Friends who are looking to buy a new car always ask me, “I want something safe, reliable, feature-rich, but won’t break the bank. What should I get?” The first question I always fire back with is, “does driving fun mean anything to you?”
The answer that usually follows infuriates me to no end. “Driving fun? What’s that?” My suggestion to them is almost always the safe choice: the Honda Civic or the Hyundai Elantra, uncoincidentally the two best selling compact cars on the market.
If you’ve sat in any Hyundai vehicle from the last five years, you’d know why I chose the Elantra: value, great packaging, and did I mention value? I also recommended the Honda Civic because it has developed an appealing dual persona over the last 40 years – yes it’s been around for that long.
Honda highlighted it with their Civic Nation campaign a few years back: safe and reliable on the one hand, sporty and fun on the other. It’s a duality that almost no other brand has been able to replicate with quite the same level of efficacy as Honda, and they’re back again with their tenth-generation model with a full makeover inside and out.
Visually, the styling from the outgoing Civic feels more mature and complete. It was like a ceremonial handoff, easing the eyes of consumers to what will be the future. This new Civic Coupe that we’re testing offers none of the ambiguous mix of futuristic edginess and curvy styling found in the last.
Instead, the front fascia features hard sloping lines, a prominent Honda badge, and sharp edges to give it an aggressive look. To top it off, the Jewel LED headlights passed down from Acura’s line up create the illusion of a pair of lizard eyes. Menacing.
Around back, Honda’s done some slight sculpting of the Coupe’s tushy. The left and right brake lights now connect across the trunk lid. Speaking of which, the lid now bulges out giving the Coupe an almost hatch-like appearance.
Sitting inside feels like being in something from out of this world (almost literally). The instrument cluster continues the futuristic design of the exterior. Replacing the two-tier dash is a new layout that looks just as appropriate on the set of the original Independence Day as it does in the Civic.
Honda’s Display Audio System glows off of a 7-inch screen designed to look like it’s hovering off the centre console. The cabin feels well thought out and everything is easily within reach – except the volume knob. It still doesn’t exist, but we’re told that’s been changed for future iterations.
Under the hood of our Civic Coupe is an all-new 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder. That’s right, the Civic finally gets a turbo, technology that’s been available in almost every competitor’s mainstay vehicles. The four cylinder pumps out healthy numbers that put the Civic on the high end of the compact spectrum – 174 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque. All that power goes straight to the front wheels via a CVT.
Ease onto the throttle and the car responds with smooth effortless power. There’s a noticeable amount of lag but none of it is perceptible during normal city conditions. The lag really rears its head when passing on the highway. Tip in on the throttle and the revs build (along with the boost). Once it kicks in, passing is no sweat but that lag requires just that extra bit of planning.
Put the shift lever in Sport and the real fun begins – the entire car sharpens up like the dog who accidentally swallowed some of your Ritalin. Throttle response feels more immediate and when you plant your right foot, the front wheels chirp as the all-seasons struggle to find grip. Despite the CVT transmission (a manual cannot be had with the turbo as of yet), it’s still a rewarding little car. You can clearly see that the engineers haven’t forgotten about Honda’s sporting pedigree. What it lacks in straight line grunt, it makes up for in eagerness to corner.
The steering rack is really responsive and gives good feedback of what’s going on under the front axles. Body roll is modest and understeer comes on gradually – as all front wheel drive cars often do. Make no mistake, the driving experience behind the Civic Coupe isn’t identical to the Sedan. It’s decidedly firmer, but doesn’t come off brash or noncompliant in the rough parts of the city.
Priced at $27,790, this particular Civic Coupe Touring gets all the bells and whistles offered from the Japanese automaker including LED headlights, 452-watt sound system, Honda-Sensing technologies, leather trimmed seating surfaces, and wireless QI charging. Asking Honda to slice off two doors adds $400 to the sticker. Honda says it’s twice the fun but given our testing it certainly didn’t feel that way. And therein lies the rub.
The Civic Sedan is already an exceptionally capable car doing it’s best to carry on that sporty yet practical duality that Honda has honoured in the Civics of yesteryear. The Coupe offers more sporting feel at the sacrifice of a lot of practicality. Now that Honda has released the Civic Hatchback which offers all of the cool looks, practicality (and then some) of the Sedan, and a manual transmission with the turbocharged engine, it becomes really hard to recommend this two-door.
However if you must get a coupe and if you must ask me more questions, I’d recommend skipping the Touring model and getting the cheaper Civic Coupe EX-T trim with Honda Sensing technologies. Less bells and whistles but its more affordable, much simpler, and better focused. Either that, or wait patiently for Honda to finally spew out a Coupe with the turbo and three pedals.