The Honda Civic Touring Is Packed With Technology and SpaceMar 24th, 2016
I LEARNED to drive a manual transmission in a first-generation Honda Civic when others in my driver’s ed class turned up their noses at such a puny machine. It came to the United States market in 1973 with a 50-horsepower engine.
My classmates preferred training on the Oldsmobile Cutlasses and Pontiac Grand Ams. Who could have guessed those American brands would disappear and that sprout from Japan would flourish?
Honda has wheeled out Generation 10 of its Civic, correcting some of the material and design missteps of the last one. (For me, the evolving generations are sobering reminders of which high school reunion is on the horizon.)
This is a formidable competitor to the likes of the Toyota Corolla, the Mazda 3, the Ford Focus and the Chevy Cruze. More powerful, comfortable, spacious, fuel-efficient and stylish, the Civic runs on a new platform. The car is some three inches longer and two inches wider than the previous model, yet it weighs around 70 pounds less. Kudos to the engineers.
A new Touring model features technology that even the higher-end Accord lacked a few years ago, such as adaptive cruise control, auto braking and an aggressive assist system to keep the car in lanes. It’s wired for Android Auto and Apple Car Play, too.
Throw in heated leather chairs and a 450-watt sound system, and this package as tested has a price of $27,335. Base LX models start at $19,475 with a 2-liter, 4-cylinder engine coupled to a 6-speed manual transmission.
The Civic Touring scoots briskly, powered by a 1.5-liter turbo 4 with 174-horsepower and 162 pound-foot of torque on standard-grade gas. It is rated by the E.P.A. at 31 city and 42 highway; I got 29 miles per gallon in mostly city driving, though I tend to drive aggressively.
The turbo is coupled to a continuously variable transmission that mercifully banishes most of the common elastic C.V.T. dynamics. A sport mode? Yes, but no manual-shift ability. It can go from zero to 60 m.p.h. in just under seven seconds, according to Car and Driver. But drivers in rainy climates like Seattle take note: The Firestone tires don’t clutch well on wet pavement.
Hard cornering reveals some understeer, but the Civic is sprightly with brake torque vectoring and road feel through the steering wheel. Although driving enthusiasts will turn to Mazda or the coming Civic Si for handling, the Civic’s quiet, comfortable dynamic is what most car buyers want.
Slim A pillars offer terrific visibility for drivers. Signal right, and the LCD screen reveals blind spots on the highway, but some may find this function distracting in city driving.
The previous two-tiered dashboard seemingly inspired by Jean-Luc Picard’s captain’s chair has been banished to the neutral zone. Materials and finish are a solid step up from the last generation. Attention Honda: I still plead for a knob for the sound system’s volume. The touch surface is dreadful.
My wife used to know a Honda seat blindfolded, though not in a positive way, but the improved chair contours get her approval. The touch-screen user interface is fine, but a bit busy.
There’s no need to upgrade to the Accord for decent back-seat room. The Civic allows most small families to live large. The rear is spacious enough for two average-size adults, and three shouldn’t be much of a squeeze. The Touring gets heated seats in back, though Kia and Hyundai have long featured this.
Honda once again manages to bend the space-time continuum to expand its trunk room. On average, the Corolla, Mazda 3 and others in this class swallow five warehouse-sized packages of toilet paper. Seven slide into the Civic trunk (though its hinge arms will squeeze the Charmin). If split-folding seat backs don’t offer enough flexibility, a hatchback model is returning. Huzzah!
The Civic’s silhouette has a vague resemblance to the discontinued Honda Crosstour but dresses far more fashionably. C-shape taillamps bridge into the trunk lid, and the rear pillar gets a dimensional flourish.
Civic owners are plentiful and loyal. A car this good gives them no reason to stray and should draw many new owners — perhaps my former classmates — to the fold.