Critics’ Notebook: 2016 Honda Civic

Business Class at a not-terribly-deep discount.

Brett Berk/TheDrive.com

Getting into the new Honda Civic, it is immediately evident that one is encountering a highly revised version of the previous de-contented tin can. And not only because this handsome, fastback-ish sedan looks like it was drawn by designers using precision tools (and a 7/10 Audi A7 maquette) instead of created by leaving a giant bar of Dial out in the Ohio spring until it was suitably featureless. This is a good-looking little vehicle—though, as with most things I critique (not entirely), it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

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Honda proved, with its previous-generation-Civic-based-rebodied/reimagined Acura ILX, that it could make a dashboard that presented relevant information to the driver while occupying fewer levels than a Paul Rudolph building. Now, they’ve brought that skill down to the mass-er market. I’m personally fine with getting rid of the dashboard altogether and going fully head up. But, a legible Civic dashboard! I will accept this. Especially one that is reminiscent of the first-generation Prelude’s nesting tach/speedo to boot. Now, if only Honda could go similarly analog with its infotainment volume switch, which remains an impossible to locate/adjust capacitive slider. At least there are redundant buttons on the steering wheel.

Power is revised as well, coming as it does now—in the top-spec EX Touring trim we tested—from a peppy, turbocharged 1.5-liter engine. Sadly, at least for now, this engine is mated solely to a Continuously Vibrating Transmission, not our favorite mode of getting power to the road. At least in S mode (which we assume stands for Sport?) it sort of fakes some shift detents. (You can get a stick if you stick with the stripper LX, which comes mated to the old 158-hp 2-liter V-Tec four-cylinder.) It is fun to drive in the city, which is a meaningful endorsement for a city car.

Smooth, handsome and roomy, however, come at a cost. This thing is kind of big. And at $27,300 as equipped, it also tops the $25,000 price of my dream-spec stripper Accord sedan, which comes equipped with Honda’s bigger and butterier four-cylinder and a six-speed manual. I’ve never owned a Civic, but I’ve owned three Accords (a 1980 hatchback, a 1990 sedan and a 1999 sedan), and I’ve never owned a Honda with an automatic. If I could build a Civic just the way I wanted, I might just be tempted.

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2016 Honda Civic EX Touring
PRICE (as tested): $27,300
POWERTRAIN: 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder; 174 hp, 162 lb-ft torque; FWD; continuously variable automatic transmission
MPG: 31 city / 42 highway
ACCORD-DOMINATING CAPACITY: Questionable