Certain readers, frustrated by the escalation of crossovers and trucks on the market, have remarked that there is still much interest in small cars, traditional vehicles that the majority of drivers can afford.
To address those concerns, we have the second of at least three small(er) cars to present — the Honda Civic sedan, shown here in Aegean Blue Metallic paint. In the coming weeks, at least one more small car will appear, with sharp distinctions to report too.
Like our recent Toyota Corolla sedan, the Civic is a perennial best seller not only in America, but in many other markets around the world. So far in 2019 — with accounting through the end of September — Honda had sold 255,484 Civic sedans, coupes, hatchbacks and sporty models here, almost exactly the same number as last year. This quantity makes the Civic America’s second most popular family car currently, following Toyota’s Camry by just a few thousand sales, while also the second best-selling Honda, trailing the CR-V crossover.
Much of the Civic’s success is the vast array of models available. From swoopy sedans to sexy coupes and four-door hatchbacks, to Sport, Si and Type-R performance models, the Civic covers a lot of bases. Unfortunately, all are front-drive only with no hybrid or electric-drive models yet available. Honda has other cars with alternative power and a portfolio rich with AWD crossovers.
Now the 10th generation of a car that debuted here in 1973, the Civic is 10 inches shorter than the present Accord, yet buyers out of the market for some time (Honda drivers tend to keep their vehicles longer than many other brands) will find that the Civic Touring Sedan like our sample is in fact the same size as the Accord of 12-15 years ago. More than your waistline has been expanding.
Honda now offers its whole portfolio of Honda Sensing Safety Gear standard across the lineup. This array of driving aids includes: Adaptive Cruise, Collision Mitigation, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, Road Departure Mitigation, Forward Collision Warning, plus automatic high beams. Touring trim adds navigation with voice recognition, multi-view rear camera, HD radio, Apple and Android integration, as well as Honda’s Lane Watch for the right side mirror.
Additional comfort pieces include heated front and rear seating, dual-zone climate, auto up/down front windows, plus push-button ignition and access. LED lights all around make the grade too.
As the Civic has grown, it surely has forced engineers to work harder to mask the weight of these amenities as well as the greater structural integrity that rewards this compact sedan with stellar crash-test scores. Clipping the scales at 2,936 pounds in Touring trim (starting at $28,220), this model is about 150 pounds over stock LX trim ($20,370).
Honda has redesigned everything that fits in the engine bay to improve fuel economy and power. A conventional 2.0-liter four-cylinder powers base models, while a new 1.5-liter turbo-four is available, and preferred, because of its crisper torque output and stronger hp rating —174 vs. 158 horsepower. Fuel economy with the turbo-motor is improved as well, garnering EPA ratings of 30/38 mpg running through the CVT transmission. Actual economy, with much highway droning, returned 36 mpg.
Civic coupes get a 180-hp version of the 1.5T engine, while Si models get a bump to 205 hp. A turbo version of the 2.0-liter engine provides 306 hp in the Type-R, with only a six-speed manual gearbox.
What’s to like? Handling is responsive and predictable, fuel economy is near the top of the segment, and the Civic is reliable, durable and holds its value like few cars do. The trunk is spacious in the sedan (more flexible with the hatch), plus the turbo-four provides more than adequate power if you are willing to work the throttle pedal. Including all of Honda Sensing at every trim adds value across the board.
Gripes? Despite improvements to the sound deadening, the Civic seemed very loud at highway speeds, the info-tainment controls remain more cumbersome and distracting than most rivals and that front end garners more frowns than thumbs-up on Main Street. The body lines are fluid, the face was just garish to some viewers.
Rear seat occupants will love the Civic’s seating. It actually feels more comfortable than the front seats, however, there is no rear-seat connectivity of any kind. Kids are going to protest.
Overall new car sales are close to last year’s 17 million units pace, yet traditional cars continue to carve out a smaller slice of this market; just over one of every four new vehicles sold in the USA remains a car. Honda remains a player for those buyers with a Civic for the masses.