There are few things as pervasive in our society as the automobile. As such, our society has turned a small number of important cars into icons, something which almost everyone recognizes as important, or meaningful in some way. Most people only think of design icons as automotive icons; cars like the Toyota 2000GT, Ferrari 250GT California, or the Porsche 911 line. However, some cars achieve iconic status simply through continuous, reliable, mundanity. One example of such a car is the Honda Civic, now on its 10th generation.
With such a long pedigree behind it, any new Civic model must stand up to the scrutiny of its ancestors. The previous, ninth, generation sets the bar low, itself being worse than those that came before it in many ways. This Civic, produced between the 2012 model year and the 2015 model year, featured bulbous proportions, which in a small car, is less than envious. This large-ness was not transferred to the interior, with thick roof pillars, as well as an intrusive dashboard, featuring Honda’s two-tiered screen system. This resulted in a small car that felt like a mini-van, only good for accumulating Cheerios and Binkies with the rest of them.
While not ideal, the least that can be said about the 9th generations exterior and interior stylings is that it set you up for the performance levels of the car—or lack thereof. No matter what Civic trim you wanted, barring the lukewarm Si, during ‘The Dark Days’, you received a 1.8L 4-cylinder engine producing 140bhp being fed through a 5-speed automatic or manual. The gearbox changed within the first year, as a response to customer input, and this quick improvement-development-implementation cycle would set the stage for the 9th gen Civic. Gearboxes, interiors, and fasciae changed year to year, but by 2015 and the end of the generation, while improved, it still was not a headline grabber. This was problematic, because Honda wanted a headline grabber.
To steal those headlines, Honda put the effort required into the 10th generation Civic for the 2016 model year. Offered in the normal range of trims by Honda—except the Si which is coming—the only notable nomenclature change involves the top-plush tier. This tier used to be called the EX-L, and was heaped with leather and gadgets. What would have been named the Civic EX-L has been renamed the Civic Touring, and continues the tradition of bringing leather and gadgets to the table. The car reviewed here is an example of this ‘Touring’ breed of Civic, and featured all the options: including an eye-catching Rallye Red paint code.
The 2016 Honda Civic Touring I reviewed had been just broken in at a little over 9,000 miles. While some new cars might be expected to have their share of gremlins—mechanical, electrical, or otherwise—Honda is living up to their image of reliability, never missing a beat. The 1.8L engine of yester-year has been ditched in favor of two new engines; a 2.0L N/A 4-cylinder and a new-for-Honda in America, turbocharged 1.5L 4-cylinder. For 2016 the ‘base’ 2.0L non-turbo engine was the only one to offer a manual, while also being available with the CVT that is mandatory on the turbocharged motor. This being a Touring model, the base engine would not do, and so the 1.5LT/CVT combo was the only option on the menu. As the numbers show below, this was not necessarily a bad thing.
|Model: 2016 Honda Civic Touring
MSRP: From $26,125
Engine: 1.5 L 4-cylinder Turbo
Horsepower: 174 hp @6000 RPM
Torque: 162 lb-ft @1700-5500 RPM
MPG: Up to 31 city / 42 highway
Curb weight: 2,923 lbs
177-182″ L x 71″ W x 55-56″ H
At a little over $26,000, there may be some sticker shock to those used to the pricing of older Civics. However, with the march of inflation and technology, and the inevitable price increase they bring, the current Civic is still an affordable choice. While the base car starts at a little over $19,000, this fully loaded model still comes in around $10,000 under the average American price of a new car. Anyone recovering from sticker-shock will be knocked off their feet the moment they get behind the wheel. Nine generations of Civics have prepared drivers for gutless, low-end engine behavior, with a need to wail the engine to get any torque. With the addition of a turbo, this engine-nature is thrown aside, replaced with a deceptively large-feeling amount of torque, available almost all the time. As shown above, the max torque of 162lb-ft is available from a hilariously low 1700rpm, all the way to 5500rpm. With the CVT able to essentially infinitely adjust the RPM of the engine, this means that max ‘shove’ is available all of the time. Really, truly, all the time, resulting in a pleasant 6.8 seconds to 60mph.
This infinitely flat torque curve does betray a necessary sacrifice of the turbocharged/CVT combination. The previous generations, or most of them (ahem, 9th generation), featured a reputation for sweet, smooth, high-revving engines. While the CVT is smooth for a CVT, it shifts the engine at 6,000RPM—peak horsepower—leaving much to be desired. While efficient, and smooth, and surely technically better than previous iterations of the Civic, this engine/transmission combination feel like they leave much of the cars soul behind. While this may be different in manual equipped versions—coming for 2017 and beyond—the car as driven was not as soulful as past examples.
That being said, it certainly features many improvements to keep it planted to the road. Being lower, wider, and longer than past generations, the natural tendency of the car is to track truer and straighter. This combined with wider tires, and surprisingly thick front/rear anti-roll bars, adds up to a significant improvement in mechanical grip, improving safety, ride comfort, and road handling. To further improve all of those, the Civic Touring also features a brake-based torque vectoring system. While sounding promising for anyone still grasping at performance, backroad-fun, this system is less geared towards performance and more focused on safety.
Considering America is getting not only a new Si, but also a lesser Sport model, and a more-er Type-R, this is all ok. Despite lacking in enthusiast-levels of performance, the existing performance points of this engine and transmission are more than acceptable for perspective buyers of these more mundane and plush examples. While ‘acceptable’ would be better than the previous example of Civic, this engine is actually surprising, offering drivers a mundanely-exciting level of acceleration. Once the CVT swings its way towards its 5500RPM perch-point however, the acceleration peters out, and while still enough for a passing maneuver, the engine does begin to betray its small internal volume at sustained speeds.
While the Civic Touring may not be winning any runway races, the average driver won’t care, especially considering everything Honda manages to provide at the price point. The two-tier screen system of previous Honda’s of this decade is gone, thankfully, and replaced with a single 7in touchscreen. The interface is acceptable, featuring climate control settings (as well as physical buttons), radio of the normal kind and the satellite variety, Bluetooth/Carplay, and navigation—standard on the Touring model. The navigation is a proven system, being provided by Garmin, and as such is both reliable and functional. Less functional are the lack of physical buttons or knobs. The power, volume, and all other buttons are not buttons at all, but merely touch sensitive sections of glass next to the screen. While some enjoy it—including the owner of the car—many lament the lack of a button, any button, myself included. The masses seemed to have agreed with me, and Honda is continuing its impressive product development cycles, having added various physical knobs and buttons back for 2017. Honda also kept the different audio controls going on the steering wheel, featuring a touch capacitive volume rocker, allowing operators to ‘stroke’ the volume in the direction they want. While most enjoy this, I find it cumbersome, accidently running my thumbs over it constantly.
Keeping the ‘stroke-able’ button company on the steering wheel is Honda’s full host of safety and assistance features. This includes radar cruise control and lane-keep assist. The radar cruise control works as advertised, although betrays its budget origins slightly in operation. Even when set at its closest setting, the Civic keeps enough room for ambitious drivers to scoot their way in between you and the car in front—an all too common occurrence in California. This results in the cruise control slowing the car down, to keep the same amount of room between you and the new car in front. Unless you like playing the unfortunate game of reverse-leap frog, this is not fun, and while not a common problem, when it does happen it is annoying enough to remember. The lane keep assist does work as advertised, although can be fooled by a lane, and its lines, merging in from the right.
Further increasing the safety feature count of the car is the video system, which not only features the standard reversing camera, but also a camera tucked under the passenger side mirror, eliminating the large blind spot common on the passenger side. Combined with the traction control, the airbags, and the above active measures, the Civic receives 5 stars in every category for safety.
The Touring also receives the essentially-standard heated seats, although raises the bar by providing heated seats for the rear passengers as well. While everyone will be sitting with warmed bums, they will also be sitting in surprising comfort for a Civic. The leather is appreciated by both front and rear passengers, and front passengers are gifted with seats which are almost perfect. Featuring electric adjustability, they sit an inch lower than the previous Civic, enhancing driver engagement, and while flat for spirited driving, are almost perfect for day-to-day use: their obvious intended use. The rear seat passengers will also appreciate the large amounts of leg room, a huge step up from the previous car. This increase in dimensions lends itself largely to the greater improved feel of the car as a whole, and even if a buyer doesn’t spring for the Touring, creates a more luxury feel for backseat passengers.
The new-for-2016 Honda Civic takes the bar for its class, and raises it three or four notches. Good looking, significantly larger, feature rich and solidly built, the 10th generation is the headline generator Honda wanted. While 2016 featured only the coupe and sedan body styles, in normal trims, 2017 and 2018 will prove to bring more excitement to the line. A hatchback model has arrived—featuring the attractively priced Sport model—and the Si and Type-R performance models are well on their way to our shores. Sales will surely rise, and for good reason, because this is a Good Honda Civic. To become truly great however, and live up to its ancestors, the 10th generation Civic will have to persist in general quality through the next decade of use, hundreds of thousands of miles of driving, and two or three owners. If it can live up to the legacy of Honda reliability laid out by its forefathers—which I truly hope it does—than the 10th generation Honda Civic may be seen as Honda’s return to form.
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I recently recieved a degree in History from the University of Nevada, Reno.