New Civic: bigger and better

We were wrapping up our day at the Connecticut International Auto Show in Hartford last November when we were stopped dead by the vision of an incredibly sharp burgundy sedan – in the Honda section, of all places. It looked too big to be a Civic but too small to be an Accord. Edging closer to the car's display area, we discovered it was indeed a Civic. But it was like no Civic we'd ever seen. Its lines and proportions didn't signal the Civic's utilitarian tradition. No, it was art.

A few months later, we had the opportunity to drive one. The Cosmic Blue Metallic test car was a top-of-the-line 2016 Touring model. In the crowded world of compact sedans, its price was on the high side: $27,335, with no options. You can pick up a nice, well-equipped Hyundai Elantra Limited for $5,000 less.

Here's the skinny on the many Civics we've test-driven over the years: a reputation for bulletproof reliability. Competent handling and power delivery. A little noisy. Great fuel economy. Easy to like; not so easy to love.

But put the Civics of old out of your mind. The new Civic is a model of refinement, creature comforts and attention to detail.

The 2016 Civic is longer and wider than its predecessor, but Honda has done amazing things with miniaturization – starting with the engine. Our Civic was equipped with a 1.5-liter turbocharged inline Four, but don't let those little numbers fool you. It pushes 174 horsepower to the front wheels via a continuously variable automatic transmission, and exhibits little or no turbo lag. This combination improves fuel economy to 31 mpg city, 42 highway.

Prices for new Civics range from $18,640 for the base LX to $26,500 – plus destination and handling – for the Touring version. The LX and EX models are powered by a normally aspirated 2.0-liter, 158-horsepower Four.

In Touring trim, the Civic bears comparison with Honda's premium brand, Acura. (The base-level ILX is priced about the same as the top Civic model.) Among the Civic Touring's standard features are leather-trimmed seats, satellite radio, text-messaging functionality, push-button start, remote start, dual-zone automatic climate control, power front seats, heated seats front and rear, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, power moonroof, and the Honda Sensing Package, which includes adaptive cruise control, collision-mitigation braking, lane-departure warning and other safety-oriented electronics.

The ride is composed and quieter than any Civic (or, for that matter, Accord) we've driven. Thanks to the increased length and longer wheelbase, the new Civic's back seat accommodates adults more comfortably than the previous model did. Even the trunk is spacious, at nearly 15 cubic feet.

People have noticed. Civic sales for February were up nearly 32 percent from the previous year, despite having no coupes available. They're expected to arrive this month.

Government crash-test data are not yet available. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the Civic a Top Safety Pick Plus.

Steven Macoy ( is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.

2016 Honda Civic 1.5T 4D Touring
Price: $27,335

Engine: 1.5-liter turbocharged inline Four, 174 horsepower, 162 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: continuously variable automatic

Drive: front-wheel

Weight: 2,923 lb.

Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear

Wheels: 17-in. alloy

Tires: P215/50R H all-season

Seating capacity: 5

Luggage capacity: 14.7 cu. ft.

Fuel capacity: 12.4 gal.

Fuel economy: 31 mpg city, 42 mpg highway

Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline