2016 Honda Civic: Turbo and CVT Make for a Surprising Drive
by Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor on July 13, 2016
With its turbocharged four-cylinder and continuously variable transmission (CVT), there's an expectation of a distinct rubber band-y power delivery in our long-term 2016 Honda Civic.
It is not so. Instead, the Civic moves smartly and feels intuitive, in that revs rise with some relation to vehicle speed. Only if you stand on it from a standstill can you catch it flat-footed, as there's a pause while the engine and transmission try to figure out how to best meet your acceleration request. Once underway, it's quite responsive.
There's little sensation of being "off boost," and many people may not even guess that it's got a CVT based on how it moves in city driving. And every time you accelerate, there's the trump card of the CVT: an interruption-free, seamless shove seems to never end. It's something no other transmission can match.
Overall, I've been pleasantly surprised by its power delivery. There's a technique to maximizing its driving experience, though.
I'm constantly moving the selector from 'D' to 'S' and often 'L' in order to tap into increasing levels of engine braking when slowing. It works pretty well — if S doesn't provide enough slowage, I click it one more time into L.
Oddly enough, at full whack, D and S modes will "shift" when the engine speed reaches the rev limit. Thus it forgoes some of the CVT's unique ability to hold revs at peak power (where it would accelerate the quickest) in exchange for providing a familiar soundtrack. So when I want to squeeze all the thrust out, I drop it into L, where the Civic produces the quickest acceleration.
There's some irony in here, manually manipulating a transmission with no fixed gears so that it can be in the mode where it doesn't try to emulate a conventional gearbox.
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @ 7,231 miles