2016 Honda Civic Sedan
2016 Honda Civic Touring: Outlandish looks, outstanding value
By Chris Chase
Apr. 1, 2016
If there was ever a popular car that needed a shakeup, it was the Honda Civic. The outgoing ninth-generation model went through two mid-cycle refreshes that didn’t actually do much to freshen a design pushing 10 years on the market, so one of Canada’s best-known nameplates was overdue, to paraphrase Monty Python, for something completely different.
Pros & Cons
- + Usable technology
- + Value for money
- + Smooth, strong engine
- - Touchscreen display
- - Rear seat access
- - Steering feel
Something completely different is exactly what Honda has done with the 2016 Civic. This car is bigger outside, roomier inside, and comes wrapped in styling that is as outlandish as the previous generation’s was at its introduction a decade ago.
We’re not fans of the car’s look from every angle — the going-away view is a bit much — but it’s a cohesive styling effort that lends the car serious substance and makes it appear larger than it is.
Our tester was the top-end Touring model, complete with an all-new turbocharged 1.5L four-cylinder engine we’ll tell you all about shortly.
The 2006 Civic was notable mainly for its avant-garde dashboard that split the gauge cluster in two, with a digital speedometer above the steering wheel rim and a tachometer just below it in the driver’s line of sight.
For 2016, the layout is more traditional at first glance, until you fire up the car and bring the all-digital gauge cluster to life. There’s not an analog dial to be found here: a central pod houses a digital speedometer and LCD tachometer, and it’s flanked by digital fuel and engine temp gauges.
This is a slick display that brings to the affordable compact segment the kind of technology that has, until now, mostly been reserved for upscale models. Its only flaw is that the temperature and fuel gauges are tough to read at a glance, especially on a bright day.
Our Touring model’s leather-trimmed front seats were very comfortable. Between them and the car’s larger footprint, this new Civic feels more like a baby Accord than an economy car.
Rear seat passengers may find more to complain about: the two outboard positions (which are heated in the Touring) are set well in from the door sills, making getting in and out an awkward maneuver. That quirk also sets those two passengers closer to each than seems necessary, and doesn’t seem to make good use of a cabin that is actually quite wide.
This car’s tech-intensive interior begins with that gauge cluster, but doesn’t end there. There’s a touchscreen infotainment display recognizable from other recent Honda models, and not far removed, functionally, from the one available in the old Civic.
Unfortunately, that means one of the more frustrating aspects of the old car’s interior migrates to the new one: there’s no proper volume knob, so good luck to a front-seat passenger who tries to lower the volume level while the car is travelling on rough pavement: you have to aim your fingertip accurately at that strip on the left side of the screen which, when stroked lovingly, up or down, has a corresponding effect on how loud the radio is.
The driver has it better: there’s a similar stroke-able volume control on the steering wheel, and it’s more responsive, not to mention easier to find by feel, as it’s actually a button of sorts with raised ridges .
Another discovery is that Honda’s adoption of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration means that if you want navigation, you can only do it through a portable device with the relevant app installed on it, connected to the car via USB. It’s neat technology, but bear in mind that this makes you use your phone’s data plan to get you where you’re going, rather than a GPS unit installed in the car. On the plus side, most Civic trims (LX and up, leaving out only the basic DX model) allow budget-oriented buyers to control navigation functions through the car’s interface, rather than on a relative tiny phone display.The Touring model also includes wireless charging for smartphones.
Turbo-powered Civics (which include the EX-T, and our Touring tester) also get some active safety kit: collision avoidance braking, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and road departure mitigation are all included, along with adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, and Honda’s cool camera-based LaneWatch blind spot warning system.
Honda’s new 1.5L turbocharged engine is a gem, cranking out a very useful 162 lb-ft of torque at 1,800 rpm to give the Civic strong off-the-line performance in city driving. Spin the engine up to 5,500 rpm and you’ve got 174 hp, all from an engine of the same displacement as the one in the 1986 Civic we learned to drive in.
Turbo models come exclusively with a continuously variable (CVT) automatic transmission that is a great fit with this mighty little engine. In regular driving, it keeps revs low and makes the car a quiet cruiser. Mat the throttle for maximum acceleration, though, and the CVT moves through a range of pre-set ratios so that it behaves more like a conventional automatic,avoiding the droning engine note that comes with big throttle applications in many CVT-equipped cars.
What caught us off-guard was the steering response, which feels twitchy owing to a very narrow straight-ahead “dead spot.” It’s a weird-sounding term, but it’s an engineering trick that, when it’s done right, makes it easy to maintain a straight track in highway driving without requiring frequent steering corrections. Here, that small dead spot takes getting used to in highway driving. We get that it’s probably Honda’s way of making the Civic feel livelier and sportier, but it takes away from a car that felt, otherwise, like it would be a great companion in long-haul driving.
Honda’s fuel consumption estimates for the Civic’s new turbo engine are 7.6/5.5 L/100 km (city/highway); my test car’s average matched that city rating, but in a mix of city and highway driving.
Civic pricing kicks off at $15,990 for the stripper DX model Honda knows nearly no one will buy. The more realistic starting point is the LX trim, which, for $18,990, gets heated front seats, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, air conditioning and automatic climate control, cruise control, and the all-digital gauge cluster.
DX, LX and EX models use a 2.0L engine that, in spite of its larger displacement, makes significantly less power than the 1.5L turbo found in EX-T and Touring models. The EX-T is a $24,990 car, and my Touring tester costs $2,000 more than that.
Unsurprisingly, the priciest Touring is the most tech-intensive version of the Civic, putting it pretty close to the front of the pack among compact cars where technology and convenience features are concerned.
Price a Civic against the also-new 2017 Hyundai Elantra, and you’ll first find it striking how much more conservative the (nevertheless) handsome Elantra looks, inside and out. Next, kit out an Elantra to match the Civic as closely as possible and you’ll be looking at a $28,799 price tag for the Ultimate trim. At that point, you’ll have everything the Civic Touring offers, minus the Honda’s wireless charging, and Hyundai puts Xenon headlights in that priciest Elantra where Honda opts for LEDs.
We drove our Civic tester within a couple of weeks of an Elantra and found we liked the turbo Honda’s power delivery better than that of Hyundai’s 2.0L engine, and we got better fuel economy. These two cars might be better matched when comparing lower trims, but Honda’s techy turbo engine gives the Civic an edge against its competition when looking at pricier versions of other little sedans.
We were skeptical of the new Civic’s look when we first saw it, but it’s growing on us. It’s that turbocharged engine that makes this the most memorable Civic since the 1990s, though. If you’re looking for a small car with upscale features, this one should be near the top of your test-drive list.