Is the new Civic a great little coupe, or the end of the automobile as we know it?
A bit over-dramatic? Maybe not. We’ll get there. But first…
Honda recently introduced and all-new Civic Sedan that marked the 10th generation of feel-good affordable Honda sedans. And over the years, the Civic has had its ups and downs, but it’s always been pretty good and sometimes brilliant. The new one gets a very, very, very good rating from us.
And like before, there’s a Coupe version on offer as well. In this case, we prefer the Coupe. To our eyes, the proportions work better. Sharing the sedan’s 106.3 wheelbase, but 5 inches shorter than the new Sedan, and an inch shorter than the previous Coupe, the wheels get pushed out to the corners, and with a wider track front and rear, the 2-door gets aggressive, hunkered-down look.
Our top-of-the-line Touring tester adds to the appeal with unique 17-inch alloys, LED headlights and turn signals and chrome trim to make it visually pop. Wrapped around the metallic Aegean Blue that seems to be the in color for the Coupe this year, this is a good looking car.
OK, we might as well get to it. There’s been some controversy. The car’s got a bubble butt. We like it. If you like them, you’ll like it too. ‘Nuff said.
More important is what your butt thinks, and we think it will find that it’s nicely connected to the road. Powering out tester is the new 1.5-liter 4-cylinder turbo – yes turbo! – that pumps out an impressive 174 hp. Although we’d prefer a 6-speed manual with this motor (so far only available on lower trim level, non-turbo Civics) the standard CVT works well with the turbo and makes smooth and easy progress.
Putting the lever in Sport gives a much sharper response, and the transmission simulates upshifts for a sporty feel. So sporty in fact, that we found ourselves naturally reaching for the paddle shifters. Argh! Paddle shifters not available on the Civic.
Which is probably to remind you that this is the fun-to-drive Civic line, and that the new hard-edge enthusiast Si models are still to come. We can’t wait.
Another thing wetting our performance whistle is the well-tuned suspension. Firmer than the sedan, the ride quality remains good, but it feels tighter, more buttoned down, and the fat leather-wrapped wheel is hooked up to quick steering. It’s a fun car to toss around. And when you hit your daily commute, it’s impressively quiet and refined as well – long a Civic tradition.
We found our Coupe a comfortable companion in the day-to-day. Like the Sedan, the new simplified dash is handsome and light-years ahead of the previous model’s multi-layered display. The info-tainment system works flawlessly, although we still want a volume knob!
Honda has tried to make the peace with a neat little switch on the steering wheel – you can hold one of the ends and the volume will ratchet up or down. Or, swipe your finger across the corrugated middle section, and volume will glide up or down. It’s cool, works well, and we still want a volume knob. ‘Nuff Said, part two.
Other cleverness includes a center console that lets trays and cupholders slide around to fit your needs – and will fit a tablet. Ahead of the shifter is a neat storage cubby with a cutout that lets you feed your charger/USB to the storage cubby below and behind the shifter, and an electronic parking brake that removes the need for a lever or pedal. Sorry, no handbrake turns here.
The seats are notable, although we were initially bummed that there was no adjustable lumbar support. They’re so well shaped and comfortable, heated and covered in soft leather, it was easy to get comfortable and stay that way, even after long stints behind the wheel.
Those in back will really appreciate over 5 inches of more rear legroom vs. the previous Coupe, but those low-slung lines mean you feel a bit pinched in headroom front and rear. The trunk is huge, and if you need more space, the 60/40 split rear seats fold easily.
Okay Ben, you say; sounds like a perfectly-nice and enjoyable Coupe.
What’s this bit about the end of the automobile as we know it?
The big topic right now in car-world is Autonomous (self-driving) cars. We can see their good points – convenience, comfort, reducing mind-numbing commutes, and their potential bad points – you’re not driving, you’re not invited to drive, and just shut up and let our automotive overlords deliver you safely without you dumb humans gumming up the works.
Promises have been made by manufacturers that we could be seeing autonomous cars as soon as 2020. But it seemed that the mostly likely players would be the luxury players at first.
So what about the Civic? Well first of all, the Coupe starts impressively cheap – $19,050. And our loaded Touring just $26,125.
What’s really impressive on the Touring is that includes Honda Sensing, which includes Adaptive Cruise Control with Collision Mitigation Braking System to keep you a preset distance from traffic, and slow down, even stop, if it senses a collision is probable. Adding to that is Lane Keeping Assist System which will actually help steer the Civic to keep it in its lane, and Road Departure Mitigation, which can not only steer, but also use brake pressure to help keep you from drifting out of your lane.
Right now we’re in the awkward middle stage of these technologies. You’re not supposed to take your hands off the wheel and let the Civic drive – which kind of begs the question “why bother”, but you can tell, the systems are learning how to make it all work. Hopefully we’re not crash test dummies for the greater good…
Adaptive Cruise has been around for awhile now, and it’s getting very good. The lane assist is newer, and in our tester it still seemed to get flummoxed and confused at times. (Note: we had a CR-V with similar technology, that proved much more competent). Give it time.
At the same time, as drivers, we’re on the learning curve too, getting to understand (not too hard) and trust (much harder) this technology and hand put our soft and squishy bodies in cold mechanical hands.
Which brings us back to the Civic. It is absolutely amazing that this level of technology is on a $26,000 car. That means a lot of buyers – not just fat cats – will have access to it. Even more impressive, is that this advanced tech is so simple and instinctive to use. That’s a Honda trait.
Best of all, the Coupe is a great car to drive in its own right. So there’s hope for the future – affordable cars that will be able to do our self-driving bidding, but when we want to drive, are still completely enjoyable.
So maybe it’s the end in one way. But a bright new beginning in another.
At least until Cyborgs show up from the future. Then all bets are off.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.