“I’d trade in my MDX for this,” said my friend Pete, a car guy to the bone.
That would be his Acura MDX, a $45,000 luxury SUV. Sweet ride. This would be the new 10th-generation 2016 Honda Civic, which starts at a measly $18,640. I didn’t bring Pete along for a full shakedown of the new compact sedan — I was just giving him a lift after he’d dropped off one of his other cars, an ’86 Porsche 911, at a mechanic — but it turned into one. As we chatted about random stuff, Pete started poking and prodding the machine, and our conversation kept coming back to the car.
“This construction feels really solid,” he noted. “I like the look of this dash.”
“Smooth, too,” I observed. “And the engine actually has balls.”
I accelerated briskly from a light to prove my point. The optional new 1.5-liter turbo four produces 174 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque. It feels good. Coupled with the car’s lower, wider stance, the whole package also feels actually… sporty. This, in spite of the presence of a typically very un-sporty continuously variable transmission. But Honda has this one tuned to deliver power without feeling like it’s straining through every moment, and it still provides the MPG’s that Civic buyers crave — in this case 35 mpg combined.
With the 2016 Civic, it looks that Honda has a winner — a bold new revival of a 40-year-old stalwart.
The interior of the top-line Touring trim level I tested (sticker: $27,335) sported sleek two-tone gray leather seats. The dash design is smart and intuitive, with clean lines that dispense with the faux-spaceship look of Honda dashes past. Apple CarPlay is standard, so plugging your iPhone immediately calls up a clean array of apps you can control from the seven-inch touchscreen. It’ll read text messages and let you deploy Apple’s navigation directly from your phone — with your history readily available. This is a great relief, as Honda’s own interfaces tend to be cluttered messes that could seriously use designer interventions. (Caveat: the native Honda display in the new Civic does, actually, have a notably improved design.) The 10-speaker plus subwoofer audio system happens to be among the best I’ve ever seen in a factory compact.
Engine: 1.5-liter four-cylinder turbo
Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission
Torque: 162 lb-ft
Drive System: front-wheel-drive
MPG (City/Highway): 31/42
If you spring for it, you can load the Civic up with still more tech, including Honda Sensing, a suite of driver aides built around the sonar-based automatic cruise control. The system will pull the car down to a complete stop based on traffic ahead of you, then resume from a standstill. It’s also got lane-keeping assist, to reduce driver fatigue. All this tech is only now trickling down to sub-premium cars. With those features and the brilliantly connected-vehicle CarPlay system at your fingertips (or lips, thanks to Siri and Honda’s own voice control), this is quite possibly the best commuter car on Earth right now.
“Looks pretty good, too,” added Pete. (This from a guy with a collection of exotics that includes a ’90s vintage Ferrari and the aforementioned Porsche — both stunners.) Honda’s new look for the Civic is decidedly not entry level. The creases on the hood and along the side are pronounced without being distracting, and the fascia seems to sit up higher than the previous version, creating a stronger, more aggressive front end. The headlights tilt upwards at the edges, and a chrome-strip unibrow above them and stretching across the Honda logo adds a splash of color to brighten things up. It’s a design that should age far better than those of some of its predecessors.
With the 2016 Civic, it looks like Honda has a winner — a bold new revival of a 40-year-old stalwart. It’s a smart, fun, attractive and economical ride, which is more than any compact sedan seems to have a right to these days. As for Pete trading in his $45,000 Acura MDX for a compact Civic — well, he was joking, of course (I think).