First Drive: 2016 Honda Civic CoupeApr 1th, 2016
Honda’s sprightly turbocharged Civic Coupe would make Kermit the Frog proud
By Brendan McAleer
Whistler, B.C. – Hi-ho, Kermit the Honda here! I gotta tell ya friends, it’s not easy being a frog. I mean, a coupe. If you’re a coupe, you’ve only got two little doors to fit your friends. If you’re a coupe, you’ve got to be more stylish than a sedan but you’ve still got to be practical, because you’re a Honda.
But hey, if you’re a new 2016 Honda Civic Coupe like me, then you’ve got the best buds in the world to help you do your job. Like my old pal Guy Melville-Pearce, my lead exterior designer. And my other good friend John Hwang, who helped develop my engineering. They had to co-operate and work together to help me be the best frog I could be – I mean coupe, again. Being green isn’t easy, but as I’ve always said, “With good friends you can’t lose.”
Good friends, green paint and a turbocharger. It’s a winning combination indeed, and Honda’s formula for its new two-door Civic variant. While the compact coupe market is small – just 10 per cent of all Civic sales in Canada and 20 per cent in the U.S. – it’s still a profitable segment. With most of the engineering already completed for the Civic sedan, lopping off a couple of doors in favour of a bit more style is the work of but five minutes with Bondo and a belt-sander, right?
Let’s come back to our two friends, Guy the Designer and John the Engineer. Guy has longish hair, John’s is short. Guy is wearing a fashionable mechanical watch, John is wearing a tough and pragmatic digital Casio G-Shock. Guy’s in a sweater, John’s in a suit jacket. Both are wearing blue jeans.
Consider these two the left and right hemispheres of the brain that created this latest Honda coupe, and it’s not just a sedan with two fewer doors. The Coupe is shorter in length, with a lowered seating position and lower roof compared to the sedan. There are changes to the suspension tuning, from damping through to anti-roll bars, and the Coupe is supposed to be the enthusiast Civic owner’s choice: That same Honda reliability, dressed in a party frock and ready to hit the town.
Building a car like this is surprisingly difficult. For instance, lopping 15 centimetres or so off the sedan’s front overhang eliminated a certain amount of crumple zone envelope, which meant that John the Engineer had to figure out a way to get some of the space back, designing a new way for the engine to break away in a frontal collision.
Thus, Kermit as you see him represents several years of design and engineering teams working together to balance a need for visual friskiness without losing practicality. From front, front three-quarter and side profiles, it’s a home run. It’s like a little Accord Coupe with a touch more attitude, and the flip of the spoiler that’s also part of the rear taillights is cheekily wonderful.
The rear treatment is a little more of an acquired taste. There’s a bit of Accord Crosstour going on here, and while I’m sure the aerodynamics and safety ratings will be good – and the 343-litre trunk space is useful – I would have preferred a simpler treatment.
Inside, the Coupe is much the same as its sister Civics. Actually, it’s exactly the same, apart from vestigial back seats that should only really be used in a pinch. That means, dependent on trim, you get a nicely comfortable cabin focused around a seven-inch touchscreen display handling most infotainment and climate control functions. As with the new Pilot, the Civic benefits from improved graphics and quicker loading speeds. It still needs a good old-fashioned volume knob, though.
Testers were fully-loaded Touring models, which include the complete Honda Sensing suite of semi-autonomous driving aids. In the cut-throat stop-and-go getting out of Vancouver’s downtown core, Honda’s clever lane-changing right-side camera made double-checking for cyclists easy. Once out on the wide and sweeping sections of the Sea to Sky Highway, lane-keeping assist helps keep you planted in your lane.
Power comes from either a 158-horsepower, 2.0-litre inline-four in LX models, which start at $19,455, or a 174-horsepower, 1.5-litre turbo-four on EX-T models and above. This latter is a great little engine, sprightly and combining good low-end torque –162 lb.-ft. from 1,700 to 5,500 rpm – with a little VTEC kick at the top end. While a CVT is the only option for the 2016 model, a six-speed manual will be available on all turbocharged Civics by 2017.
Neat-looking, practical, feature-packed – but the Civic built a fanbase for its fun-to-drive spirit. On a serpentine backroad that shoots off the main highway and runs to nowhere, the fun has returned. Even with a CVT, ordinarily not an enthusiast’s choice, the Honda feels light and lively, and eager to go. Turn-in is quick, grip is decent and there’s joy to be found at the red part of the rev range.
And yet, it’s also friendly to drive and easy to live with when the pavement gets rough. If you’re a Honda fan and you’ve been looking for a stylish little road trip companion, then good news: There’s charm and personality here, and it runs deeper than that bright green paint.