presents a new chassis and body, new engines, and big safety technology. For 2016, Civic only comes as a sedan. However, a coupe is on the way, and a hatchback, two Si editions, and a Type-R are not far behind.
The new Civic sedan drives very nicely, with a smooth ride and a general feeling of refinement. It isn’t sporty, but it handles well and the brakes are smooth, easy to modulate and effective. It all adds up to a smooth, calm driving experience.
The standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 158 horsepower, about the same as a Mazda3, doesn’t offer any thrills during acceleration. It comes with either a 6-speed manual transmission on LX models, or a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that is not new, and doesn’t have paddle shifters.
The manual is EPA-rated at 31 mpg Combined, while the CVT rates 35 mpg. You’ll get the same mileage and have more fun with the quicker and more responsive 1.5-liter turbocharged engine making 174 horsepower. It has a better CVT, as well.
The Honda Civic LX comes standard with rearview camera, electronic parking brake, Bluetooth, five-inch touchscreen, and 160-watt audio. Leather seats, heated, are available along with a more powerful sound system with HD satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability.
Civic EX-L is available with the turbocharged engine and CVT. The Civic Touring gets the HondaSensing safety suite, navigation, LED headlamps and 450-watt audo.
The striking fastback profile of the 2016 Civic announces a change in its image. It’s one of the sleekest cars on the road now. The sheetmetal might be exciting to a fault. There are creases and slits and intakes. It hides its size and edges by being low and wide, with flared wheels and a wedged tail. The taillamps surely came off an Acura, they have that look. At the nose there’s an unfortunate thick Acura-copied band of chrome between the headlamps.
The Civic cabin is tame and organized, a horizontal dash with a single screen, BMW-like in its flow. All but the Touring model use clean, crisp analog gauges. The Touring model gets a digital display on an LCD screen with a 270-degree tachometer.
The dash is low and the front seat raises, so forward visibility is excellent. There’s a lot of room inside, enough for a six-footer in back with an inch of kneeroom to spare. There are many clever storage spots, and a big 15-cubic-foot trunk.
Weighing less than 3000 pounds, the Honda Civic with 1.5-liter turbo engine is quite sprightly. It’s a small turbo with an electrically driven wastegate. It sounds sweet at full throttle, though there is some turbo lag.
It comes with a continuously variable transmission, which works smoothly and quietly but isn’t quick or exciting. There’s an Econ mode that kills power to gain fuel mileage. It responds a bit better in Sport mode.
Because the steering column is thicker (for crash worthiness), the Civic gets a new sophisticated steering system, a dual-pinion, variable-ratio setup like on the Buick Verano. There’s a motor in the steering rack that provides gradual and consistent steering boost. The brakes are firm and fast to respond, with a short pedal stroke.
Ride and handling is where the Civic excels. It’s precise, composed, and beautifully compliant, more mature than the old Civic. The suspension uses struts in the front with hydraulic bushings, and multi-links in the rear with a rigid subframe, with hydraulic bushings on EX-T models and above, as well as 17-inch wheels and tires. Same with the turbocharged Civics. The car doesn’t dance over bumps, it micromanages them.
The Civic LX and EX ride on pedestrian 215/55HR16 tires that run out of grip and ability to cushion the ride on bad pavement, but still the ride’s not bad. Handling is predictable even when grip is not, as we observed on wet roads covered with leaves.
Overall, the Civic performs better than it has for a decade.
The swoopy all-new Civic is a game changer, and compares positively in a lot of ways to its competition, especially the ride and room inside.