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2016 Honda Civic: Worthy of the awards

By Jil McIntosh

Feb. 24, 2016

Having won just about every vehicle award, including the AJAC Canadian Car of the Year and North American Car of the Year, the 2016 Honda Civic seems to be living up to the promise of its redesign. I was impressed with it the first time I drove it on a day’s launch; this time around, I was behind the wheel for a week.

An available 1.5-litre turbo four-cylinder marks the first time the Civic has been sold in North America with forced induction. Instead, I drove the entry-level engine, a naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre four-cylinder mated to an automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT).

The 2.0-litre starts at $15,990 in the base DX trim line, equipped strictly with a six-speed manual transmission. I had the next step up, the LX trim, which is $18,890 with a stick shift. Mine was optioned with an automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT) for $20,190.

From there, you can move up to the CVT-only EX, starting at $22,590. Both the LX and EX can be further equipped with Honda Sensing, which adds such technologies as lane departure mitigation, forward collision warning and braking, adaptive cruise control, and LaneWatch blind spot camera (on the LX; it’s standard on the EX) for $21,190 and $22,590 respectively.

Go to the turbo engine and you have two choices: the EX-T at $24,990, or the Touring at $26,990. There’s no question that Honda expects the non-turbo to be the volume seller.

Pros & Cons

  • + Driveability
  • + Styling
  • + Interior storage
  • - Stereo controls
  • - Seat adjustment
  • - Rear seat access
Read the full review
  • Walkaround

    After so many years of yawning at the Civic’s design, it’s nice to finally be enticed by it. It’s now much edgier, with sharp angles, just the right amount of chrome, and jewel-style halogen headlights.

    The tail end looks even better, with boomerang-style LED tail lamps that reach across the trunk lid. That low-slung C-pillar gives the impression of stolen space inside, but rear headroom is virtually the same as in the last-generation model.

    The slick design does have one drawback, however. When the trunk lid opens it flips straight up, and any snow or rain on the lid falls or drips into the open trunk.

    Hubcaps are standard on the DX and LX, while alloy wheels start on the EX trim line. However, all Civic models receive manually-folding heated mirrors, LED daytime running lights, and one of my favourite features on any vehicle, a capless fuel filler.

    8.5Very good
  • Interior

    The cabin benefits considerably from the update as well, the most noticeable change being the retirement of the previous Civic’s weird dual-tier instrument cluster. It’s now a conventional layout with a central liquid-crystal display. The ice-blue highlights are handsome, although it took a little bit to get used to the fuel gauge. Only one bar lights up at a time, rather than the diminishing line that you’re probably more accustomed to seeing.

    The rest of the dash has just enough curves and angles to be interesting, without looking too busy. Most of the controls are easy to access and use, with the exception of that infernal carried-over infotainment system, which I’ll rip into a little later on. Small-item storage space is superb, including large door pockets, open centre cubby, and a centre console box with sliding armrest and cupholders.

    The cabin is roomy, and the seats themselves are comfortable. Heated front chairs and a 60/40 split-folding rear seat are standard equipment on all models but the base DX. However, a power driver’s seat only arrives on the top-line Touring trim, and even though there is a manual height adjuster, it didn’t go quite high enough for my vertically-challenged stature.

    The rear seat cushions are also set in from the door sill with a wide plastic panel. This could potentially make it tougher for older people or those with mobility issues. If they’re regular passengers, you may want to get them to try it out before you sign on the dotted line.

    8.0Very good
  • Tech

    The base DX trim gives you Bluetooth streaming audio, Apple Siri, one USB port, rearview camera, and a four-speaker stereo. The LX moves you up to eight speakers, two ports, Apple CarPlay, Android Audio, and Wi-Fi tethering. The backup camera also adds guidance lines on this trim.

    However, it’s all housed in a touchscreen that’s the weakest link. No matter how good these screens are, most drivers tend to be comfortable with at least a couple of hard buttons, especially for power and volume. The Civic’s overall icon layout is easy enough to navigate, but it can take a jab or two before much happens when the screen is cold.

    The most aggravating is the volume control, a small spot that takes far too much attention away from the road when making adjustments. There is a redundant button on the steering wheel, but its odd shape and position makes fine adjustment difficult. C’mon, Honda: drill a hole and screw in a dial that we can quickly and intuitively reach and spin to get the job done.

  • Driving

    The 2.0-litre spins out 158 horsepower and 138 lb.-ft. of torque that peaks at 4,200 rpm, versus the turbo’s 174 ponies and 162 lb.-ft. that kicks in at just 1,800 rpm.

    That’s quite a difference on paper, and some will want the quicker acceleration (or, perhaps, the extra trim features) that come with the turbo. But for most commuters, the base engine gets the job done just fine, and without any potential issues that small-engine turbochargers can sometimes exhibit down the road.

    Fuel consumption is officially rated at 7.8 L/100 km in the city and 5.8 on the highway with the CVT. I drove the car in bitterly cold weather and averaged 9.2 throughout the week.

    I’ve driven both engines, and will say that the CVT performs slightly better and quieter with the turbo’s power behind it, but it’s still an acceptable unit with the 2.0-litre. Those who prefer a stick shift can order it in the LX trim.

    The major difference between this Civic and the previous model is in how it handles. It’s no longer just a driving appliance. There’s a decent amount of wheel feedback, quick steering response, and an overall feel that’s more European than Japanese. Really, if you’ve dismissed the Civic as strictly A-to-B (and for a while that was pretty much its driving experience), it’s time to get back in and take one for a spin, because I think it’ll surprise you.

  • Value

    Compacts make up the largest slice of the passenger car market in Canada, and as you can expect, the competition is fierce. For the most part, the main players are all generally priced within a reasonable spread. My CVT-equipped tester, one step up from the base trim, was $20,190. It’s a little less to get into a Toyota Corolla with approximately the same features, at $20,140, or a Mazda3 at $19,650.

    I did feel that my Civic was well-priced, especially for the way it drove, but you do need to look carefully at the features lists on all vehicles when you’re comparison-shopping, since trim levels never match up with precisely the same equipment. My tester had the backup camera, heated seats and automatic headlamps, for example, but only had fixed intermittent wipers.

    When you’re comparing the base trims—the lowest price that automakers trumpet in the ads—be sure to check for air conditioning. It’s missing from many of those prices, including on the base Civic DX, and adding it can sometimes require moving up to the next trim level.

    8.5Very good
  • Conclusion

    Here’s another cool thing. The Civic is built in various plants worldwide, but it’s the Ontario facility that developed the manufacturing process that every global facility will use to build this model. None of that would matter if the car wasn’t worthy, but this time around, Civic’s designers and engineers have nailed it with this top-notch driver.

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