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On the Road

On the road
We had the opportunity to drive the 2016 Civic in Southern California last month, and overall the car was very, very good. Honda had some premium targets set in their sights and they clearly met those targets. The 2016 Civic lineup will be the most diverse offering in the Civic's history, and we merely sampled the Sedan variant; in order of introduction, beyond the Sedan there will be a Coupe, an Si, a 5-door hatch, and a Civic Type R. So we went into this first drive with the mindset that we would be driving a very mainstream car, and not a sport sedan or a "wannabe" sport sedan. In this light, the Civic was extremely impressive.

For a mainstream sedan, this car hits a lot of marks. It offers a high degree of comfort for the driver and passengers. Refinement levels are beyond the realm of any prior Civic. It is loaded with features {insert Android Auto/Apple Carplay/Honda Sensing boilerplate here}. It looks really good. The design is bold and expressive, and dare we say, more expensive-looking than a Civic has ever looked. And the pricing is absurdly appealing. Surely, over time, when people buy these Civics in record numbers (and we're calling it right here, the 10th gen Civic will sell in record numbers), the design will age, and it will look "mainstream", but for now, it's a knockout.

We were able to sample all powertrain variants, though we spent the most time behind the wheel of the 1.5T Touring model. This is a car that punches well above its price point. If one is to believe the amazing EPA fuel economy numbers, the 1.5T is a really impressive engine. It could certainly launch with more authority, but once you get the car moving, the midrange is rather robust. And you don't really get a sense of turbo lag, or boost onset delay. If anything, the CVT seems to be the biggest spoilsport (disclaimer: we generally don't care for CVTs).

We draw that (way too early) conclusion because the naturally aspirated 2.0 Civic with the CVT launches in a similarly lazy manner. And for that matter, so does the 2016 CR-V, with a naturally aspirated 2.4L 4-cylinder. CVTs are really popular with manufacturers these days for a number of reasons. First, they're relatively simple and compact, so they don't cost a lot to build. Secondly, within that compact, relatively inexpensive design they offer a tremendous "spread" of ratios compared to traditional automatic transmissions. And third, since CVTs are simple and compact, they weigh less than traditional automatic transmissions, so this ultimately aids fuel economy and performance. The aforementioned "spread" refers to the gap between the lowest possible ratio and the highest possible ratio. On Honda CVTs it seems like Honda is most interested in achieving the tallest imaginable ratio for fuel economy reasons (how do you like 80mph@1600 rpm?), so even with the huge spread afforded by CVTs, the launch acceleration suffers more than it probably should.

But again, keep in mind, this is the mainstream Civic. The vast bulk of the buying public won't even notice this issue. Everybody will notice the juice the Civic provides when the time comes to merge on the freeway, or when you need to pass that slow moving truck on a back road. When you stab the 1.5T Civic's throttle at 30 or 40mph, the resulting thrust is rather quite satisfying, indeed. If you stay in it, thinking it's going to keep pinning you to your seat on up to triple digit speeds, then yeah, you might not be all that impressed. But for a quick surge of thrust in the commuter range of speeds, it's rather impressive.

What about the 6MT?
As mentioned earlier, for the moment the 6-speed is only offered with the 2.0 in LX trim. And though it delivers slightly worse fuel economy than the 2.0 or 1.5T with the CVT, it certainly delivers superior driving enjoyment compared to the 2.0 CVT. Without a doubt, it is more lively than the 1.8L SOHC engine that it replaces, but that's really not saying much. Shhhhh, don't tell anyone, but that 1.8L R18 engine from the former Civic was in the running for our "least favorite" Honda engine of all time. Great fuel economy, and not much else. The R18 won't be missed. The 2.0 is clearly an upgrade but when you look at the list of trims you almost wonder about why Honda bothered with the 2.0. It's only available in LX and EX trim levels, and limiting the 6MT to the LX trim level makes it seem like yet another self-fulfilling prophecy. "Nobody wants 6MTs". Yeah, not a lot of folks want 6MTs, but a lot of the ones that DO want the 6MTs, also want some of the other goodies that are on offer.

On paper, the difference between the 2.0 and the 1.5T doesn't seem like a lot, with the 2.0 making 158hp, just 16hp shy of the 1.5T. But the 2.0's peak torque is 138lb-ft, which is 24lb-ft short of what the 1.5T delivers. That could be managed to a degree via gear ratios, but the ultimate difference is that the 1.5T dishes out its superior torque numbers over a range that stretches nearly 4000 rpm wide. So, ultimately, with a 6MT 2.0 Civic, you *might* be able to get close (maybe within 0.5 second?) to the 1.5T's acceleration numbers, but the truth is while both of these cars will probably hit 60 in something between 7.5 and 8.0 seconds, the 1.5T Civic will pull like a car that can hit 60 in the mid 6-second range, while the 2.0 will feel more like an 8-second 0-60 car. The 6MT 1.5T can't get here quickly enough, but hey Honda, how about an EX-L or even better, a Touring model with the 6MT? Please?

The 6MT itself is a typical Honda gearbox. Slick action, great clutch feel. In this case the throws felt just a tiny bit longer than the gearboxes on Honda's sportiest models. That's not to say it's a long throw gearbox, by any stretch. The 6MT certainly gives the 2.0 Civic a much more energetic feel than the CVT version. The CVT is fine for "entry model" status, but it's not going to blow anyone's socks off.

BONUS: the LX gets a REAL analog tach and digital speedo gauge cluster. Everything else gets a TFT LCD gauge cluster with a rather realistic looking "analog" tach.

Engine Sounds
For the most part, refinement levels are pretty good. Neither engine ever feels like it's being overworked, and the sounds are generally fairly tame, but not particularly inspiring. The exhaust system is a "hidden" design, in that the exhaust finishers aren't intentionally exposed, but from many ordinary viewing angles, the dual silencers aren't fully hidden, either. It would have been far better to just expose the finishers and integrate them into the rear bumper design, while properly hiding the silencers.

Again, we will take a moment to remind our readers that this particular version of the Civic isn't intended to slake the thirst of enthusiasts. But enthusiasts can appreciate that this "Epic Civic" (this is the name given to the 10th generation Civic by the development team) possesses a tremendous amount of genetic material to make a proper sport sedan. When you drive the new Civic, you can sense the immense rigidity of the body structure. Road noise is kept impressively low. We did hear a few whispers of wind noise in one of the cars we drove, but it could have very well been a minor sealing issue with some of the window molding on the pre-production cars that we sampled.

From a handling perspective, the Civic was largely game for whatever we threw at it. With the modest touring-oriented tires that are standard on these commuter grade Civics, the cornering limits were understandably truncated to a degree. And in the category of "news that is shocking to nobody", the 10th gen Civic has a fairly large dose of understeer dialed in for those times when you do probe the limits. On the plus side, the brakes are probably the best brakes anybody in North America has ever experienced on a Civic. They are much stronger than what the typical Honda driver is probably accustomed to, with a reassuringly progressive and relentless bite. We didn't get the chance to stress them too much, though, so at the moment we can't make much of a comment in terms of the fade resistance.

Pretty much everything has electric-assisted power steering (EPS) these days. Honda has been using it for quite a while - this is actually the third generation of Civics to come equipped with EPS. Unfortunately, with the passage of 10 years time, the feel afforded by Honda's EPS remains poor. The car pretty much goes where you point it, but the lack of feedback or feel takes away from the overall driving experience. Honda has a driving assistance system which is supposed to correct the steering to account for the crown of a typical road. While we were driving the 2016 Civic, we thought we sensed that system misbehaving slightly, as the car wandered a little bit, but we later found out that the system only engages when you have activated the cruise control system, and we never engaged the cruise once.

Solid Chassis
Other than our beef with the steering (which seems to be a recurring theme), the new Civic's chassis is quite good. The spring and damper rates are pretty much dialed in to the sweet spot, striking that nearly perfect combination of ride comfort and body control. With this as the "base" calibration, we're imagining a Civic Si with more aggressive rubber and a more neutral setup, and we're beginning to salivate. Add sportier seats (and they're already quite good), a ~230-250hp engine, and the Si could be truly epic.

Finally, an interesting Civic.

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Subject Thread Originator Replies Last Post
  Thank you Jeff
Fitdad 10
  I don't think the ILX will be the problem for Acura
Fitdad 3
  Next ILX
CivicB18 6
  1.5T vs. Accord Sport 6MT
99SI 7
  embedded 0-100mph video updated with improved audio
JeffX 4
  2.0 engine
Potenza 8
  If you want to hear the 1.5
talon95 1
  If you want to hear the 1.5
talon95 0
  Previous platform was that old?
longhorn 3
FiSH-Chan 0
CrystalFiveMT 0
  video link doesn't work for me
FiSH-Chan 3
  No trunk open shot
  Great job
ctvader 0
  Compression Ratio on the 1.5l turbocharged?
JP 1
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