The venerable Honda Civic has been in continuous production since 1972. From its humble beginnings as a sub-compact gas-sipping alternative to the big three’s land yachts built during the gas crunch, the Civic has evolved through ten generations. In the nineties these things swarmed the streets in all sorts of iterations, the coupe, the four door, the hatch and, even the Del Sol. These cars were little more than eco-boxes, but there was a glimmer of something more than the sum of its parts. These cars inspired people with their economy, reliability and as a tuner platform. Now, in its 45th year of production, how does the latest Civic stack up?
A cursory glance at the newest civic and the 90s cars reveals similarities. For example, they’re both compact cars with 1.5 liter inline four cylinder engines. They both claim combined mileage of around 35 mpg and both offer a 3 year 36k mile warranty. Look closer though, and notice the Civic has grown three inches in length and width. The list of amenities is longer, there’s more horsepower and it’s about 300 pounds heavier. Under the hood, the inline four churns out about 50 more horsepower, 174 to be exact. This is due to the forced induction provided by a turbo.
Our press car was outfitted with handsome black and gray heated leather front buckets. The adjustments for the dual-zone climate control are displayed on the car’s seven inch touch screen, and they take some getting used to. Honda’s effort to make sleek looking infotainment interfaces means you won’t be getting a volume knob. This is frustrating, but there is a rather clever volume control on the steering wheel consisting of a rocker switch that is touch sensitive. Drivers need only slide their thumb up or down to adjust volume. Apple Carplay is available, as is a side view camera, activated by the turn signal that gives drivers a view of what’s happening in their blindspot.
The console in this car is well designed with a phone tray just forward of the shifter with integrated charging cord organizers. Below that is a catch-all area with charging ports. Perhaps my favorite feature of the interior was the area beneath the arm rest. Cup holders and a change tray are on sliders, and can be reconfigured by moving them around within the console. This is a clever way of making a small space serve many purposes.
Our car had Honda’s sensing package, which means that the car is paying attention even when the driver isn’t. It features adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, and road departure mitigation. It feels like a normal car most of the time. I found that Honda’s lane keeping assist is best reserved for the wide lanes of the interstate. On narrower roads it feels invasive. There were also three instances when the car warned me to brake when there was nothing ahead of the car.
The Civic’s acceleration is adequate. I’m sure Honda fan boys will boast about its boost, but it’s really nothing to write home about. The car gets from to 60 in just under seven seconds. The handling feels good though. In the corners, this car feels poised. The brake feel is good and the steering, while a little insulated, is fine. The road noise is significant, but could be much worse.
Our press car was painted an outrageous green hue which some folks loved and others hated. Redesigned for 2016, the car has a sporty aspect to its lines. The grill and headlights sweep back into the fenders and the windshield rakes dramatically back from the rear of the hood. There’s a bit of chrome trim that arcs up from the base of the side mirror, following the contour of the roof and terminates behind the rear window. The trunk is a good size, but the opening is a little small. The 17” wheels complement the car’s modern aesthetic. An upswept crease at the bottom of the door transfers onto the quarter panel and lends an illusion of motion to the car.
One more way in which the newest Civic differs from its 90’s era predecessor is the price. Even accounting for inflation the price of today’s Civic is about 10 grand more. But this doesn’t mean the Civic is not a good value. Think of all the amenities and safety features that weren’t even imagined in the nineties that are present today. More power, more connectivity, more comfort and at the end of the day, this is still an efficient car. The latest Civic may not be the plucky little car it was, but I would argue that that’s just evolution. The car Honda is selling today is an example of 45 years of refinement. It’s an interpretation and reaction to market demands. And it’s pretty dang good.
Car guy, small business owner, award-winning writer and proud papa.