Honda has a lot riding on the shoulders of the 2020 Civic sedan and hatchback. While the Civic still commands a sizable chunk of sales in the compact car market, it’s no secret that the nameplate has felt the pressure in recent years from a resurgence in CUV and SUV demand in the U.S. While the Civic Si and the range topping Type R have helped the Civic bolster its impressive performance credentials, the mainstream Civic has had to use a completely different set of skills to help it maintain its lofty position in Honda’s broader sales pie. The 10th generation Civic is certainly off to a good start, with the current generation selling over 1 million units since it was unleashed in 2015. This is second only to the CR-V, and the Civic’s role and longevity in this segment are very impressive in their own respective ways. But can the updated 2019 Civic Touring help maintain this strong sales push with its revamped formula? We were keen to find out.
Refreshed Styling Brings Smoothness To A Very Jumbled Canvas:
When the current generation Civic first made its appearance several years ago, the immediate thing that buyers noticed was the exterior styling. Looking like it leapt straight out of the pages of a Japanese manga comic, the Civic ditched its predecessor’s dull looks, and instead doubled down on aggression. The end result certainly drew attention, but also divided opinions on whether the Civic formally succeeded in this role. For 2019, the bulk of this very busy canvas remains unchanged, but Honda designers did make some much needed tweaks to the front fascia. The large chrome bar in the front grille is now black, and the lower bumper has been reworked to help it look smoother and more mature. The new face certainly looks more balanced than before, and we even like the way it meshes better with the eye catching C-shaped taillights, which remained untouched. As expected, these tweaks work best when paired with certain colors, with our Molten Lava Pearl hued tester looking quite handsome in its own right. When viewed against rivals such as the Toyota Camry and the Volkswagen Jetta, our tester certainly has the edge in outright aggression, though the Jetta does manage to look decidedly more premium than the Civic when optioned correctly.
Revised Interior Improves Its Ergonomic Game:
While the exterior styling of our tester only received a light dusting of the pixie dust for the new model year, the bulk of the changes are found in the interior of the Civic, where a number of key changes have been made to address some of the Civic’s interior warts. The audio system for example finally gets rid of the annoyingly frustrating touch capacitive slider bar, and instead replaces that novel component with a traditional volume knob, while a column of all new physical buttons above it also replace the old capacitive units. The touchscreen portion of our tester’s Display Audio System escaped the update blitz, but we wish that it would be upgraded to match some of the newer units found in offerings such as the Honda Insight hybrid. Reducing unwanted cabin noise was another welcome effort for 2019, with all Civics featuring increased amounts of sound deadening material in the floor, trunk, and front fenders along with an all new material that covers the rear fenders. The difference between the 2019 Civic and an older Civic may be hard to discern at first glance, but during our time with our tester, we noticed that there is less road noise at freeway speeds than before, along with slightly improved urban driving character. Along with the changes, we were also pleased with just how much of the interior’s strong points were left alone for 2019. Our tester managed to impress us with the commendable amounts of head and legroom that are present, while the leather seats in our example (lower trims feature cloth thrones) impressed us with the good amounts of lower and upper back support that they had on hand.
Things aren’t perfect however, with rear passengers suffering from tight leg room. Headroom also takes a bit of a hit due to the sloping rear roof, but that latter item was only noticed when we had taller passengers back there. The sloping rear window and the chunky rear pillars do leave the Civic with several notable blind spots. Our tester came with Honda’s LaneWatch technology which mounted a camera in the drivers mirror. While this function proved to be a welcome aide when doing certain lane changes on the freeway, switching to the right lane still required the traditional glance in the rear view and front passenger mirror before making the switch. Honda has revealed recently that this particular feature is being phased out, and will eventually be replaced with conventional and decidedly cheaper blindspot technology in future models. One final complaint centers around the audio system, with the speakers in our tester not doing a very good job with higher treble notes, which gave them a very tinny resonance. The opposite was true with lower notes, with bass and baritone notes sounding much better, especially with certain tunes playing on the radio.
Fuel Sipping Engine Lacks Beef:
While the updates for 2019 focus on addressing issues with the exterior and interior, powertrains were carried over untouched for 2019 with all three resuming their respective tours of duty. In the case of our Touring grade tester, it arrived with the 1.5 liter turbocharged four cylinder which makes 174 horsepower, and is mated to a CVT as its sole transmission offering. Power is more than adequate when it is allowed to spend time in the sweet spot of the rev band, but low end torque shows up in brief spurts, and that does blunt acceleration slightly though we still managed to record a 6.8 second sprint to 60 mph during our time with the car. While it is not as poised and confident as a Civic Si, we were pleased with the way the engine and the CVT meshed so effortlessly together, with the CVT doing its best to make sure that the engine is in an optimum spot for maximum use of power. With the Toyota Corolla still stubbornly clinging to naturally aspirated powerplants, and both the Chevrolet Cruze and the Ford Focus no longer in production in the U.S. the Civic is one of the few remaining compacts that Americans can turn to for some for of turbocharged fun.
Handling in our tester however proved to be the biggest surprise of all. We admit it’s not a track ready Type R, but the Touring makes a commendable effort at providing a bit of excitement in the daily commute. The leather wrapped steering wheel falls nicely into your hands, and the electrically assisted steering rack itself delivers a good amount of feedback, though like other compact sedans, the boost here is a bit too much for any really demanding spirited jaunts through backroads, but sweeping freeway on ramps or the occasional switchback should be no problem for the Civic Touring. Ride quality in our tester was very well sorted, with the suspension doing a good job delivering a smooth ride especially over rougher sections of the roads that dotted our Metro Detroit commute. Braking was strong and equally composed, and we truly appreciated how much feedback is avalible from the pedal especially when stopping from higher speeds.
A key trait that has always helped the Civic withstand shifting sales forces time and time again, is the sheer amount of value that is baked into the design, with Touring models like our example starting at $27,400. Our option free tester had a final sticker of $28,220 which included the $920 destination fee. This pricing puts it right in line with the Toyota Corolla, as well as the Volkswagen Jetta and the Kia Forte. However, the Honda does lose out to Mazda3s at this price level, which feature superior interior design as well as overall quality. On the other side of the coin, the Mazda does not offer a turbocharged engine, and the Civic also has two performance trims that are spicier than the Mazda3 in the event that consumers need more muscle than what the Touring can dish out. Another prime contender is the Kia Forte which also has superior interior quality and even manages to do a better job delivering a solid value argument with its interior and options packaging (GT model excluded since its targeted towards the Civic Si).
But when its all said and done, the 2019 Honda Civic still manages to rise above its rivals, and retain its benchmark status. While growing up is sometimes a very hard thing to do, the Civic manages to embrace this stage of its life with pride, and as a result, it transforms into an even better compact offering than it ever was before.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.