I’ve just spent a couple of weeks driving around minty fresh Honda Civics, and the thing that has surprised me the most is how many people have asked “Is that the new Civic?” before going on to talk about how much they love their own Civic. Other cars I’ve driven recently have gotten looks and comments, but I haven’t experienced that kind of story telling in car parks since driving an old Land Rover. The Civic has a die hard following, but there is no equivalent to the Jeep, Land Rover, VW bug or van type family wave with its drivers. A Civic isn’t built for adventure and they’re rarely the source of epic breakdown and repair stories – the exact opposite in fact. But mainly they’re just too common to feel that seeing another one is any sort of event and for the most part Civics have always been quite an unassuming car until a third or fourth owner lowers it, adds a loud exhaust, aftermarket rims and a vibrating number plate.
However, for the tenth generation Honda has gone very bold with the styling and, wether you like it or not, it makes a nice change from complaining all new cars look the same. My concern was that with all the character lines and pointy styling it may not age well, but I’m not so sure now that it’s had time to sit and stare back at me eye to eye. The front is handsome and even in four door configuration the overall shape is sleek to the point it reminds me of our old ’09 Accord Coupe. Even if the creases and rear lights don’t hold up, that overall shape strikes me as timeless.
Touring is the Civics top level trim and the highlight reel of the features it comes with as standard are: The Honda Sensing package, leather trimmed interior, dual zone climate control, heated seats front and rear and a 10 speaker sound system. Look a little closer and the small things that make a difference are there as well. There’s an auto dimming rear view mirror, heated side mirrors, moon roof, LED lights, rain sensing wipers, keyless entry and start as well as remote engine start… I’m sure you get the picture. It’s dipping a toe into luxury car territory but costs under thirty grand with all the practicality, reliability and economy that people love about their Civics. It’s only available in this trim with the CVT, but it is a very good CVT. Around town and in heavy traffic you can just let it the transmission take care of business with very little fuss, but if you want to have fun it’ll keep you in the revs while other cars around you are taking a moment to change gear and losing theirs. If you have passengers and feel inclined, you can treat them to a very smooth ride indeed.
I spent quite a while in heavy freeway traffic and the inside turned out to be a rather pleasant place to be. Honda has definitely reigned in its enthusiasm for interior designing for design sake. Automatic climate control actually worked very well and the seats are good and comfortable. While still not the most intuitive infotainment system around, the current generation is a big step forward from the last and doesn’t quite have the habit of turning me into a grandparent experiencing a smart phone for the first time. It’s also attached to that 10 speaker premium sound system I mentioned, and Initially I actually thought the sub woofer was in the dashboard as that’s where all the sound was coming from. It sounded muddy and I didn’t like it at all. Then the next day I found the setting for DTS Neural Sound, which takes two channel audio and tries to give it a surround sound like quality. That turned the system into something rather decent. Much more rich and distinct, and at 450 watts it can be turned up good and loud.
Looking at the driving dynamics, it’s engaging and enjoyable to drive. After driving the Civic Sport there didn’t seem much point hurling this down a mountain road, but that doesn’t mean it’s not lively. What the Touring does as a package is encourage you to drive however you feel that day, so I did hit the twisties but put some music on, wound down the windows and enjoyed the well controlled ride while exploring some roads I’ve been meaning to check out. The 174 bhp 1.5 litre turbo engine suits the car well and does pack a modest little punch to play with.
Rolling the economy biased Civic Hatch Sport around and then going straight into the loaded up Sedan Touring model was a great way to experience the versatility of the tenth generation car. The core of what a Civic should be is very strong across the range. It can be whatever blend you need of economical, practical, technological and fun to drive. From there on it’s versatile for a single person, a couple to share, a family or a single parent wether they are a driving enthusiast or not. At this point in time when considering the very strong contenders in the compact market, I’m not sure any can match the Civic as a platform in the U.S right now. Particularly with Si and the Type-R looming up on the horizon.
2017 Honda Civic Sedan Touring
Engine: 174hp 1.5-Liter DOHC 16-Valve Direct Injection Turbo Charged 4-Cylinder.
Color: Burgundy Night Pearl.
Fuel Economy: 32 City, 42 Highway, 36 Combined.
You can read my somewhat less formal review here.