The Honda Civic has significantly upped its game for 2016. The popular compact has been completely redesigned, with sharper exterior lines, a more refined and roomier interior, two new engines, and, coming later this year, the first hatchback version in ages.
And it's about time, too. The 2011 redesigned was largely considered a baffling step back for the Japanese automaker. And, even though it was improved every year through 2015, the last generation Civic seemed to lag behind several of its newer competitors. But the 2016 changes restores the Civic to its traditional standing near the top of the compact economy car ranks and then some.
Improvements are clearly visible everywhere, beginning with the bolder exterior styling that gives the Civic a much sportier look. From the more chiseled front end to the side body creases and better defined rear end, the 2016 version is the best looking Civic since Honda introduced the current body style years ago.
The interior is also greatly improved, beginning with the replacement of the awkward split dash with a more conventional gauge cluster. Honda has also eliminated many knobs and buttons by moving some climate and entertainment controls to the touch screen. Materials are also better, helping owners fort they're driving an economy car. And back seat room has been increased over several competitors.
Two new engines are offered in the Civic this year. The base engine is a 2.0-liter inline four cylinder that produces a respectable 158 horsepower while delivering an EPA average 35 miles per gallon with a Continuously Variable Transmission. A six-speed manual transmission is also available. The optional engine is a Civic-first turbocharged 1.5-liter inline four that pumps out a healthy 174 and is also EPA rated at 35 miles per gallon with a standard CVT. The hybrid and Compressed Natural Gas versions have been dropped for 2016.
The Civic is available in its traditional trim levels: LX, EX, EX-T, EX-L and Touring. Even the base LX is well equipped with automatic headlights, LED daytime running lights and taillights, full power accessories, cruise control, an expanded-view driver side mirror, automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a manual front seats with driver height adjustment, a 5-inch central display screen, a rearview camera, Bluetooth (phone and audio) and a four-speaker sound system with a USB port and Pandora connectivity. Stepping up adds such features as larger tires, a leather interior, a safety package that includes lane departure warnings, and a 7-inch touchscreen. Navigation is app-based except for the optional system on the EX-L.
Our test model was an EX sedan with the base engine and CVT. It also included a Sensing Package that with adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and intervention, and forward collision warning and mitigation braking. It also came with Honda's unique LaneWatch right-side blind spot camera which comes one with the right turn signal, a great feature for spotting approaching bicyclists.
As equipped, the 2016 Civic 2.0L 4D EX SENS (as it is formally known) was an enjoyable daily driver that felt more expensive that its $22,875 list price. Acceleration was good good for a CVT, even better in the Sport mode that built the revs faster. The Civic was very quiet on the road for a compact, a class that frequently suffers from tire noise. The suspension was well damped, helping it ride like a larger car, and the electronic steering was reasonably precise, adding a touch of fun to driving on twisty roads. The overall feel was one of stability and refinement, however.
Those looking for more performance will want to check out the Si version of the sedan and coupe models that are scheduled to debut later this year. They've traditionally featured more powerful engines and sport-tuned suspensions. And the hatchback version should be the most practical of all when it debuts.
The compact market is especially competitive these days. They've continued to sell well, even with today's lower gas prices, largely because manufacturers have figured out how to increase interior room and pack them with desirable features.
The redesigned 2016 Honda Civic is now among the newest on the market, giving it advantages that should last for some time. It should be near the top of the list for anyone looking for a compact car these days.
2016 Honda Civic
Base price: $18,640
Price as tested: $22,875
Type: Compact sedan, coupe and hatchback
Engines: turbocharged 1.5-liter inline 4 (174 hp, 162 lbs-ft); 2.0-liter inline 4 (158 hp, 138 lbs-ft - as tested)
Transmissions: 6-speed manual; Continuously Variable Transmission - as tested
EPA estimated mileage: 31/41 - as tested
Overall length: 182.3 inches
Curb weight: 2,472 to 2,923 pounds
Final assembly: Greensburg, Indiana