2016 Honda Civic shows an affordable compact car doesn’t have to skimp on extras

Virtually everything is new about the 2016 Honda Civic. A North American design team engineered the changes, and the cars for the U.S. market come out of Honda plants in Greensburg, Indiana, and Allison, Ontario, Canada.

2016 Honda

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As the longest-running nameplate in the Japanese automaker’s stable, the Honda Civic moves into its 10th generation with the 2016 model, a bit more sophisticated and grown up from the car that hit U.S. streets in the early 1970s.

Available now in sedan form with new coupe, hatchback, performance, and hybrid versions to come later in the year, the Civic is available in five trim levels with the top-of-the-line Touring offering a slew of standard features that puts it at the top of its class. A panel of journalists at this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit selected it as the North American Car of the Year.

Imagine getting a compact sedan that can seat four adults comfortably and squeeze in a fifth in the back while also offering decent trunk space and all kind of extras like navigation, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, backup camera with guidelines that mirror input from the steering wheel, forward collision warning, leather seats, and a premium audio system for well under $30,000.

That’s what the Civic offers in the Touring trim for an MSRP of $27,335 including destination and delivery charges.

Or you can sacrifice some of those extras and get into the Civic LX sedan for under $20,000. Other models are priced in between.

The Civic comes with two different 4-cylinder engines with the base LX and EX getting a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter rated at 158 horsepower and 138 pound-feet of torque. The LX gets a six-speed manual transmission with a CVT (continuously variable transmission) as an option but standard on the EX.

The upper trims (EX-T, EX-L, and Touring) get a turbo-charged 1.5-liter engine that boosts horsepower to 174 and torque to a more respectable 162 pound-feet with the CVT as the only transmission offered.

The CVT takes a bit of the fun out of the driving experience, of course, and unlike some CVTs, there are no artificial set points to simulate manual shifting. But there is a sport mode that keeps revs up for more lively throttle response. Still not the fun of a manual. If you want more performance, you’ll have to get into the Civic Si or the new Civic Type R that boosts hp to over 200 and 300, respectively.

Fuel economy is outstanding. With the manual in the LX, EPA ratings are 27 miles-per-gallon city, 40 highway. With the CVT in the 2.0-liter engine, the numbers are 31/41, and the 1.5-liter turbo is rated at 31/42.

The Civic has grown a bit for this year. At 182.3 inches, it’s nearly three inches longer than its predecessor and with a wheelbase of 106.3 inches it is slightly more than an inch longer than the 2015 model. That results in an increase of 3.1 cubic feet more cabin volume and nearly three cubic feet more trunk space.

This is a compact that has the feel of a midsize.

Cabin quality also is reflected in the quality of materials Honda splashed throughout the interior. Again, it has the feel of a higher segment vehicle.

It also comes with significant number of high-tech features, like Bluetooth connectivity, Pandora compatibility, that are standard either across the line or in all but the base LX trim.

A unique safety feature is Honda’s LaneWatch system, also standard on all but the LX trim. When the right turn signal is activated, a view of traffic on the right of the vehicle is projected on the display screen on the center stack. It has been around a couple of years now and is a step up from the beep or light you get from other blind-spot warning systems. It also can be activated with the push of a button, which can help with parallel parking.

There is a bone to pick here, however, and it is in the operation of the audio system and manual adjustment of the climate control. Why, why, why, Honda, do you forsake knobs for adjusting audio sound levels and radio stations in favor of touchscreen operation?

And you have manual knobs for adjusting temperature control. Why not have the same for adjusting blower strength instead of requiring the operator to call up “climate” on the touchscreen?

Maybe Honda expects people simply to get used to these idiosyncrasies, but why put them in in the first place?

Oh, well. Considering all it has to offer, those are things one can live with with the Civic.

What’s good about the Civic: Top trims are well equipped, overall vehicle quality is high for the class.

What’s not so good: The infotainment system is fussy to operate, almost a game-changer. CVT takes fun out of driving.

For a look at the Civic Touring trim sedan and some more details, check out the accompanying slide show.

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