2017 Honda Civic Sedan Elegance Test Drive: Proof compact sedans needn't be boring
If first impressions were everything, our review would end here. Since that's not the case, join us for a look beyond the Civic's cool design
Ever since Honda stopped selling the Accord in Europe in 2015, the brand's only saloon in the lineup has been the smaller Civic.
So now that there's an all-new Civic Sedan in town, I had to see what it was all about — especially since the tenth-generation model's increased footprint puts it very close to the now defunct Accord.
And then there's the styling. In a sea of boring compact sedans, the 2017 Honda Civic is truly a breath of fresh air. Finding a competitor that looks as fresh and daring as the Civic is not simple — besides the Renault Mégane Sedan, not many compact saloons would qualify. Certainly not the very conservative VW Jetta.
But, as the design is subjective and looking good is not everything, I wanted to see if the tenth-generation Civic is as fine to drive as it is to gaze at. Before that, I have to say the Civic looks good inside too, with the dashboard sporting a contemporary and high-tech appearance. It's a pleasant place to be in.
With the Civic Sedan passing my styling test, I got behind the wheel for the driving part. Here are my impressions.
Created for:highwayswinding roadsurban driving
Hats off for:passenger spaceluggage spacecomfortengine powersafety
Bang for the buck:good
Honda only offers one engine for the Civic Sedan in Europe: an 182 hp 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline unit mated to either a six-speed manual or a CVT automatic. I drove the CVT variant, which is more convenient in town but not that enjoyable for spirited driving.
It's 0.4 seconds slower than the manual version, covering the 0 to 100 km/h sprint in 8.5 seconds and topping out at just 200 km/h (124 mph). That's not great for a car that boasts 182 hp at 6,000 rpm and 220 Nm of torque between 1,700 rpm and 5,500 rpm — by the way, peak torque is down 20 Nm over the manual version. The gearbox has received a dedicated setup for European markets in the sense that it simulates seven gears, which is why it comes with paddle shifters. "Simulate" is the key word here, because there's almost zero engine braking and changing the so-called gears manually is as engaging as mowing the lawn.
The Civic Sedan is probably the finest car in its class when it comes to handling: the balance between ride quality and dynamics is superb. It soaks up bumps silently and effortlessly, and at the same time, it goes beautifully through turns. It's genuinely fun to throw into a corner, exhibiting composure and confidence.
Body roll is present, but it never bothers you — it certainly won't bother the typical compact sedan buyer. When picking up the pace in corners, you'll also appreciate the Civic's precise and weighty steering. It's still an electric system, but it's one of the better ones out there.
The Honda Civic Sedan's crashworthiness has been assessed in North America by both the IIHS and the NHTSA. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Japanese compact sedan the "Top Safety Pick" label, thanks to maximum "Good" ratings in the small overlap and moderate overlap front impacts, side impact, roof strength, and head restraints & seats. A maximum rating was given for front crash prevention as well. However, the ease of use of the child seat anchors was only deemed "Acceptable," and the headlights got the lowest "Poor" rating. The NHTSA gave the Civic Sedan a maximum overall five-star rating, with five stars each for frontal crash, side crash, and rollover.
The EuroNCAP has also crash-tested the latest Civic, but only in hatchback guise with the 1.0-liter three-cylinder unit. The organization gave it four stars overall, penalizing it for "lower-than-expected protection offered to children." Also, in the full-width rigid barrier test, weak chest protection was recorded for rear passengers.
The driving position in the Civic Sedan is almost perfect. I, for one, would have loved to sit a bit lower, but other than that the seats are comfortable and offer just the right amount of lateral support — mind you, they are not sports seats.
The cabin is silent for the segment's standards, but tire noise levels are slightly high for my taste, and when you pick up speed the big side mirrors start to make their presence felt too as they disturb the airflow. As for ride quality, as I mentioned earlier the Civic Sedan is refined, even when fitted with 17-inch wheels.
The 2017 Civic looks and feels well-built. You don't hear any rattles inside, and the suspension works silently even when the road gets rough. Everything is well screwed together, but the quality of some materials is not great. For example, while the rubbery plastic covering the upper part of the dash is neat, the one found under the instrument panel is hard — even though the corresponding area above the glovebox is soft.
I noticed a similar inconsistency in the rear, where the front passenger seat's backrest features a pocket, but the driver's seat doesn't. Plastics found closer to the floor are predictably hard and unattractive, but the Civic's cabin is saved by the leather-wrapped steering wheel, aluminum pedal set, and metallic trim on the dash and door panels.
The Honda Civic Sedan is only 77 millimeters shorter than the now defunct Euro-spec Accord Sedan, and that means there's no shortage of space inside. Knee room, leg room, and head room are above average, with a six-footer like me enjoying enough space both in the front and in the back.
However, accommodating three adults on the rear seats during long trips may not be such a good idea because the middle seat is taller and the person sitting there has to deal with the rather prominent hump in the floor too. At 519 liters, boot volume is best in class, but its relatively small opening means you can't load bulky items as easily as in the hatchback. Oh, and there's no lever on the outside to open the boot: you either have to use the release button on the key or the one on the inside of the driver's door.
The Honda Civic's infotainment system runs on Android, so it works best with Android-based mobiles. As a result, mirroring your phone's functions on the car's central display via Android Auto is a breeze. Pairing an Apple device is easy as well, as the system also runs Apple CarPlay.
The seven-inch touchscreen has decent graphics, although the design of the maps is a bit last decade. The system is responsive, but the menus are less intuitive than on other interfaces used by rivals — think VW Golf, for example. The Civic also features a big digital instrument panel that delivers essential driving information but scrolling through the complicated menu with the transparent buttons on the steering wheel is not the most streamlined experience.
Hooked to the CVT the 1.5-liter turbocharged gasoline engine is a bit thirstier compared with the manual version. Honda claims the Civic Sedan averages 5.8 l/100 km, according to the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC). However, during our time with it (evenly split between the city and the open road), the board computer settled at around 7.5 l/100 km.
To be fair, I haven't been too gentle with the gas pedal — partly because I needed to see what the 1.5-liter turbo was made of, partly because I enjoyed the gruff sound it made high in the rev band. Oh, and don't look for a start/stop button: the system is not available on CVT models.
Unlike German manufacturers, Honda doesn't give customers a hard time choosing from a lengthy list of optional extras: there's a single option available, and that's the color. The range is neatly divided into three trim levels that progressively add equipment. Since you get almost everything you need in the base Comfort grade, the mid-range Elegance model we drove added welcome bonuses such as a dual-zone climate control system, parking sensors, rearview camera, 17-inch alloys, power-folding mirrors, rain sensors, and more.
All models also get the Honda Sensing suite of safety assist systems that include Lane Keep Assist, Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow, Collision Mitigation Braking, Blind Spot Information, and Cross Traffic Monitor, to name the most important.
If you're in the market for a mainstream compact sedan, the 2017 Honda Civic should clearly be on your shortlist. It looks great and is fun to drive — particularly if you get it with the standard manual transmission. It's also practical, and reasonably economical. However, the Civic is quite pricey compared to rivals: a base Civic Comfort starts at 25,520 euros in Germany, whereas the Toyota Corolla and Mazda3 sedan are about four grand cheaper.
Still, the Civic offers plenty of features as standard and a more powerful engine than its rivals — although not all customers may feel the need for an 182-hp powertrain in a compact sedan. Still, when you do the math and take into account all the additional standard features the Civic has over its competitors, you'll find that you get more bang for your buck.