The Daily Drivers: 2016 Honda Civic Touring

Published Feb. 4, 2016

The previous generation Honda Civic, which seemed tired (design) and uninspired (cabin materials), stalled its reputation as the class leader among compact cars. Now comes the all-new 2016 Civic, which we drove the same week it was named the North American Car of the Year. Does it deserve such praise? We think so.

Appearance: Peter owns a 2010 Civic and this new model makes his look pedestrian. In our top-of-the-line Touring model, the grille has a dominant chrome bar that extends over the slender LED headlights that resemble the Jewel Eye lamps of Honda's upscale Acura brand. The body of this new Civic — about 3 inches longer and 2 inches wider — makes a further bold statement with its fender bulges, sharply creased sheet metal and short, coupelike rear. Setting it off: 17-inch twisted fan-blade alloys. Dare we say it: The Civic is now edgy.

Performance: Our tester came with the turbocharged 1.5-liter, 174-horsepower 4-cylinder — the brand's first U.S. turbo. It's paired with a continuously variable transmission. This is one of the few times we didn't mind a CVT, which works well with the new turbo. Honda says the CVT also is new and offers a more natural feel than previous transmissions. All we know: It's less noisy and rev-happy, with acceleration that is strong across the RPM band, which made Lyra wish for paddle shifters. The bonus: Civic gets an estimated MPG of 31/42, which borders on hybrid territory. (Even with a turbo, this Civic takes regular unleaded.) The handling is lively and confident — even when you throw some twisty corners at it. The steering is light. Honda threw all manner of chassis improvements at the Civic and that is evident in its composed and bump-absorbing ride, which rivals some midsize sedans. The five-seater comes in five trim levels, with the bottom two getting a regular 2.0-liter iVTEC 4-cylinder. (A manual transmission is available in the base model.)

Interior: The first thing you notice about the roomy cabin is what's lacking from previous Civics: the busy double-tiered dash. (Although Peter liked it for the digital speedometer that was at about eye level.) Now the layout is simplified, with a 7-inch center screen. The infotainment system provided us with our few complaints. Some examples: There's still no physical volume knob. You instead have to rely on a virtual button that's difficult to use while driving or use the steering wheel control. Note to carmakers: You don't have to look away to turn a volume knob that's located sensibly. Also, the system is now Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible, but Peter found the CarPlay could be glitchy. Besides those quibbles, the cabin is greatly improved with quality soft plastics, textured finishes and faux-satin metal accents that give off an Acura look. Lots of head- and legroom, even in the rear, and comfortable seats complete the package.

Our 3 favorites

Peter Couture

Big: The trunk is much bigger than it looks from the outside. Honda claims it will hold four soft suitcases or four golf bags.

Bad: I can't wait to see the sporty Civic SI and the '18 high-performance Type R.

Bold: The Civic has C-shaped (for Civic) taillights.

Lyra Solochek

Design: The new redesign injects attitude and edginess.

Deal: The base starts at $18,640, and our loaded tester comes in at $27,335. Not bad considering all the included features.

Drive: With the new engine and good handling, the Civic is fun again.

The bottom line: The Honda Civic is back as the leader of the compact sedan class. Watch for the coupe, hatchback and performance models on the way.