SAN DIEGO, California — The 2016 Honda Civic is a practical car for practical-minded people. It gets great fuel economy, has plenty of interior space, and is affordable to buy and own. (Hey, it’s a Honda after all.) But not all practical-minded people want to appear as such. That’s why Honda’s 10th-generation Civic boasts wilder styling than ever in an attempt to appeal to the more emotional (or irrational) factors that are so important when buying a car.
That’s still not enough for some of the more adventurous among us. Even a stylish four-door sedan is still a four-door sedan and brings with it family connotations that don’t jive with the hip, cool image that a sporty new car helps create. Enter the 2016 Honda Civic Coupe. This two-door Civic is nearly as rational as the Civic sedan on paper, but it looks a whole lot cooler. Sounds like a win-win, right?
And yet, this segment of front-wheel-drive coupes is practically dead, with nearly all other automakers abandoning small coupes in favor of more practical sedans, hatchbacks, and crossovers. In fact, the Civic Coupe is one of only three front-wheel-drive coupes still on sale today. The others are the Honda Accord Coupe and the Kia Forte Koup (we’re not counting the soon-dead Scion tC). So why has Honda stuck it out this long? Can the all-new 2016 Civic Coupe convince us that it still has a reason to exist?
Not your mom’s Civic
The 2016 Honda Civic Coupe certainly makes a strong bid for your emotional side with its bold design. Civic coupes have always been a bit more daring than their sedan counterparts, but this one takes things a step further with its rakish, fastback-like rear end and wraparound taillights. It looks nearly identical to the Civic concept that wowed us at the 2015 New York auto show, and the concept car’s bright hue known as Energy Green is part of the production Coupe’s color palette.
Despite the different sheetmetal, the Civic Coupe’s underpinnings mirror those of the sedan. Its footprint is the same as the four-door’s, though the coupe is 5.4 inches shorter in length and 0.8 inch shorter in height. Honda also says that the coupe’s springs and dampers are tuned to be a bit stiffer compared to the equivalent sedan trim levels (the Civic Coupe is available in LX, LX-P, EX-T, EX-L, and Touring trims).
Cool and collected
That being said, we couldn’t really notice any difference between the way the two-door and four-door Civics drive, and that’s not meant as a slight. We first got behind the wheel of a loaded Civic Coupe Touring, with a 1.5-liter turbo-four and a CVT, and we were just as impressed with its composed demeanor as when we first drove the new 2016 Civic sedan.
Remarkably quiet and composed, the Civic Touring’s suspension delivers a planted feel on the road and satisfying on-center weighting from the steering. The ride is firm but rarely harsh, and the sophisticated setup of front MacPherson struts and rear multilink control arms does a great job of keeping body motions in check. Even as we push the car harder on some twisty sections, the Civic grips faithfully and never really gets unsettled. In fact, the 2016 Civic Coupe’s solid construction and refined chassis performance remind us of a Volkswagen Golf GTI, not the high-revving, more raucous Hondas of the past that we’ve known and loved.
We have to admit, though, that something is missing as we hustle the CVT-equipped Civic Coupe through San Diego County. The turbo engine pulls hard out of corners, but there is nothing we can do to stop the four-cylinder from droning as the CVT keeps the engine rpm hovering between 3,500 and 5,000 rpm. You won’t find any shift paddles for manual shifting, only a Sport mode that keeps the engine churning near its power peak. The Civic Coupe is more than willing to hustle, but it’s not exactly eager like a good sport compact should be. It’s too refined and mature to incite our inner hooligan.
Honda stick shift, just like the old days
We find what we are looking for when we drive the base-model 2016 Civic Coupe, an LX with a six-speed manual transmission. (All other Civic Coupe trim levels are CVT-only.) The shift-it-yourself Civic two-door comes only with a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder (for now), an all-new engine with 158 hp and 138 lb-ft of torque. As soon as we smoothly slide the shift lever into first gear and engage the easy, light-effort clutch, we immediately feel at home. We rev out the 2.0-liter to its power peak of 6,500 rpm, and hear the same sort of stirring mechanical raspiness that we remember from past Civic Si models.
Sure, compared to the turbo motor, the naturally aspirated four-cylinder is a bit less refined and doesn’t provide nearly as much of a punch. And yet, we are much more connected and engaged with the Civic LX as we fling it into corners, wring out the engine to redline, and work the excellent gearbox to keep the car’s momentum going. The new 2016 Civic still has that fun-loving spirit of Hondas past; you just have to drive the right version to find it.
We also feel immediately comfortable with the 2016 Civic LX’s dashboard layout, as it eschews the large touchscreen and touch-capacitive controls found in more expensive trim levels for a simple and easy-to-use 5-inch LCD with conventional buttons and knobs. Picking the LX isn’t a penalty either, as you still get standard equipment like a backup camera, Bluetooth, a USB port, cast-aluminum wheels, and automatic climate control too. You miss out on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities offered on higher trims, but that’s about it.
The only real downside to the Civic LX is its wheel-and-tire package. With 16-inch wheels carrying 215/55R-16 tires compared to the turbo’s 17-inchers with 215/50R-17, the Civic LX’s taller 55-series sidewalls dull the steering a bit and offer less stick when you’re pushing it. But the chassis setup still takes a confident set in corners and offers a composed ride. Plus, a price that should start under $20,000 (full Civic Coupe pricing is not yet available) should give thrill-seeking Civic Coupe LX buyers plenty of money left over for upgraded rubber.
Can’t go wrong
That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with the better-equipped, turbocharged Civic Coupe models, which still offer plenty of verve. With nicely dressed interiors, handsome styling, and solid, satisfying driving dynamics, there’s little to fault about any version of the 2016 Honda Civic Coupe–or any 10th-generation Civic, really.
But really, it’s the stick-shift 2016 Honda Civic LX that best embodies the spirit of the Civic Coupe. More striking to look at than any mainstream Honda in recent memory, it also happens to get 38 mpg on the highway and provides a decent amount of space in the trunk and rear seat. The real kicker is that it’s also fun to drive in that classic Honda way, lending credence to its bold looks with some genuine excitement from behind the wheel.
2016 Honda Civic Coupe Specifications
|On Sale:||March 2016|
|Engines:||2.0L DOHC 16-valve I-4/158 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 138 lb-ft @ 4,200 rpm; 1.5L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4/174 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 162 lb-ft @ 1,700-5,500 rpm|
|Transmissions:||6-speed manual, continuously variable|
|Layout:||2-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD coupe|
|EPA Mileage:||26-31/38-41 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H:||176.9 x 70.8 x 54.9 in|
|0-60 MPH:||7.2-8.0 sec (est.)|