There’s nothing exceptional about the look and design of the Civic, but I’m not going to bash it either. The exterior has its own style that can be appreciated, but to some extent it does blend in with other vehicles.
Inside you have a well-designed setup in the Civic, with a decent amount of room and everything in its proper place, plus adequate storage room. There is seating for five, though it’s a bit tight in back.
Base versions will be pretty simple in terms of materials used, but you can upscale to leather-trimmed seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, and heated seats.
In the compact car segment, you’re not going to getting much in the way of “performance” unless you go for a sportier model (The Civic SI would be that option here). The sedan I tested was not very powerful, but the overall experience is passable for the segment. It’s better than some competitors, but behind a few others (Mazda3 and Ford Focus are vehicles that would top it in the performance category).
It’s not exactly boring to drive the Civic, but I didn’t get many thrills at the same time -- that’s basically the Civic’s modus operandi.
The engine in my test vehicle was a 1.5-liter, 4-cylinder turbo, with 174 horsepower. Also offered is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (non-turbo) -- rated at 158 hp. You can choose between an automatic transmission (CVT) or a 6-speed manual if you’re in the vocal minority that still likes to do its own shifting.
It’s a front-wheel drive ride, with a fully independent suspension, and the ride is reasonably responsive to driver commands, though not exceptionally so. Driving the Civic in bad weather -- Michigan winter, specifically -- was not a great experience, so be aware of this if you're in an area with lots of inclement weather.
Let’s start with the bad news; The centerpiece of the tech in this vehicle, Honda’s infotainment system, is very frustrating to use, and the 7-inch display was not as responsive as it needed to be. Despite all the positive attributes Honda vehicles offer, I can see people walking away based off the frustrating experience this system might offer -- so it’s in need for a major revamp, especially in an era where drivers expect a lot from their car’s infotainment setups. (One tip: There really needs to be a volume knob.)
On the plus side you get all the usual connectivity: Bluetooth audio, USB ports, Satellite radio, plus a Pandora interface.
Safety features that are standard include: Vehicle Stability Assist, Airbags, ABS, Tire pressure monitoring, and daytime running lights. You can choose a premium audio system, with 10 speakers and subwoofer.
And if you opt for the Honda Sensing package you’ll get a full suite of protection, including: Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Mitigation Braking System; Forward Collision Warning; Lane Departure Warning; Lake Keep Assist. These are all excellent safety features, but at times they could be overzealous.
The Civic boasts fuel mileage numbers of 32 city/42 highway/36 combined. You’ll go far in this vehicle between fill-ups, as it’s best in class; A couple competitors are nipping at its heels, but in a class where high fuel mileage is expected, being the best is a big win.
With price ranges starting under $19,000 and topping out over $26,000, the Civic has a variety of options for you -- seven total trim levels.
The price is pretty reasonable, but higher than some competitors. The Toyota Corolla, the Civic’s top competitor, is about equal in price. But both are beaten by the lower-priced Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, Chevy Cruze, Mazda3 and Nissan Sentra; and for those buying smaller cars every dollar counts.
The question is whether you will trust that Honda reliability or not, and that could make the price difference worth it. Traditionally, Hondas have a reputation for strong reliability, but some recent models -- including newer Civics -- have been less praised in this regard by those who rank reliability.
The Honda Civic will not be your vehicle of choice if you want something flashy; But if you’re OK with blending in, avoiding the mechanic and saving on gas, check it out and compare to other small cars and see what you think. It’s not my favorite in the segment, but it’s better than much of the competition, and the reputation it has and loyalty by Honda buyers has kept it high in the sales charts for many, many years -- and should continue to do so.