Review: 2016 Honda Civic Coupe

Review: 2016 Honda Civic Coupe

It seems like forever ago that we joined Honda for its media launch of the 2016 Civic Coupe. We found ourselves enamored with its dynamic competence and punchy new turbocharged engine, even if we weren’t completely sold on the looks.

Does the two-door Civic‘s charm last, or does time spent in the real world expose its flaws? Follow along as we find out.

What is it?

At the risk of being overly reductive, the Civic Coupe is a Civic Sedan with two fewer doors. The Coupe is a few inches shorter in both length and height and sits slightly lower, but the wheelbases are identical. The downsizing results in a headroom penalty, especially in the rear, but when you prioritize style over practicality, such things are bound to happen.

Under the hood, two four-cylinder-based powertrains are available: a 2.0L with a manual or a CVT and a 1.5L turbo paired only to the latter. A six-speed manual is coming, we’ve been assured. In fact, we drove a prototype sedan so-equipped when we first sampled the new coupe.

Our loaner is a Touring model, meaning the only engine available is Honda’s new 1.5L turbo. Boasting 174 horsepower and 162lb-ft of torque, it’ll get 31 mpg in the city, 41 on the highway and 35 combined. It’s also the more efficient of the two engines–an odd departure from many powertrain hierarchies. And, for once, the engine you want is also the engine you need.

What’s it up against?

Not much. The two-door segment is on life support, and Honda is one of the few manufacturers who refuses to pull the plug. More for them?

The Scion tC will be dead before long, ceding the segment to the Civic and Kia‘s Forte Koup. When you consider that Hyundai has already bailed out (the Elantra was sold as a two-door until very recently), we wouldn’t be surprised if Kia’s offering silently exits with Forte’s next major overhaul.

How does it look?

Different.

It’s hard to beat the eighth-generation (think 2006) Civic when it comes to drastic redesigns, but Honda seemed dead-set on trying with its latest effort.

The looks is interesting; there’s no getting around that. We can’t tell you what to see when you look at the new Civic, but chances are just about everybody will have a fairly strong opinion. It’s a design that almost forces you to react. How you choose to do so is entirely up to you.

Our Touring model spruces up the exterior with LED headlamps and 17-inch alloy wheels with a unique machined/black finish. Look closely and you’ll spot the blacked-out spoke elements.

And on the inside?

The part of the Civic Coupe you’ll spend the most time looking at is mercifully conventional. There’s a cockpit-like intimacy to the front seat and center console area which accentuates the coupe’s low-slung feeling.

Aside from the missing doors, the coupe’s biggest interior departure from the Civic Sedan manifests itself as a marked decrease in rear seating space. Three inches of headroom were eliminated in the name of tapering the roofline more aggressively, and that makes for a substantially more cramped feeling. You can still fit human beings back there, but they may not exactly love it.

Fortunately, driver comfort is not nearly as harshly penalized. We found the seats to be more cushioned than we expected, and plenty supportive.

The few minor complaints we had regarding the interior were restricted to the control interfaces for the infotainment and climate control. We found the touch-sensitive volume control on the steering wheel to be unnecessarily sensitive and fiddly. We also weren’t huge fans of having to navigate the touchscreen in order to select certain AC and heating modes.

But does it go?

174 horsepower and 162lb-ft of torque; that’s not bad on paper for something that isn’t trying to play in the true sport compact segment, right? And while most enthusiasts will look elsewhere when confronted with the prospect of being stuck with a CVT, let us assure you that it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker.

The mating of a CVT and a small engine is usually a recipe for disaster, but the addition of a turbocharger makes a world of difference. When kept in drive and left to its own devices, the Civic’s powertrain performs adequately and, most importantly, without a lot of intrusive noise and vibration.

If you want a little more punch, the transmission’s “S” mode will maintain shorter ratios, letting you ride on the edge of the turbocharger’s spooling zone even when puttering around. In short? It’s a whole lot more responsive. This is useful not just for tackling back roads, but also for keeping up in stop-and-go scenarios.

Driving around in this mode all the time won’t make for as refined an experience as simply using drive, but if you don’t mind a little more noise, it might make your life less hectic.

If you’re still not convinced, you do have options. The more immediate of them is to simply opt for a base model and forego the turbocharged engine for the naturally aspirated, two-liter unit. You won’t get quite as much get-up-and-go, but you’ll have the freedom to choose your own gears.

For those who are patient, the other option is to wait until the six-speed transmission is made available with the 1.5L. Honda hasn’t committed to a roll-out strategy, but we expect it’ll be available some time in 2017.

But enough about the powertrain. A compact coupe should be able to carve corners, not win drag races. And we’re pleased to report that the Civic Coupe does this quite well.

The coupe is tuned more aggressively than the sedan from the get-go; it’s not just an illusion brought on by the lower seating position. This makes it pleasantly eager to tackle a twisty road if your commute allows it.

If there’s any weak point in the Civic Coupe’s performance credentials, it’s in the steering. Normally, when we complain about steering, it’s because we don’t like the lack of feedback or the unnatural level of boost tuned into the system. Not so here. In fact, we couldn’t quite pin down what irked us about the coupe’s helm.

The front end’s response to steering inputs never really seemed to be exactly what we expected, forcing us to correct on-the-fly more than once after we thought we’d already done all we needed to do. It was almost as if the front end sometimes under-reacted to our inputs and sometimes over-reacted, and we couldn’t quite discern the pattern well enough to make it all feel second-nature.

For an everyday sort of car, though, the Civic Coupe makes the most of what it has and with very few drawbacks.

Leftlane‘s bottom line

The Civic Coupe may not be perfect, but it’s close and getting closer. If you’re a fan of the styling, there’s essentially no reason to shop elsewhere in this segment.

2016 Honda Civic Coupe Touring base price, $26,125; As-tested, $26,960

Destination, $835

Photos by Byron Hurd.

  • Aesthetics

    B+

  • Technology

    B+

  • Green

    A-

  • Drive

    A-

  • Value

    A

  • Score

    A-

Review: 2016 Honda Civic Coupe Reviewed by Byron Hurd on May 20 We take a longer look at Honda’s two-door compact. Rating: 4

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