2016 Honda Civic Coupe: Basic fun
By Chris Chase
Nov. 21, 2016
Compact coupes based on economy cars are hard to come by for buyers not looking for all-out sports cars. Right now, there are a pair of two-door coupes available based on budget-minded sedans: Kia makes one in its Forte Koup, and Honda returns to the segment with the latest two-door take on its very popular Civic. This coupe shares a 2,700-mm wheelbase and a number of styling cues with the extroverted look of its sedan sibling, but condenses the look into a car 139 mm (about 5.5 inches) shorter tip-to-tail.
Pros & Cons
- + Well-matched engine/transmission
- + Front seat space
- + Handling
- - Steering feel
- - Rear seat space
- - Rear seat access
Honda’s not kidding about the coupe part: check out the rake of that roofline, which makes no promises of accommodating grown people in the back seat. Attractive isn’t the word I’d use, at least not when viewed from the back, but you can’t say it’s not distinctive, and that will probably win Honda some points with the I-wanna-stand-out crowd.
Honda didn’t waste much effort making the Civic coupe driver’s view different from that in the sedan. You’re treated to the same slick digital gauge display, along with the HondaLink infotainment system that’s pleasant enough to use, save for the much-maligned touch-sensitive volume control. Honda fixed that with a proper knob in the 2017 CR-V, a change I hope makes it into Honda’s other models sooner rather than later.
With no sunroof available in the LX, there’s plenty of headroom for front-seat occupants, as well as comfortable seats. There’s lots of space for stuff like wallets and smartphones in the bi-level centre stack; the top bin, just ahead of the shifter, is where you’d find the wireless inductive charging pad in the better-equipped Touring trim. Below that, accessible from the sides, is home to a 12-volt power outlet and a USB input.
Trunk space is fine at 343 litres, but Kia does coupe cargo better at 378 litres. At least the Civic’s back seat folds in a 60/40 split. You might actually be better off leaving the back seat folded down: legroom there is usable, but anyone of average height or better will find their heads up against the rear glass. Kia’s Forte Koup is a small two-door better suited to moving both people and stuff.
The downside to my test car’s manual transmission is that it misses out on the Honda Sensing passive safety suite, which can only be had with the automatic transmission. If you’re willing to let the car do the shifting, you can have forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist and road departure mitigation.
EX-T trim can be optioned with the same stuff, and comes standard with the LaneWatch blind spot display. EX-T’s standard convenience items include dual-zone air conditioning (the LX gets manual A/C) and passive keyless entry with remote engine start.
LX trim does, however, get a backup camera with dynamic guidelines that bend with the steering to show what’s in your path no matter where you point the wheels.
It’s easy to write off an entry-level motor as boring or unexceptional in the face of brand-new engineering like the 1.5L turbo available elsewhere in the Civic line. But it doesn’t take long to be reminded that when Honda is on its game, even its entry-level power plants are fun, especially when hooked to a sweet-shifting manual transmission, as this one was.
That’s notable because for 2016, Honda didn’t offer the turbo with the stickshift; it’s new for 2017. On paper, the LX’s 2.0L seems unexceptional, making an average-for-the-class 158 hp and a weak-sounding 138 lb-ft torque that peaks way up at 4,200 rpm. But it all works much better than it sounds, and sounds better than you expect in enthusiastic driving, too. The transmission’s gearing makes the car feel strong from a stop, and keeps revs low enough that engine noise doesn’t get annoying on the highway.
Making freeway driving less fun is steering that gets twitchy during boring straight-ahead driving. The on-centre dead zone — an engineering trick used to avoid that twitchy feel — is really narrow here, so you’ll find yourself making lots of small steering corrections on the highway, particularly if there’s a crosswind pushing you around. There are sportier cars, like the Mini Cooper and Mazda MX-5, that are easier to manage in long-haul cruising.
My only complaint about the manual transmission is brake and gas pedals too far apart for sporty heel-and-toe shifting, a design cue I’m sure was intended to prevent accidental gas pedal contact during braking.
My tester averaged 7.5 L/100 km in a week of city driving, against Natural Resources Canada estimates of 8.5/6.1 (city/highway).
The Civic I drove was a 2016 model, but with 2017 nearly upon us, I’ll use that newer model’s pricing for comparison’s sake.
LX Coupe pricing starts at $19,690, and its closest competitor is the Kia Forte Koup I name-checked earlier. The Korean starts at $21,295 (for a 2016 model) and brings a few extra niceties for the price, like an auto-dimming rearview mirror, adjustable rear head restraints (the Civic’s fixed ones are a nod to its lack of headroom) and a leather-trimmed steering wheel where the Honda’s is made of cheaper-feeling plastic. The Kia also gets a stronger engine, making 173 hp.
You do get more stuff in the pricier Kia, but the Civic casts a more interesting shadow, and we suspect that matters to many coupe shoppers. The Kia’s extra power also means more fuel consumption, to the tune of 10/7.4 L/100 km (city/highway).
If you’re willing to stretch your definition of coupe, a Mini Cooper goes for $21,990, but that’s with a little turbo three-cylinder. The Cooper S, with its more desirable turbo four-cylinder, is $26,240 to start.
Like the Civic sedan, the latest coupe is a significant move forward for this long-running nameplate. It’s a refined little car that nonetheless knows how to have a bit of fun, even in its least-potent form. For all that the entry-level LX model doesn’t get the latest and greatest of Honda’s powertrain engineering, it’s still a sweet driver that lives up to the Civic’s reputation for being one of the most likeable small cars around.