You might think of the 2016 Honda Civic as a small, relatively inexpensive car for buyers on a budget, but this little Honda is so much more than that. This new Civic has daring looks, turbocharged power and a spacious, technology-rich interior for you and your friends or even a few kids. Find out why it's a must-drive compact sedan or coupe.
The outgoing Honda Civic (2011-'15) generation garnered some very un-Honda-like controversy during its run, with lackluster early reviews leading to a virtually unprecedented second-year overhaul. Although that emergency surgery made the Civic more competitive, it failed to restore the car's class-leading status. With rivals improving by leaps and bounds, the Civic just wasn't a no-brainer pick like it used to be.
For longtime Honda buyers, the fully redesigned, profoundly improved 2016 Honda Civic should come as a relief. From the Civic's edgy yet upscale looks to its mature cabin (no more two-tiered dash!) with nifty touchscreen-based tech, it's clear that Honda's innovative spirit has been revived. There's innovation under the hood, too, in the form of a new turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. A first for the Civic, this turbo mill, which is offered on the higher trim levels only, produces a strong 174 horsepower and yet earns an estimated 42 mpg highway. Less expensive Civics receive a new engine as well, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that's more powerful (158 hp) and fuel-efficient than the 1.8-liter it replaces.
Like the best Civics of yore, the new one feels sporty and fun when you're driving it on winding back roads. Unlike its predecessors, however, it's fairly quiet inside at speed, and its ride is more compliant than ever. We generally take boasts like Honda's "best-in-class interior volume" with a grain of salt, but in the new Civic's case, it translates into so much rear passenger space that families might question the need for an Accord. The interior design and materials are laudable, too, approaching Acura-grade refinement in the top Touring trim.
As noted, there are a lot of great choices for compact sedans or coupes these days. The Mazda 3continues to distinguish itself with strong fuel economy, a sleek cabin and sporty handling, though its cramped backseat puts it at a disadvantage. The nimble and well-equipped Ford Focus may not be the freshest face, but this year's model should rival the Civic for the latest in-car technology. For a less expensive but still well-rounded sedan or coupe, we certainly recommend trying the Kia Forte. Last but hardly least is the redesigned Chevrolet Cruze, which comes gunning for the Civic with styling that Honda may find distinctly flattering.
To be sure, it's going to be tough to choose this year. But if you've been waiting for the Honda Civic to get its groove back, consider your patience rewarded.