I was watching Wheeler Dealers the other night and Ed was refurbishing a yellow Honda Civic CVCC hatchback. Despite considerable innovation that allowed 41/50-MPG city/hwy and passed the EPA’s emissions laws without a catalytic converter, it was a simple little car that served owners like finely-tuned sewing machines. It was nonchalant in excellence, multiplied by millions, that has kept Civic near the top of its class for over 40 years.
These happy daydreams fall on the backdrop of the all-new Civic Coupe – a two-door, unlike Civics past, that packs cool in all the right places and power to make it all zoom (or at least zip). My 13-year-old nephew thinks the coupe looks pretty sporty. I’d even call it sexy, but he’s right. Pull yourself up off the floor; we’re actually talking about a Civic.
Unpack it in Touring trim and it greets with a wide chrome bar grille prow, squinty LED headlamps, aggressive lower facial with hulking air intakes, and a short sculpted hood that rises between flared fenders. Strong wheel arches, chiseled bodysides, and curt fastback roofline plants this little party. LED taillamps wrap the back like futuristic bat wings. Completely re-drawn, yet a shadow of its former self, the Civic moves from reliable date to hip playmate.
A couple of Acuras would do well to crib the Civic’s interior. Soft-touch surfaces, faux turned aluminum expanses on the dash/doors, and layered effect are pretty fancy. Replacing the two-tier instrument cluster is a large flatscreen display focused on a tachometer encircling a digital speedometer. The center stack contains a floating touchscreen and dual-zone automatic climate control. Deep storage cubbies under the armrest and additional space behind the console pack the presents. Heated leather seats, thick leather-wrapped steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, sunroof, and USBs add luxury.
My fingers couldn’t help mistaking the dual zone automatic climate control knobs for volume and tuning, and I really wish Honda would just give us proper knobs for volume and tuning, but the touchscreen scrolls like an iPad and the swipe-sensitive volume control on the steering wheel is cool. Honda has struggled to develop an intuitive infotainment system for years, and while this one is not stellar, it’s livable. Navigation, 450 watts of premium audio, Apple CarPlay®, and Android Auto™ compatibility took me off the whining.
Base Civics come with a 158 horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 30/41-MPG city/hwy, but that’s not what we got. Our upscale Touring edition came with a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that churns out 174 horsepower and increases fuel economy to 31/41-MPG city/hwy. Unfortunately, both engines pair with noisy continuously-variable transmissions that do little to elicit the best from either engine. I can’t help thinking how nice the turbo-four would be all cozied up with a six-, seven-, or eight-speed transmission.
And Honda gave the Civic coupe a chassis worthy of its engine. Toss it wherever you want because the suspension and steering are up to your antics. Honda’s always feel like they were engineered by people who actually like driving – even when they’re engineering mini-vans, sedans, and compact cars. The Civic rumbles over rough pavement without drama, seems to anticipate the next apex, and keeps everybody comfortable over long expanses of pavement. It’s mature -- a car that will keep your morning commute serene, but is willing to play on the weekends.
For me, the Civic Coupe comes full circle. My very first test car, back in July 1999, was a blue Civic Si. That was four generations (and about a thousand test vehicles) ago, and the Civic has progressed at a feverish pace. But, the excellence of performance and build quality I experienced way back then is immediately recognizable. A base price of $19,050 – $27,321 as-tested – serves serious warning to the Chevy Cruze, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, Toyota Corolla, Mazda3, and Nissan Sentra.
2016 Honda Civic Coupe
- Five-passenger, FWD coupe
- Powertrain: 174 hp 1.5-liter Turbo-4, CVT
- Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
- Wheels f/r: 17”/17” alloy
- Brakes f/r: disc/disc
- Must-have features: Style, Handling
- Fuel economy: 31/41 mpg city/hwy
- Assembly: Greensburg, IN
- Base/as-tested price: $19,050/27,321