Official Photos and Info
The road to recovery can be long—just ask Honda’s Civic. The small-car benchmark for decades, the Civic started to go awry when it transitioned from a normal-looking sedan, coupe, and (occasionally) hatchback to a futuristic, windswept-tadpole-shaped thing in 2006. It wasn’t just the styling that threw us for a loop; the weird two-tiered dashboard and lack of driving zest outside of the hot Si models did the car no favors, and neither did the increasing goodness of the Civic’s competition. But things weren’t truly dire until 2012, when that year’s new Civic became so un-Civic-like as to force Honda into redesigning its redesigned compact sedan for 2013.
If the 2013 Civic was the first step toward recovery, consider the truly all-new 2016 Civic sedan step four. Steps two and three were Honda’s announcements of a new line of twin-cam, VTEC-equipped four-cylinder engines with direct fuel injection and—on some engines—turbocharging, as well as the promise that the U.S. will finally get the ultra-high-performance Civic Type R later in this vehicle generation.
Even though we’d already seen this latest Civic in tonal-gray 3D renderings submitted for patent approval and found it quite attractive, somehow in the metal, with paint, and chrome, the finished product looks a little less so, and our staff is divided on whether the car is handsome or awkward. Whatever your take, there’s a lot going on with the Civic’s surfaces, with numerous creases, curves, and scallops decorating its body. Honda managed to remain faithful to the Civic concept’s overall aesthetic (which, by the way, was attractive), but something feels a little lost in translation.
The overall shape is interesting, especially the sedan’s lower roofline (by one inch) and its long silhouette that terminates in a trunklet. But some in our office liken the tail to that of the now-dead Honda Crosstour. Others see a little bit of the 2010 Ford Fusion in the face. Unquestionably, the car’s midsection is perhaps its best component, long and flowing and free of excess cut-lines or stampings. And the new Civic is fairly large—there’s an extra 1.2 inches between its axles and an extra two inches of width compared to the old model—and the car’s design would be notably less successful if its myriad shapes were squeezed onto something smaller.
Crack open one of the Honda’s big doors, and the outlook improves mightily. The Civic’s new cabin is upscale, especially in the top-flight Touring trim, and the instrument panel is arranged in a refreshingly logical manner. Honda’s 7.0-inch touch-screen dashboard display has an improved menu structure and larger on-screen buttons (plus Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration), and the climate controls are arranged horizontally beneath it, close at hand. The seats are new and less couchlike, and the back-seat area is enormous, with two additional inches of legroom. Gone is the layered gauge cluster of before, in its stead a simple three-pod affair with temperature and fuel gauges on the periphery and a digital panel in the center with a virtual tachometer and a digital speedometer.
Honda’s Engine Development Just Hit VTEC
We aren’t particularly sure why the tachometer is so large, because the vast majority of Civics sold likely will be equipped with the car’s new CVT automatic. A six-speed manual is standard, but with Americans struggling to pay attention to things that aren’t their phones while driving, most new Civics will come with two pedals and not three. In the LX and EX, the six-speed manual and the optional CVT bolt to a naturally aspirated 158-hp 2.0-liter 16-valve four-cylinder with Honda’s VTEC variable valve timing and lift tech. The EX-T, EX-L, and top-spec Touring models utilize a turbocharged, direct-injected 1.5-liter four that also incorporates VTEC and produces 174 horsepower. Sadly, the new turbo four is backed exclusively by a CVT; less sad is that Honda has proven it knows how to make a decent CVT with the latest Accord. And besides, the two engines are far more powerful than the outgoing Civic’s 143-hp 1.8-liter four, and Honda says that the 2016 Civic sedan’s highway fuel economy will top 40 mpg regardless of the engine under the hood.
Honda’s technical updates reach beyond the Civic’s engine bay, with improvements in body rigidity, refinement, and even the seating position. An expanded use of high-strength steel helps stiffen the Civic’s body by 25 percent, says Honda, with 12 percent of the body now employing the stronger steel compared with 1 percent in the outgoing Civic. The doors feature triple seals and the windshield uses acoustic glass to reduce road noise, a key complaint we’ve levied against Civics for years. Underneath, the strut front and multilink rear suspension setups have been retuned, while variable-ratio electric steering, bigger front and rear anti-roll bars, and a new brake-based understeer-mitigation program (the system brakes an inside wheel to help the car turn into corners) promise better handling and, hopefully, a return of the driving fun that once characterized the Civic lineup.
More specifics regarding the Civic sedan’s pricing, fuel economy, and trim-level equipment breakdowns will come later, but there will be a host of new safety features on at least the top-spec Touring model. (Stuff like automatic emergency braking, road-departure mitigation, and adaptive cruise control are on the docket, as are full-LED headlights and taillights.) Oh, and the U.S. lineup also soon will include a five-door hatchback, a coupe, Si versions, and, as mentioned, an ultraspicy Type R variant. Will the Civic’s bold new look, high-tech new engines, and grown-up interior bring its plot back into focus, or will Honda’s stalwart compact sedan continue to flag? We’ll need to drive it to find out for sure, but Honda certainly is hoping its 10th-generation Civic continues the nameplate’s storied history with honor.