35 Combined MPG
(31 city / 42 hwy)
The all-new, completely redesigned 2016 Honda Civic is every bit as impressive and game-changing as its predecessor was underwhelming. It boasts best-in-class performance and fuel economy from its new turbocharged engine, a commendably engaging and refined driving experience, superb interior quality and ample space for people and cargo. We gave it a resounding "A" rating, as it's a class leader without question.
What Is It?
The 2016 Honda Civic is currently on sale as a four-door sedan. Compared to the outgoing model, the new sedan is 0.8 inch lower, 1.8 inch wider and 3 inches longer overall. A coupe version will arrive in early 2016, followed by a new five-door hatchback, a sporty Civic Si and a high-performance Civic Type R.
What's Under the Hood?
There's an all-new 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that comes standard on the EX-L and Touring trim levels and is optional on the EX trim. It produces 174 horsepower and fundamentally changes the Civic's driving character.
The Civic was previously one of the slowest compact sedans both in terms of our instrumented testing and how it felt in the real world. There was little in the way of low-end power — the feeling of being pushed into your seat — and one had to be aggressive with the throttle to get much of a response.
With the new turbocharged engine, there's a broad band of torque from 1,700 rpm all the way to 5,500 rpm. You have power whether you're pulling away from a traffic light or passing on the freeway. In our instrumented testing, the turbocharged Civic went from zero to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds. That's big news given that it took the previous Civic we tested 9.0 seconds to make the same run.
Admittedly, the new engine is a little growly, lacking that sweet, free-revving character of Honda's non-turbocharged VTEC engines. The standard continuously variable transmission (CVT) also saps some of the fun out of what might be possible from such a capable engine. Having said that, most won't find any of that to be of any concern. Typical, lackadaisical throttle applications will result in smooth acceleration. It should also result in outstanding fuel economy, given that we managed pretty good fuel economy despite spirited driving. The EPA estimates 35 mpg in combined driving (31 city/42 highway) with this engine, which would be best-in-class for a gasoline engine. We also achieved 36.8 mpg on the 116-mile Edmunds evaluation route, confirming that unlike those of some other turbocharged engines, the EPA numbers are attainable.
The 2.0-liter non-turbocharged base engine achieves the same EPA-estimated fuel economy. The base engine produces 158 hp and 138 lb-ft of torque, which is more than the old car (143 hp, 129 lb-ft) but it is noticeably less lively than the turbo 1.5. From a stop, there's a long pause between flooring the pedal and forward motion. The CVT also hesitates for a moment when passing slower vehicles, but that's not unusual for cars in this class.
How Does It Drive?
The 2016 Honda Civic is blessed with a sophisticated suspension that demonstrates impressive control over undulations that would flummox many competitors. Its ride is buttoned-down, and although you feel the impacts of bumps in the road, they are very well damped. This is just one of the ways the 2016 Civic feels less like its predecessor and more like a Volkswagen Golf.
It's more playful through corners, too. Body roll is present but well managed, and left-right transitions are handled with the utmost control. The stability control system also isn't overly quick to intervene and when it does, it's so smooth in its intervention that one rarely feels it when pushing the car far harder than most drivers would attempt.
The brakes are easily modulated and provide plenty of confidence while bringing the Civic to a stop from 60 mph in 117 feet. This is better than average, and pleasantly, subsequent emergency stops were similarly short. The days of long stops and fading, smoky, underpowered brakes seem to be in Honda's rearview mirror.
The steering, meanwhile, provides consistent and spot-on weighting. It doesn't try to be overly light in parking lots or overly heavy as speeds increase in a misguided attempt to be sporty. It feels natural, it encourages you to drive and it provides a good sense of what the tires are doing. Stickier tires would make the new Civic even better, and along with stiffer antiroll bars and other suspension modifications, it's easy to see just how much fun the future Civic Si and Type-R will be.
How Is the Interior?
Our loaded Civic Touring test car stickered for $27,335. Other compact cars at that price point quite simply do not seem worth it, despite being lined in leather and loaded with options. That definitely would've been the case with the outgoing Civic.
The 2016 Civic, on the other hand, looks and feels like it could cost more. The design is grown-up and handsome, with enough eye-pleasing visual details to keep things interesting. There's the touchscreen interface that sticks up ever so slightly in front of the alloy-look trim and a wrap-around design element that stretches around the dash from one door to another.
Then there's the quality of the materials. Even after much-needed midcycle improvements, the last Civic was always a letdown in this area. The new Civic boasts soft-touch surfaces on the dash and doors, as well as ample padding on the center armrest and surrounding trim covered in simulated leather. The plastics have a richer look and feel to them, the switchgear is top-notch and the gloss-black trim of the touchscreen interface has a modern sophistication to it.
How Much Room Is There?
One of the ways the Civic hasn't changed much is in its backseat, which remains one of the roomiest in the segment. A 6-foot-3 driver was able to fit comfortably behind his seating position while also finding sufficient rear headroom.
Its cargo space is similarly praiseworthy, with a larger-than-average 15.1 cubic feet of trunk capacity (Touring trim drops to 14.7 cubic feet thanks to a subwoofer). It's very wide, very deep, and although the opening may struggle to swallow boxes or other bulky items, it's at least wide enough for golf clubs or other items.
We were also pleasantly surprised by the driving position provided by the eight-way power driver seat standard on the EX-L and Touring. There is an abundant range of motion, plenty of under-leg support and the steering wheel telescopes out sufficiently. As such, drivers of average and taller heights will more likely be comfortable in the Civic, although we'll have to test a lesser equipped trim level with the standard manually adjustable seats to see if that applies throughout the range.
What About Infotainment and Other Technology Features?
Here, the Civic receives less-than-stellar grades. We continued to be frequently irritated by Honda's touchscreen interface. It can be too slow to respond, some icons are too small and you're too often required to go from one menu to another. The lack of a volume knob is constantly frustrating, while the lack of a tuning knob would be forgiven if Honda provided a way to direct tune the radio. It doesn't, so you're left pecking the screen's virtual tuning "button" like an infuriated chicken when you want to find a new station.
Then there's the availability of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which allows for familiar smartphone control. It's a good addition in theory, and we've found it useful in the Volkswagen Jetta and other cars, but the transition between the Apple/Android and Honda system is particularly clunky and confusing. The system also utterly refused to play a podcast from an iPhone whether using CarPlay or through the Honda media interface.
Most Civic trims are also available with the Honda Sensing suite of accident avoidance technologies. These, too, need work. The collision warning system is annoyingly hyper-sensitive. Slowly creeping to a stop at a traffic light with a car ahead or pulling into a parking space frequently elicited a beeping noise and an emphatic flashing of "BRAKE!" Eventually, you'll essentially ignore those warnings and turn the system off, in which case you won't get what should be the worthwhile benefit of a collision warning system. Honda Sensing's adaptive cruise control system also frustrates with its too-far distance to the car ahead, its reluctance to speed up again and its inability to maintain speed downhill.
How Much, and What Equipment Is Included?
The base model in LX trim starts at $18,460 and comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission. The CVT is available as an option, but is standard on all other trims. Standard feature highlights include full power accessories, automatic climate control, a rearview camera and a 5-inch touchscreen.
The EX trim adds alloy wheels, split-folding rear seats, a 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto integration and an upgraded audio system. Also included is Honda's LaneWatch blind-spot camera. The EX-T trim gets a more powerful 1.5-liter turbocharged engine along with 17-inch wheels, dual-zone climate control and heated front seats. The EX-L dresses up the cabin with leather seats and trim and a power driver seat.
At the top of the range is the $26,000 Touring trim with features like LED headlights, a power front passenger seat, heated rear outboard seats, a navigation system and premium audio. Also included is the Honda Sensing suite of advanced safety features. The navigation system is available as an option on the EX-L, and the Honda Sensing system is offered on all trims.
What Other Cars Should You Consider?
The Mazda 3 is the only other compact car that manages to seemingly check off all the boxes as the massively impressive 2016 Civic does. Back-to-back test-drives are highly recommended.
Below them on the compact car pyramid would be the Volkswagen Golf, with its European refinement, near-luxury cabin and gutsy turbocharged engine. The Ford Focus, Kia Forte and upcoming 2017 Hyundai Elantra are also worth checking out.
Why Should I Consider This Car?
It may be a compact sedan, but this Civic is big enough, refined enough and even powerful enough to make you think twice about an Accord.
Why Should I Think Twice?
The touchscreen may drive you nuts and the CVT isn't for everyone. The Honda Sensing package may also irritate more than it helps.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.