Although the Honda Civic is a car that needs no introduction, the 2016 edition once again resets the bar and isn’t shy about announcing a big leap forward from the previous generation. The design shifts from fluid curves to folded creases and one long arcing coupe-like roofline terminating in some wildly styled taillights that look like a pair of hands ready to grip a big sandwich or towering burger. It is bold and distinctive and we’ll let you decide for yourselves whether you like it or not. I find that it manages to channel a little bit of the Acura NSX magic with its faceted surfaces, but there is definitely a lot going on.

It is bold and distinctive and we’ll let you decide for yourselves whether you like it or not.

Before I start drawing comparisons to athletes and animals, let’s get back to talking about the vehicle that will likely continue to be Canada’s bestselling car, a status it has held for 17 years running now. The original Civic was an innovator and ushered in a revolution of small, efficient front-wheel-drive economy cars, but these ‘compact’ cars have grown in size and market share over the years. The venerable compact sedan long held the position as the go-to vehicle of choice for new drivers (often used or handed down), families and retirees looking for simple transportation, but the SUV and compact crossover is now firmly cementing itself as that default choice. The Civic earned consumers’ trust with bulletproof reliability and charmed drivers with well-balanced ride, handling and responsiveness (not to mention hotted up Si models) and served as the foundation for the tuner craze of the ‘90s and early 2000s.

The last generation went pretty much all-in as a consumer appliance, but this 10th generation taps into that slightly athletic heritage that Hondas are known for and catches up with the times by adding a small displacement (1.5L) turbo-four with a continuously variable transmission as the upgraded powertrain and technology that is at the forefront of the gadget race like Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, adaptive cruise control, driver assistance systems, LaneWatch, digital gauges and LED lighting.

Two of the big questions in our mind going into this long-term test is whether Honda got this small-displacement turbo powertrain right and just how much Jacob will complain about Honda’s slider-only volume control? There is no denying that Honda (and Acura) have had growing pains delivering an easy-to-use digital interface for their in-car electronics, and this evolution adds knobs for climate control but sticks with just touchscreen and steering wheel access for music, navigation and other information displays.

But not all Civics will come so equipped. The base model in the Civic line is the DX, and it lacks many of those headline-grabbing gadgets but still offers good value and basic modern amenities for the starting price of $15,990 and $1,595 for freight and PDI fees. At that price, it has a manual transmission paired with an all-new Earth Dreams 2.0L four-cylinder i-VTEC engine making 158 hp, power windows, Bluetooth and Siri connectivity, basic four-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo, though with one USB and streaming Bluetooth audio, steering wheel controls, 5-inch LCD display screen, multi-angle back-up camera, remote keyless entry and 16-inch steel wheels. In DX trim, only black, grey or white are available as colour options with a black cloth interior.

From the ground up: Building the New 2016 Honda Civic

However, the LX is where the Civic comes into its own, priced at $18,890 with the manual and $20,190 with the available CVT, it piles on the full seven-inch Display Audio System with HondaLink infotainment controls and seven-inch TFT digital gauge cluster with extended driver info and interface controls, auto climate, heated front seats, 60/40 split-folding rear seats, eight-speaker audio with more power and a second USB port. Also available as a package on the CVT LX (and EX) is the Honda Sensing suite of driver safety assist features: Collision mitigation braking system, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise and lane keeping assist for $1,000 ($21,190). LX trim adds blue to the exterior colour options.

The EX features the CVT transmission as standard (as it is for all trims above LX), sticking with the 158-hp 2.0L i-VTEC, and for $22,590, adds proximity keyless entry, dual-zone auto climate, speed-sensing variable intermittent wipers, 16-inch alloys, power moonroof and Honda LaneWatch blind-spot display. The colour palette is expanded with silver, a second black option, and a slightly different pearl white.

For an extra $1,400 you can upgrade the EX’s powertrain to the all-new 1.5L direct injection turbo-four making 174 hp at 6,000 rpm and 162 lb-ft of torque from 1,750–5,500 rpm (compared to 138 at 4,200 rpm for the 2.0L). At $24,990 (a $2,400 bump), you also get a leather-wrapped steering wheel, 17-inch alloys, fog lights, a small spoiler and the Honda Sensing Suite thrown in for good measure.

The subject of our long-term test is the top-trim Touring, priced at $26,990 (ringing in at $28,685 with Freight & PDI and A/C tax). For that kind of investment you get the aforementioned 174-hp 1.5 turbo and CVT, leather seats, 8-way power driver’s seat, 4-way power passenger seat, heated rear seats, navigation and satellite radio, wireless charging pad, rain-sensing wipers and auto LED headlights plus some other stuff. It’s not necessarily a winner in the feature wars, but beyond this things can get a little frivolous, except of course for heated steering wheels and ventilated seats which everyone needs!

First impressions are that it is a stylish, modern car while still being reasonable by keeping the price under $30K before taxes. There were no immediate quality concerns after our first few days, and the capacitive touch volume control on the steering wheel is pretty neat-o. It also seems to have made that leap to being a serious car rather than basic compact transportation, especially at this trim, a car for the sophisticated couple rather than the commuting masses. Time will surely temper that appeal, but it’s a good place to start after a couple false starts during the previous generation. The new Civic is a perfect car for us to test over several months, with a broad array of new technology and capability, but still the platform that will be on every block and parking garage by year’s end.

Warranty:
3 years/60,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 3 years/unlimited distance roadside assistance

Competitors:
Chevrolet Cruze
Ford Focus
Hyundai Elantra
Kia Forte
Mazda3
Nissan Sentra
Toyota Corolla
Volkswagen Jetta

Pricing: 2016 Honda Civic Sedan
CVT except where noted.
DX (manual): $15,990
LX (manual): $18,890
LX: $20,190
LX w/ Honda Sensing: $21,190
EX: $22,590
EX w/ Honda Sensing: $23,590
EX-T: $24,990
Touring: $26,990

Pricing: 2016 Honda Civic Touring
Base Price: $26,990
Options: None
A/C Tax: $100
Destination: $1,595
Price as Tested: $28,685