Expert Reviews

Long-Term Test: 2016 Honda Civic Touring - Update 2

The new Honda Civic’s recent Canadian Car of the Year title comes after success in two rounds of voting and scoring, backed by over 100,000 weighted data points, collected and tabulated after thousands of man-hours of competitive evaluation, by nearly 100 Canadian car review experts.

Civic’s Canadian Car of the Year title saw it first beat out all competitors with the highest score, by a not-insignificant lead, in its initial testing category.

All of the driving and scoring occurred during Test Fest – the annual week-long evaluation portion of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC)’s Canadian Car of the Year (CCOTY) awards program. The event requires voting car review experts to drive groups of vehicles, arranged in categories by price and intention, one after the other, through various public road and special driving exercises, before filling out a report card on each model tested. Back to back testing, which highlights differences (and similarities) between competing models, is the core of the program’s test and scoring results.

The sticky? Civic’s Canadian Car of the Year title saw it first beat out all competitors with the highest score, by a not-insignificant lead, in its initial testing category, and then beat out all category winners during another round of voting on bigger-picture criteria, for the overall Canadian Car of the Year title.

A win is all about the scoring here, and for this update on the long-term Civic tester, I thought we’d dissect some of those scoring results, focusing on the areas where the new Civic stood out against other small cars in its testing category (Scion iM, VW Jetta, Toyota Yaris, Smart Fortwo).

Styling: Civic’s scoring for interior and exterior styling led the competitive set, with scores of 7.8 and 8.0, respectively. Civic’s new look is controversial, though ultimately unique, distinctive, and unmistakable. This might be the first Civic instantly identifiable at a good distance, and there’s little generic about it. Notably, the interior styling score bested the closest runners up (Scion iM and Toyota Yaris) by more than half a point – thanks in part to a modern, fresh and dynamic new cabin set off by above-average of attention to detail, and effective use of upscale materials.

Shoppers moving from an older Civic into a new one will find the cabin light-years ahead of the last-generation model, not to mention one of the very best in the segment today, all while maintaining core attributes including plentiful at-hand storage and spacious proportions.

Notably a Quality score of 8.0 left competitors trailing by a half-point or more, with good build quality, attention to detail and finishing, and a solid and dense feel throughout being partly to thank.

Behind the scenes: Building the New 2016 Honda Civic

NVH and Engine Refinement: The all-encompassing NVH score for overall smoothness, noise levels and lack of harshness and negative feedback saw Civic and Jetta leading the pack, with Civic’s score of 7.8 coming in 0.3 points ahead of the second-place VW. From the driver’s seat, though Civic rides on the sporty-stiff side, ride quality rarely degrades into discomfort, even on severely rough roads. The steering is tuned similarly – weighty and quick, it’s also isolated almost totally from harsh feedback and tugging when rough surfaces pass beneath. Steering aficionados won’t like the numb feel, but many will appreciate how virtually no harshness from the road makes its way to the driver’s fingertips. It all contributes to a driving experience that’s responsive, refined and upscale.

In a separate scoring category for powertrain refinement, it was Civic and Jetta in the lead again, with the Jetta trailing by a tenth of a point. Civic’s turbo engine is creamy smooth and relatively quiet unless pushed hard, and the CVT transmission further enhances driveline refinement: it operates largely without detectable steps, shifts, or surges of power, though it pretend shifts like a regular automatic when pushed moderately.

Performance / Mileage /  Ride Comfort: Civic boasted top scores for throttle response, steering feel, ride comfort, handling, brake feel and effectiveness, and achieved a significant scoring advantage for measured acceleration, with 0-100 km/h coming up an average of two seconds quicker than its competitors. That, while posting fuel economy and emissions performance at or near the top of the testing segment. Take that to mean that the new Civic strikes a largely compromise-free balance between sporty and efficient, comfortable and responsive, and punchy and thrifty.

Overall Value: Voters consider up-front pricing and feature content against all other vote results and competitors, and may consider safety, residual values other factors in the mix as well. In many cases, CCOTY category winners achieve the top scores for overall value, too. This is a significantly-weighted score, and one which also saw the Civic leading the pack.

Overall Scoring: With a category win in the bag, Civic was re-evaluated against all other category winners in contention for the Canadian Car of the Year award (Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year contenders are rated separately), under a new round of big-picture criteria. Civic boasted an overall score of 799 here – beating out models like the Mercedes AMG GT S and Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon with top scores for market significance, consumer appeal, environmental impact and value/price.

Other Notes: All said, there are faster, more spacious and more stylish compact cars available in the market, but as an overall package, under the weighted scoring parameters of this program, Civic is the most compelling overall. After a recent few weeks in the Civic Touring (similar but not identical to the CCOTY-winning car), your writer can offer a few further points and details not captured directly via the Civic’s scoring results.

First, a few surprises. The Civic, even in Touring designation, is sportier than expected. Occupants sit deep and low within the body, like a coupe. You’ll frequently check for the presence of rear doors. Sporty suspension calibrations and a relatively quick and tidy steering system see Civic responsive and unbothered during spirited driving and largely comfortable and relaxed otherwise. The engine backs it up: in the transmission’s “SPORT” shift setting, there’s plenty of hard-hitting torque available a split-second after hitting the throttle, a first for a Civic.

Next? There’s plenty of effective use of high tech: the LaneWatch camera, Android Auto system, wireless recharging pad, and a sleek, tablet-shaped ‘floating’ central display screen are all slick and effective little touches. Numerous interfaces and displays are highly modern in appearance and functionality, though my tester’s infotainment system was frustratingly laggy, prone to freezing, and inconsistent on my watch. Perhaps a software update was needed. Further, the wireless charging pad never managed to juice my phone, even though said phone is compatible with the system.

Fuel mileage on my watch backed up the scoring results, themselves based on EPA mileage ratings. Your writer enjoyed over a week of in-town driving before seeing the ‘empty’ light, and measured-by-hand fuel consumption on the highway landed at just 7 l/100 km, towards a test-average of 7.6 l/100 km, without any use of the power-clobbering ECON mode.

Owners taking the new Civic for a lengthy drive away from home can expect comfortable seats and the automatic lights, wipers and climate control, as equipped, to help generate a laid-back,  ‘set-it-and-forget-it’ dynamic. The eager brakes are sports-car precise, and a just-right level of weight to the steering at highway speeds, as well as the LaneWatch Camera system, help add confidence on the go.

Finally, despite the oddly-sloping shape to the Civic’s hindquarters, rear headroom is above-adequate, as the roof doesn’t start sloping until behind occupant heads.

The 2016 Honda Civic is available now, with Coupe, Hatchback and special performance variants in the pipeline.