It’s not much of a stretch to say Honda Canada would not be what it is today were it not for its wildly popular Civic. The fact that the Civic has been built in the company’s Alliston, Ontario assembly plant since 1988 is no accident – few nations have embraced it like Canadians have.
All told, Honda Canada has sold more than 1.89 million Civics here since its inception in 1969, and it has been the nation’s best-selling car for the past 18 years.
Against this backdrop of long-running success, Honda began to roll out the 10th generation Civic sedan late last year, which will be followed by a coupe, five-door hatchback (the first hatch since the UK-built 2002-05 SiR) and a European-sourced Type R.
Unlike the eighth and ninth gens, which were closely related, the 10th generation marks a significant sea change for the Civic.
Sporting a completely new design, the 2016 Honda Civic Sedan is 50 mm wider, 20 mm lower and has a wheelbase that is 30 mm longer than the outgoing car. Greater use of high-strength steel in the chassis (now 12 per cent of its overall mass) has improved torsional rigidity by 25 per cent and improved aerodynamic efficiency by 12 per cent. It’s also 31 kg lighter.
In addition, Honda engineers have made significant gains in reducing cabin noise via better body-sealing techniques and the use of flush-mounted acoustic glass, triple-sealed doors and a tightly sealed engine bay.
From a packaging perspective, it’s all about getting low, which is bound to please Civic enthusiasts. The driver’s hip point is 25 mm lower, which has been made possible through the use of a lower floor and engine location. The Civic also sports an all new front strut / rear multilink suspension that includes thicker front and rear stabilizer bars. New variable gear ratio steering is also standard.
Powering the LX and EX trims is a 2.0L 16-valve DOHC i-VTEC four-cylinder, which is mated to either a six—speed manual or a CVT. Output is rated at 158 horsepower and 138 lb-ft of torque.
While the 2.0L engine sits firmly within the Honda four-cylinder norm, the all-new 1.5L direct-injected turbocharged 16-valve DOHC inline four-cylinder is definitely ground-breaking. It is the first turbocharged engine to be offered in a Honda and its output (174 hp, 162 lb-ft of torque) is the highest for a non-Si Civic sold in North America. The 1.5 is mated to a CVT only, and is standard issue on EX-T and Touring trims.
In terms of design, the Civic looks more Accord-like than ever before, particularly when viewed from the front. Inline LED headlights – a Honda / Acura staple these days – dominate a face that features a pronounced chrome-finished nose with a belt buckle-sized H in the centre, and a trapezoidal air intake below the license plate holder. It is a dramatic departure, to say the least, from the ovoid-shaped Civics of the past two generations.
This car is sleeker, but more sharply creased, with pronounced character lines, flared wheel arches and LED taillights that remind this writer of boomerangs. If Honda wanted to make the Civic’s appearance more distinctive – especially when one goes whizzing by at night – it has succeeded.
On the inside, the spacious interior feels like it’s come a long way. From the well-bolstered and very comfortable heated leather seats, to its gorgeous and easy-to-read TFT instrument display, to its elegant and easy to use infotainment interface, the Civic has an unmistakable up-market feel. A knob or a couple of buttons would be greatly appreciated for the audio controls, but it’s a minor complaint.
Most of my time was spent driving the high-end Touring, and a few things are apparent with the new 1.5L / CVT powertrain. Firstly, this combination makes the Civic bad fast (particularly in Sport mode) where the rev-happy engine screams with delight under hard acceleration. Even in regular Drive, the Civic feels responsive and peppy.
While I’m not a huge fan of CVTs generally (given their tendency to feel a bit rubbery), the one in the Civic works quite well. Power delivery is linear and precise and quite responsive to one’s right foot.
From a handling perspective, the Civic sedan has me excited for what’s to come with the Si. The lighter, lower and more powerful 1.5 Civic feel very connected to the road. Ride quality is good, noise is well-suppressed (except under hard acceleration and on really bad roads), and the handling feels secure and nicely balanced. Getting out of shape in this car requires some effort.
In all, the 2016 Civic is a major leap forward for a car that had been more or less travelling down the same road since the introduction of the eighth gen in 2006.
It was time to chart a new course and, while some might feel it might have gone too far (at least in terms of its exterior design), Honda should be applauded for taking a daring and innovative approach with its most important car.
BY THE NUMBERS | $155 /HP (CALCULATED W/ MSRP) | 116 HP/L 119.2 HP/TON | 7.6 KG/HP | 6.7 L/100 KM (CVT – COMBINED)
2016 Honda Civic Touring
BASE PRICE: $26,990
ENGINE: 1.5L turbocharged I-4
HORSEPOWER: 174 hp @ 5,500 rpm
TORQUE: 162 lb-ft @ 1,800-5,500 rpm
DRY WEIGHT: 1,324 kg
CONFIGURATION: front-engine / front-wheel drive
FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (CITY / HWY. / COMB.): 7.6 / 5.5 / 6.7 L/100 km
WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 36 / 60,000
ALTERNATIVES: Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, Mazda3, Toyota Corolla, VW Jetta