First Tests Uncategorized

2016 Honda Civic EX First Test Review: Persuasive Poindexter

Get past its face, and there’s much to love in this not-so-compact.

Get past its face, and there’s much to love in this not-so-compact.

Motor Trend staffers have very mixed feelings about the new Civic. We resent its gigundous size – it is now more than 3 feet longer and nearly a foot wider than the original Civic. Dimensionally, this 10th-generation Civic fits between the third- and fourth-gen Accords ferpetesake. Why can’t compacts remain tiny and nimble? Then there’s the front-end styling, which kind of looks like a poindexter wearing big chrome-framed glasses. Climb inside and despite our incessant whining about every recent knob-less Honda stereo, we’re miffed to find there’s still no volume knob. We’re not gonna be ignored, Honda!
But then you strap in, switch on the ignition (delighting to that video-game instrument-panel splash screen), slip the CVT into drive, aim for that twisty, hilly long-cut home from the office, and all is forgiven. The base 2.0-liter engine generates a pretty sweet soundtrack that we’re coming to cherish as the industry slowly migrates to joy-muffling turbos, and this CVT features some of the savviest ratio mapping in the gearless-tranny world. Crack the throttle open like you mean it and more than a smidgen of ultimate efficiency (and probably a little performance) gets sacrificed so that your inner ear is treated to the thrust – and the comforting crescendo – of a high-strung engine pulling to the redline through the fixed ratio of a passing gear. (Accelerating up to and remaining at the engine’s power peak might hasten acceleration, but customers hate the way that sounds.)

Floor it from a dead stop, and the bigger new car rips to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds. That’s squarely mid-pack for the segment, but it beats the ninth-gen 1.8-liter CVT sedan by 0.4 second. A row-your-own six-speed 2.0-liter Civic is 0.8 second quicker yet, and the truly impatient driver opting for the 1.5-liter turbo/CVT setup in fancier trim grades will hit the mile-a-minute mark in just 7.2 seconds. The tranny’s brain deftly manages to either preselect or jump directly to the ideal ratio when you hit the gas to pull out of a corner too, making this feel like a much more sporting machine than the spec sheet suggests.
The chassis is another willing enabler for back-road hooning, behaving with remarkably neutral balance for the class. It’s not a numbers car—the 0.81 g max-lateral grip, 127-foot 60-to-0 braking, and 27.6-second figure-eight time are all middling statistics. But set her up properly for a turn, with just the right amount of trail braking, and she’ll reward you with the gentlest of four-wheel drifts. We’re talking slip angles slim enough not to awaken the stability control, yet noticeable enough to raise the corners of your mouth. Few competitive economy compacts will do that, and it’s one of the delights about this Civic that suggest that Honda is back in the game, once again making commodity cars that truly are a bit more special than those of other high-volume rivals.

Once the adrenaline dissipates, touch the Econ button, and everything quiets right down as the CVT selects the highest possible ratio to suit the current driving circumstances. Sure, the throttle response makes it feel like you just sliced a cylinder’s worth of displacement and torque out of the engine, but driving in this mode greatly improves your chances of achieving fuel economy that approaches that measured by our Real MPG gear (29.6/42.8/34.4 (7.9/5.5/6.8 L/100km) city/highway/combined mpg) and the EPA test labs (31/41/35 mpg (7.6/5.7/6.7 L/100km)) will improve markedly. Those figures all rank fairly near the top of this class without resorting to ECO-model extras like grille shutters, spoilers, and skinny rock-hard tires.
Add to these surprisingly delightful dynamics a big interior and trunk, sterling resale value and low ownership costs, and an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating, and this new Civic starts making a pretty compelling case for itself – if you can stomach the look of its face.
More on the Honda Civic here:

2016 Honda Civic EX
BASE PRICE $21,875
PRICE AS TESTED $22,875
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINE 2.0L/158-hp/138-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION -speed cont. variable auto
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 2,790 lb (61/39%)
WHEELBASE 106.3 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 182.3 x 70.8 x 55.7 in
0-60 MPH 8.6 sec
QUARTER MILE 16.7 sec @ 86.1 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 127 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.82 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 27.6 sec @ 0.61 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 31/41/35 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY 109/82 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.56 lb/mile