Honda’s Civic is arguably the model that built the brand in the US and has been a perennial best seller since I can’t even remember when. As each new generation was introduced it also became a progressively better car, until the last version took a clear step back. Honda seemed to be resting on its laurels, and the ninth generation Civics (2011-2015) were roundly panned. Ride, handling, interior quality and general lack of fun-to-drive made these Civics entirely forgettable. Honda had blown it, and they knew it. Mid-cycle changes were rushed into place, but they made only token improvements. The one-time class leader was at the back of the pack – a solid dud.
I’m delighted to report that with the 10th generation, and especially the turbo Coupe that’s the subject of this review – Honda and the Civic have got their Mojo back. This is a delightful and exciting compact that really feels like a quality piece, from the fresh and edgy styling to the sweet kick in the pants when the new turbocharged motor comes on the power curve – it’s a blast!
Getting there required a major redesign and Honda did not spare the CAD sessions. The new Civic is, for once, all new. The chassis features a stretched wheelbase, revised suspension with fluid filled bushings, 4 wheel disc brakes for the first time and quicker steering with a better feel. It makes all the difference. This little rocket rides tight and turns sharp offering a very sporting experience without any harshness. The suspension tuning feels sophisticated and absolutely right on. Compliance and control is not quite in VW GTI territory yet, but our tester was the standard Coupe not the sportier Si model, which has yet to be introduced. Freeway ride is a bit on the stiff side and the Civic is still somewhat noisy, but much quieter than the previous generation. Overall B+ grades on the ride and handling.
Under the sleek nose you’ll find a choice of 2 new motivators. The standard 2.0 liter spins to 158 HP with the traditional rev happiness for which Hondas were known in the olde days. It is a fun powerplant with the available manual transmission and does OK with the automatic, where it does do a bit of typical CVT droning. The optional 1.5 liter turbo pumps up to 178 HP and a fat 162 lb-ft of torque coming in at just 1700 rpm. So, despite the smaller displacement, it goes great and is much happier working with the CVT. The solid low end means the tranny does not require revving the engine to get going, so it all feels a lot more pleasant than most CVTs. The turbo is quick too, with 0-60 mph coming up in under 7 seconds.
The new interior is quite a nice place to be. The layout returns to a traditional instrument cluster with console layout, avoiding the pointless weirdness of the split level design in the previous Civic. Seats are firm and supportive and all controls seem to be where they belong and where you can find them. New for 2016 is a handy pushbutton handbrake which leaves room for an ample console storage bin. The back seat is tight and very short of headroom, so your passengers need to be very short, too – or they just won’t fit. The trunk is tidy and reasonably sized at 12 cu. ft. All things considered, for a Coupe – it’s a useful and well thought out interior.
Getting to the bottom line pricing starts around $19K MSRP and our very well equipped turbo would fetch near $25K. That’s serious enough to consider some other capable players such as the VW GTI and Subaru BRZ/Scion FRS twins. So let’s just say that while the base Civic Coupe is a good value, the uplevel models start to bump up against some serious competition.
It’s a Honda, as they say, and that counts for a lot. It’s certainly a good one, too.
• dean seven