Need good basic wheels? Make that better than basic, but at a no-nonsense price, a practical car that’s fun to drive with good ride and that will fit a family of four comfortably.
Honda’s new 2016 Civic sedan has you covered, and then some.
Civics, when first introduced in the States, were little boxes that brought to mind clown cars, or maybe the original Mini Cooper from the 1960s? Civics were cheap cars that ran forever and got good gas mileage. That fit a big niche in the early 1970s.
Today Civic has grown up and this newly designed version is a mid-size car with a 106.3-inch wheelbase that provides it a well-controlled ride befitting a higher end mid-size model. The MacPherson strut front suspension and rear multi-link do a superb job of ironing out our corduroy roads.
Honda also has restored Civic’s sporty handling that it had lost a couple iterations back. Now there’s precious little play in the wheel and the car turns into corners like a sports sedan. The car feels light and lively again.
Better yet, even for us old fuddy-duddies, Civic looks new and improved with sleeker lines and a snazzy tail with sculpted lights that jut around into the rear fender.
Like most cars it comes in multiple trim levels, so you can shop by price and snag a couple of great values in the entry-level lines. For instance, the base LX starts at $19,475 and the tested EX, just one trim up, lists at $21,040. With an $835 delivery fee that translates to a $21,875 bottom line. That’s bargain basement pricing today.
Civic offers two engine choices, the base 2.0-liter I4 with 158 horsepower and 138-ft.lbs. of torque. That’s what powers the LX and EX. But moving to the EX-T snags you the horsier 1.5-liter turbo I4 that creates 174 horses and a 162 torque rating. The EX-L and Touring models feature the peppier engine too.
Most of us would probably rather drive that turbo, but the base engine is sufficient, if not muscular. It will move the Civic to highway speeds in a moderate amount of time. The engine is linked to a 6-speed CVT, which means the car is fuel efficient, but not quick. Shifts are a bit hesitant at times and to get any oomph you must bury the accelerator, which kicks up the engine noise. In everyday city driving this is fine, you mainly notice the modest power when accelerating to 45 mph and beyond from a stop.
Upside is the Civic gets good gas mileage. I got 30.8 mpg in a week’s drive that was about evenly split between highway and city driving, sometimes with a passenger or two. The EPA rates this model at 31 mpg city and 41 mpg highway.
The EX, like the LX, features a cloth interior, this silver Civic touted a black dash with black textured cloth seats. The seats aren’t powered, but the driver gets a handle to raise the seat height. Contouring is moderate and comfortable. Honda puts silver metallic textured trim on the dash to spiff it up and there’s a sunroof overhead, a standard feature even at this price. Nice!
Dash knobs and door handles are matte silver and there’s a good-sized (7-inch) touchscreen mid-dash. Everything looks good and is easy to see. There’s a manual tilt/telescope steering wheel with radio, phone and cruise controls on the hub. However, it’s a long reach under the steering column to find the tilt-wheel adjustment and there are a few other awkward features too.
First, the touchscreen radio is quixotic, hunting for and setting radio stations to local channels was impossible and tuning was difficult while driving. I’d advise asking the dealer to help you tune in the main channels you want before even leaving the parking lot. Why car makers no longer give us a few buttons for our “preferred” channels is beyond me, especially since most touchscreens do not work if you’re wearing gloves.
Like many vehicles these days, the Civic also has a large A-pillar paired up with a side rearview mirror. This creates a large blind spot. My final bugaboo was a false low-tire-pressure reading on the dash on two particularly cold mornings. Electronic tire pressure gauges are notoriously poor at telling the truth. You’d think they were politicians!
Yet there are other pluses to be considered. First, the rear seat in the EX splits and folds down to extend the cargo area. The LX model has a one-piece rear seatback. The trunk itself is a whopping 15.1 cubic feet, so as big, or bigger, than many midsize and larger sedans.
There are two knobs for the automatic climate control system, which is easy to use, and the sun visors slide (you knew I’d get to that!). Civic has a nifty two-level storage area between the front seats with twin cup holders that can be slid back to create an even deeper bin that can hold a large water bottle and other goodies. Even the Civic’s glovebox is huge.
Naturally there are multiple hookups for electronics, a USB port, plus Pandora compatibility, Apple Car Play and Google Android Auto, to name most of them.
Honda includes heated outside mirrors and an expanded view disc on the driver’s mirror. Lane Watch, a sort of blind-spot warning system that shows the driver what’s on the right side of his or her car when the right turn signal is activated, also is standard. It can be helpful. LED headlights and speed-sensitive radio volume control also are standard.
Certainly Honda has many worthy competitors, the Toyota Corolla, Mazda3, Chevy Cruze, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte and Ford Focus, to name the major players. But it’s hard to beat the Civic for comfort, sporty flair and economy for a family of four. Now Civic has the looks to go with its other perks.
FAST STATS: 2016 Honda Civic EX
Hits: Good well-controlled ride, sporty handling and good gas mileage at value price. Stylish sedan with room for four adults, quiet and comfortable interior, big trunk and sunroof is standard at this price.
Misses: Base engine could use a bit more spunk, CVT is average, big A-pillar/mirror blind spot, horrible to tune radio while driving, false low-tire pressure reading on cold mornings.
Made in: Marysville, Ohio
Engine: 2.0-liter, I4, 158 hp
Transmission: 6-speed CVT
Weight: 2,795 lbs.
Length: 182.3 in.
Wheelbase: 106.3 in.
Cargo: 15.1 cu.ft.
MPG: 31/41 (EPA)
MPG: 30.8 (tested)
Base Price: $21,040
Major Options: None
Test vehicle: $21,875
Sources: Toyota, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage