Saturday, November 16, 2019

Everything Done Well—and Some Things Done Very Well

Where it thrives–out on the road

In the battle to sell cars, Honda has never taken the path of the lowest price. Instead, it has traveled a higher road and earned the reputation of quality, reliability and high-tech innovation. The latest 2016 Honda Civic Coupe is no exception.

The all-new Civic Coupe followed the sedan onto dealer lots, but a Civic Coupe is nothing new—Honda has sold nearly two million of them so far. In its quest to build a better-than-the-previous model, which lacked a spark of race-bred intensity, they produced a very long list of significant changes for this 10th-generation edition. In the face of growing competition, the 2016 Honda Civic Coupe does everything well, and some things very well.

Starting off, there’s some exciting news under the hood for a change—two new four-cylinder engines, one with a first time in the U.S. turbocharger. Constructed on an all-new platform, the 2016 Civic, both coupe and sedan, boasts new edgy styling, a quieter, larger interior that wouldn’t look out of place in an Acura, and a host of other improvements.

But wait, there’s more. As more Americans realize the sensibility of a hatchback, there’s now a Civic five-door hatch, and for the tuner crowd Honda is finally bringing the sinister Type R hatchback to our shores with some 300 horsepower early next year.

The Coupe Lineup

For 2016, there are five trim levels for the Honda Coupe: LX, LX-P, EX-T, EX (that’s a lot of Xs) and the top line Touring model, our test driver. The base LX with a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission starts at $19,050, a $835 destination charge. At the top end, the Touring sticker price with the turbocharged engine and continuously-variable transmission (CVT) starts at $26,125.

Regardless of trim or engines, all 2016 Honda Coupes join Smarticd’s 40 mpg Club. Turbocharged models with the CVT score the highest EPA ratings with 42 miles-per-gallon on the highway, 31 mpg city and 35 mpg combined. Civics with the 2.0-liter four with a CVT have an estimated 41 mpg on the highway, 31 mpg city and 35 mpg combined.

A Look Under The Hood

Power and efficiency under the hood

Powering the LX and LX-P Civic Coupe is an all-new 2.0-liter dual overhead cam (DOHC) four-cylinder engine. It produces 158 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 138 pounds-feet of torque at 4,200 rpm, making it the most powerful base engine offered in the Civic’s history.

Want a little more zest from the coupe? Also new is a 1.5-liter turbocharged four. It also is a DOHC engine with Honda’s dual variable cam timing that churns out 174 horsepower at 6,000 rpm with a peak torque of 162 pounds feet from 1,700 to 5,500 rpm. With these two new engines it marks the first time in Civic’s 43-year history that no single-cam engine is available.

If you like to shift gears, the base LX with the 2.0-liter engine is the only model that offers a six-speed manual transmission. All other models are standard with a new CVT, a transmission design that Honda introduced in 1996 on the Civic HX model. There’s a Sport mode that delays upshifting for more available power and provides greater engine braking. The CVT provides the optimum gear ratio for the driving conditions, and doesn’t have that disconnected “rubber-band” feel like some CVTs do.

It Looks Like A Civic, But…

If you’ve grown accustomed to Honda’s usual glacially slow rate of change, take a second look at the photos. Yes, it still looks like a Civic, but Honda transformed the Civic Coupe and gave it a character of its own. To call this 10th generation Civic a compact econobox would be like calling BMW’s M3 a compact-size European sedan.

The Coupe’s wheelbase is longer by more than an inch compared to the sedan, yet overall length drops by more than five-inches, all of it coming off the backside. The two-door has a sportier design than the sedan, with taught, tidy proportions. The hood features sharply defined character lines, drawing the eye forward and down to the Civic’s aggressive new face, highlighted by a chrome-plated Honda “wing” that runs the full width of the front. Honda accompanies that bold stroke with abbreviated front and rear overhangs and bulging wheel arches that cling to the wheels.

Inside, the odd double deck dashboard is gone and designers used that real estate for a wide and uniform looking dash like the sedan, yet with a little more flair. Instrument gauges are now more traditional in their setup, but no less far-reaching, with plenty of digital readouts. Steering wheel controls work well, which is a good thing because on our Touring there were few other buttons or knobs, just a screen with touch sensitive areas for controlling most everything. High quality, soft-to-the-touch materials are everywhere—the instrument panel, front door inserts and sash and door and the large thickly padded center armrest. As expected from Honda, build quality is simply superb.

Front seats—already good—have gotten better and more comfortable, and the heated leather eight-way adjustable driver’s seat made it simple to find a good driving position. There is ample room for the driver and front seat passenger, and the Coupe actually feels like a small midsize car, which technically it is.

A Back Seat Surprise—Room

Room for adults in back

It is a two-door, so our two six-foot tall grandsons grumbled a bit when making their way into the back seat. These are big, wide-shouldered guys, but once seated, they both said they were comfortable. With temperatures dipping into the low 30s, they particularly liked that the back seat also was heated.

The Civic Coupe may appear to be a hatchback, but it has a traditional trunk with a cargo space of 11.9 cubic-feet, up slightly from the outgoing car.

Our Civic Coupe came standard with premium leather seats and leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front AND rear seats, lightning-fast Bluetooth phone link, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and a 10-speaker sound system with subwoofer.

Think about it. Not long ago, all of those features would have been found exclusively on expensive luxury cars. Now they’re on a spacious Civic Touring, priced out the door at $26,960, including handling charges. That price also gets you voice-recognition, remote starting and a seven-inch. electrostatic touchscreen that is loaded with entertainment options, navigation, additional climate controls and vehicle information.

Adding to the Civic Coupe Touring’s value proposition is the standard Honda Sensing, a suite of driver-assists that include forward-collision alert and automatic braking to mitigate frontal collisions; lane-departure warning and self-correcting steering to prevent unintended lane and road departures and adaptive cruise control to maintain a set distance from traffic ahead.

Behind The Steering Wheel

A screen alone; your buttons on on the steering wheel

One of the Civic’s biggest drawing cards has been its ride. This is the most comfortable and confident Civic we’ve driven and a refreshing improvement over the outgoing car, which lost some steam and enjoyment in Honda’s drive to reduce complexity and cost. Noise levels dropped from intrusive to inconspicuous, and acceleration has been elevated from everyday adequate to invigorating.

The turbo-assisted four lagged a bit under hard acceleration, though the Sport mode tightened things, but not so much that you can’t leave it engaged, which I frequently did.  Honda finally figured out the continuously variable transmission. This one acts like a standard transmission, save for the times when I hammered it while merging onto the freeway or passing. Even then, it was fairly quiet.

The 2016 Coupe reintroduces the Civic’s proverbial agility and its front end grips the asphalt stubbornly. The little two-door tracked true at speed, abetted by terrific steering feel and a tight turning circle. It handled most chores with aplomb. Bumps were taken in stride, with good absorbency and little float or wallow. In a world where compact cars are often just driving appliances, the Civic Coupe is actually a lot of fun to drive: it’s peppy, agile and responsive, and I found myself looking for places to go. To whip up my enthusiasm even more, brakes were very efficient with good pedal modulation.

During the week with the Civic Touring, I used both the Eco and Sport modes depending on traffic conditions, terrain and—oh gee, it’s time to have some fun. When I returned the car to Honda the odometer read 200.3 miles and fuel economy registered 37.1 mpg—a couple mpgs above the EPA’s combined rating.

In The Marketplace

Two-door coupes are not high on the list of car shoppers as evidenced by the list of competitive vehicles. In the compact class there is now only one, the Kia Forte coupe — or Koupe, as Kia calls it. It’s a sporty little number that also has a turbocharged engine, a 1.6-liter four that produces 201 horsepower and is offered with a six-speed manual shifter, something that the Civic Coupe will offer at a later date. The Forte’s steering and handling are nicely balanced and the car is sporty enough to challenge the Civic Coupe. The starting price of $19,890 is line with the Honda, but fuel economy of 28 mpg combined is dismal compared Civic’s 35 mpg.

Uncommonly talented, the 2016 Honda Civic Coupe is atop the charts for all-around practically and offers a healthy dose of driving fun. A proven record of reliability, durability and high resale value make this compact two-door one you should test drive if, you are like me, smitten by a coupe’s looks.

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Smarticd is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at [email protected].

Larry E. Hall is Managing Editor & Editor-at-Large at Smarticd. His interest and passion for automobiles began at age 7, cleaning engine parts for his father, a fleet manager for a regional bakery. He has written about cars and the automobile industry for more than 25 years and has focused his attention on “green” cars and advanced technology vehicles. Larry’s articles have been published by Microsoft’s and MSN Autos as their alternative vehicles correspondent and Senior Editor at He is the founding president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association and a member of the Motor Press Guild.

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