Expert Reviews

Long-Term Test: 2016 Honda Civic Touring - Update 1

Odometer at Pick Up: 1,965 km
Odometer now: 4,209 km
Cost: $158.64

“Hey, what model is this?! Is it really a turbo?!”

The knock on my window scared the living daylights out of me. I’d been engrossed in a conversation with a friend parked to my right when it came, “rap rap rap”. Startled, I wound down the window expecting some sort of admonishment for where I was parked or something… “Hey, what model is this?! Is it really a turbo?!” The man in my window was in his late 40s and visibly excited.

“This looks really, really good. I bet it goes like heck too, eh?”

For about the sixth time this month I’d been approached by a total stranger to talk in excited tones about what many refer to as an “appliance”. The 2016 Honda Civic is drawing more attention and conversation than some of the most spectacular sports cars we’ve driven. I keep seeing them everywhere too, and the sales numbers back up my suspicions: These Civics are selling their socks off. After 17 years at the top of the best-seller list in Canada, the new Civic is up a whopping 19.7 percent YTD with sales of 12,519 units so far. Just so we’re not overblowing the Civic’s success, we should also point out that the new Elantra is up YTD as well, by 21.2 percent to 11,578 units.

Competition, it seems, is fierce at the top.

There is no question in my mind that this Civic is far more attractive than the previous, and I think that is a key component in the car’s success. The availability of a Turbo (and the accompanying “Turbo” badges) is certainly a draw too.

The turbo 1.5L is a strong little engine too. It has the trademark Honda rev-happy nature and a decent amount of stop-light stonk to get going. It runs on regular, but I found myself putting a tank of premium in it anyway. It made no discernible difference which surprised me as I have found the engine coarse and loud at low speeds and idle – this isn’t the silky smooth Honda I was expecting. I guess that lumpiness in the engine gives it a bit of character and contributes to the aestheticism you feel driving this rig - but I'm still not a fan.

Previously... Long-Term Test Arrival: 2016 Honda Civic

The CVT transmission is smooth with gentle yet confident "shifts" in normal mode and the same just slightly delayed in sport mode. "Kick down" is quick enough to satisfy but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want some paddles to play with. There are many cars where I can’t stand to use Eco mode as it kills the engine and transmission to the point of insanity – this is not one of them. In fact, I’ve found I still have access to more than enough gusto even when I leave the Civic in Eco mode most of the time. That’s a big positive.

It’s working too. I’m doing mostly city driving and I’m still averaging 7.8 L/100 km with my comically lead foot. Then again, it’s rated at 7.6/5.5/6.7 l/100km city/highway/combined – so maybe I shouldn’t be too proud of my figures. The Civic has been sent on a long highway journey to Sudbury this week so Mr. Justin Pritchard can cast his eye over it, so we should see that fuel number come down.

In terms of ride comfort and road noise the Civic is very agreeable. I’ve had passengers comment on how “nicely it drives” and how comfortable the cabin is overall. The seats are pleasant and the brushed aluminum accent on the dash is a welcome touch.

The cabin styling is getting mixed reviews however with some minor gripes. The piano black plastic around the gear selector is a fingerprint and dust magnet, as is the touchscreen. The centre console is complex with a myriad of configurations. I like this as a general rule because it means we can store lots of things separately but I’m perplexed by the lid. It looks like it should close all the way forward yet it doesn’t.

The wireless charging pad is handy if your phone accepts wireless charging and the USB cable routing system is handy if you put on cable in once and then leave it there. In that instance the cable is well hidden and out of harm’s way – but it’s a big fiddle to get back in there.

I’m going to cover off the infotainment system in high detail in Long-term Test Update 3, including how the Android Auto system functions. Right now I’m having teething problems getting the Android Auto to operate consistently and still working through my well-documented frustrations with Honda’s touchscreen system. Time will tell if familiarity mitigates those issues – Senior Editor Jonathan Yarkony expects it will.

The dashboard is fantastic regardless. The instrument cluster is glorious to look at and feels hyper-modern while still giving me all the information I need. It’s easy to read in all lighting situations which is important to me. The steering wheel feels nice in the hand and overall the cabin feels richer than this trim’s $28,695 price tag. Sound quality through the stereo has been impressive also with the Fugees coming through loud and clear with no body shake or distortion despite the heavy bass riffs.

Given the weather we’ve yet to put it through its paces truly in terms of handling but I can attest to the Civic’s ease of driving and maneuverability. Ikea trips are less stressful when your car is comfortable in the crowded parking lot.

On the way out of Ikea I noticed that the rear seats can only be folded down via the trunk. You have to pull the handles in the trunk to knock the seat down flat, and once you do the opening between the boot and the passenger cabin is quite tight. Likewise the rear door openings are small – really small. A crate that fit easily into the passenger seat was impossible to wedge through the rear seat door – so it had to ride shotgun with me.

Next update Pritch will weigh in on exactly why the Civic is the 2016 Canadian Car of the Year.