2016 Honda Civic review
Isaac Bober’s 2016 Honda Civic review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: The all-new Honda Civic is, in Honda’s own words, the most important car it’s ever produced and this new one is roomier, better equipped and more enjoyable to drive than ever before.
2016 Honda Civic VTi-LX
Pricing From $33,590 (+ORC) Warranty three years, unlimited kilometres Safety Not tested Engine 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol Power/Torque 127kW/220Nm Transmission CVT Body 4644mm (L); 1799mm (W); 1416mm (H) Weight 1331kg Spare Space Saver Fuel Tank 47 litres Thirst 6.6L/100km
WHEN HONDA director, Stephen Collins, stands up and announces that, “the new Honda Civic is the most important car we’ve ever produced”, well, you just know that there’s a lot riding on this new car. Especially here in Australia, where, as Collins told Practical Motoring, Honda doesn’t have a large SUV or a ute (no, the Ridgeline is definitely not coming to Australia) and so the Civic is left to do all of the heavy lifting for the brand in the small car segment, which is the biggest-selling category in the market.
And, so, the brand hasn’t held back with the new Civic. Honda Australia CEO, Noriyuki Takakura told Practical Motoring that while Honda knows it could have priced the Civic at a premium over its competitors due to its standard features, especially, the array of active safety features included in its top-of-the-line VTi-LX model, it decided to price its five Civic variants on a par with key competitor models to make it easier for the buyer to make their own value judgement.
Honda Civic pricing:
1.8 VTi (CVT) $22,390 +ORC
1.8 VTi-S (CVT) $24,490 +ORC
1.5 VTi-L (CVT) $27,790 +ORC
1.5 RS (CVT) $31,790 +ORC
1.5 VTi-LX (CVT) $33,590 +ORC
Since the launch of the first-generation Honda Civic in Australia back in 1973 a staggering 325,000 have found driveways to call home with more than 20 million sold around the world, making the Civic the fifth best-selling nameplate in automotive history.
What is it?
According to Honda, “the creation of the 10th-generation Civic represents one of the most comprehensive and ambitious new-model developments ever undertaken by Honda”. Indeed, so nervous (and proud) is the brand about its new Civic that at the local launch, Honda representatives were constantly asking journalists what they thought… and hanging on the response. And it’s easy to understand why; Honda isn’t content with just achieving sales success, rather it also craves critical approval of its new Civic.
See, the Civic competes in the small car segment in Australia, and despite all attention being on the sales performance of SUVs, the small car segment is the biggest section of the market and the fiercest in terms of competition. And, thus, if the new “dynamic rejuvenation” of the Civic had hit a bum note the company would have suffered.
Benchmarked against the likes of the Audi A3 and Volkswagen Golf, Honda claims it worked on improving the Civic in key areas, including ride, handling, steering and noise, vibration and harshness performance. This saw the thing’s suspension honed on high-speed autobahns in Germany, while hot weather testing was carried out in Australia. Indeed, Honda Australia, for the first time ever said that it had been involved right from the very beginning of the Civic’s development.
Easily mistaken for a liftback, the new Honda Civic Sedan is available in Australia in five variants with the sedan being launched here first (we won’t get the Civic Coupe that’s on-sale in the US), with the hatchback and Type R to be launched next year. The new Civic sees an all-new 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine join the line up, producing 127kW and 220Nm of torque. This is mated to a new CVT. The generation-nine Civic’s 1.8-litre four-cylinder persists in this 10th generation model but the five-speed automatic has been dumped in favour of a CVT which totally transforms the character of that car, but we’ll come back to that shortly.
What’s it like?
From the front and in profile the new Honda Civic looks every bit the hunkered down dynamic-looking small car Honda hopes it looks, but the rear… well, to my eyes it just looks awkward. The pinched in rear and the kidney shape of the tail-lights gives the new Civic a futuristic look from behind, but I think it jars with the rest of the car.
But, hey, as important as the looks of this thing are in a segment filled to bursting, it’s what’s the inside is like and how the Civic actually goes and handles that will be most important for the new Civic to achieve both sales and critical success. And, spoiler alert: this new Civic, in both 1.8L and 1.5L turbo trim go and handle very well indeed.
Indeed, so confident is Honda of this new car’s ability, journalists were asked to compare it with the likes of Audi’s A3 and not the cars it will actually compete with, like the Mazda3. But, back to the launch drive.
While the US gets both the 1.5L turbo engine and a new 2.0L engine, Australian buyers only get the 1.5L turbo and the old 1.8L. Honda had examples of both models, Practical Motoring only managed to snaffle a 1.8L model for a short 20km run, so, this first drive impression relates to the 1.5L turbo-equipped models only.
As mentioned, the 1.5L turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine offers 127kW at 5500rpm and 220Nm of torque from 1700-5500rpm. This engine is mated to a refreshed version of the CVT that’s also used in the four-cylinder Honda Odyssey and this new CVT, like the ones that Subaru use, show that the latest-generation CVTs can be every bit as smooth and responsive as, say, an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Floor the thing away from a standing start there’s the slightest amount of turbo lag, but get beyond 1700rpm and the thing starts pulling strongly, with none of the stretchiness you normally associate with a CVT. The wide torque band means that, once you’re up and running, progress is both swift and reasonably effortless, meaning that it’ll pull well up hill at middling revs, rather than racing straight to its 6000rpm redline. Fuel consumption is 6.6L/100km, but the fuel tank at 47 litres is pretty small for a vehicle of this size.
The steering, says Honda is now 10% faster than the ninth-generation Civic and after getting to back-to-back the ninth and 10th-generation models at the launch yesterday I’d believe that claim. There’s also a more natural, well-weighted feel to the wheel no matter the speed or the steering angle, with an especially solid feel in the straight ahead. There’s almost no kickback across poorer surfaces although despite the improvements, there’s still almost no feel through the steering, but this isn’t a Porsche, so maybe I’m splitting hairs.
Honda has fitted the Civic with a new multi-link rear suspension setup that’s been rigidly mounted to the rear sub-frame to improve lateral stability, and it’s also fitted, to the front and rear, hydraulic compliance bushings which are usually only fitted to more expensive cars, but are great at insulating against steering wheel shake and road noise transmission. Thicker anti-roll bars at the front and rear, compared with its predecessor, help to keep body movements in check, while a body that’s 25% stiffer and packed full of insulation mean the new Civic offers the ride, handling and interior quietness (due, in part, to near full length sound absorbing underbody covers) of a more expensive feeling car.
Where the old Civic when thrown into a corner would lean over and try and stick you head first into a tree, this new one is incredibly neutral and reminiscent of the magic Honda worked on the original Integra Type R which, although a front-wheel drive, could defy the laws of physics. This new Civic isn’t quite that good, but in the small car segment it’s now a front runner rather than an also ran.
Climb inside and the design of the dashboard (the two-tiered instrument panel of the old Civic, thankfully, is no more) and the practicality of the interior alone are a massive step ahead of this cars predecessor. Where the old Civic’s seats were broad and unsupportive the new one’s are a little more sculpted and supportive, and thanks to both reach and rake adjustability on the steering wheel and the electric adjustment for the driver’s seat on the VTi-LX we drove it’s easy to get comfortable behind the wheel with the seating position overall feeling more sporty thanks to a 20mm lower hip point.
The front A-pillars are now thinner from top to bottom and the bonnet is mounted 35mm lower than before, so forward vision is very good. Indeed, vision right around the car is good and on both the VTi-RS and VTi-LX a camera mounted in the passenger-side wing mirror, which when the indicator is activated, projects a high-resolution video of the left side of the car to “aid” monitoring a blind spot… it’s not a substitute for a shoulder check, but it very nearly is.
The dashboard is nice and easy to use with a large seven-inch touch screen unit sitting in the centre of the dashboard. This controls communications and infotainment and is compatible with both Apple Car Play and Android Auto. My time to fiddle around with this unit was short, but my first impression is that it’s easy to use, and I’d recommend leaving the touch sensitivity, which can be adjusted, tuned to low (which is how it leaves the factory).
Across the range, the Honda Civic features a digital speedo behind the steering wheel, with the display able to show infotainment and communication menus to ensure the driver’s eyes remain fixed on the road; indeed, Honda claims there’s only a five-degree eye movement to check the speedo and menu items, but a 15-degree eye movement to check the centre screen.
Other neat, practical little touches include the mobile phone shelf that has a hole at the back to feed your cables through. The cup holders are also mounted nice and deep inside the centre console which means you won’t bump them, and the capacitive touch pad for audio volume on the steering wheel is very cool.
Over in the back seats there’s plenty of room for three adults, and while we didn’t have a child seat on hand, fitting one should be a cinch with ISOFIX mounting points in the two outboard seats and the top tether points easily accessible up behind the head rests. In the boot, Honda has managed to liberate more room for a class-leading 517 litres of space for the VTi-L, RS and VTi-LX and 519 litres for the VTi and VTi-S… this big boot and the extra room in the back seat have come at the expense of the fuel tank, which is 10 litres smaller at 47 litres. The boot itself is a good shape with a wide opening, two pull-levers in the boot allow you to drop the back seats for when you’re carrying bigger objects and they just about fold flat.
In terms of safety, ANCAP hasn’t released its rating for the Civic, but with its stronger body and the quite of safety features available, you wouldn’t bet against it scoring a five-star rating. It gets airbags, traction and stability controls, as well as clever front seatbelts with automatic tensioners and load limiters which work in conjunction with the airbags and so will immediately tighten in the event of a collision, but then relax tension slightly to avoid causing injury to the occupant via the seatbelt. The new Civic gets an electric park brake with automatic brake hold function, which is handy in stop-start traffic. All models get a multi-angle reversing camera which offers a wide angle view, a narrower view and also a top-down view, the VTi- S adds front and rear parking sensors to the camera as well as LaneWatch. And, if you opt for the VTi-LX like we tested, then you’ll get the full Honda Sensing suite which includes, collision mitigation braking as well as forward collision warning, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, lane keeping assist and road departure mitigation.
We’ll have a full road test of both the 1.5L and 1.8L Honda Civic in the coming weeks as well as a full review of its infotainment system. Stay tuned.