The Honda Civic is a success.
The 2018 Honda Civics mark the third year of production for the current generation of what is turning out to be Honda’s most popular vehicle. Introduced in 2016, these Civics have a very slight sales lead over the Honda CR-V.
And this might be the year that the Civic dethrones the Toyota Camry, the perennial winner in the passenger car sales race.
For 2017, Honda added a hatchback to the Civic lineup, which already included a four-door sedan and a two-door coupe.
In addition, Honda came out with the high-performance Type R Touring model, which extracts 306-horsepower from its 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine. This is the sportiest version, available only with a six-speed manual gearbox, which in the current market immediately cuts its appeal. However, for drivers who enjoy full manual control of gear selection and are not intimidated by the presence of a clutch pedal and shift lever, this version has a reasonably light clutch and adjustable automatic rev-matching for smooth downshifts.
Most people, however, buy the sedan, which comes in five trim levels, ranging from the entry level LX, and ascending through the EX, EX-T, EX-L and Touring models. Hatchback buyers select from among the LX, Sport, EX, EX-L Navi and Sport Touring models. LX and Sport model hatchbacks are offered with either a six-speed manual or continuously variable automatic transmission. Sport and Sport Touring models with this CVT offer dual mode paddle shifters for drivers who wish more engagement but would just as soon not be bothered with clutch or shift lever manipulation.
The base engine in the sedan is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder motor rated at 158 horsepower. EX-T and higher trim levels use a smaller, more powerful and fuel-efficient 1.5-liter turbocharged four rated at 174 horsepower. Every Civic with this upgraded engine comes with some simple but surprisingly effective suspension upgrades that give them the posh feel of far more expensive European touring sedans, without adversely affecting riding comfort.
The Civic sedan we test drove had the 1.5-liter engine. It delivered a sprightly performance, with a run to 60 miles per hour taking just 7.3 seconds. Fuel economy also impressed us, with our car averaging 36.7 miles per gallon.
Handling is crisp and rewarding. The low stance of the Civic helps in turns by minimizing lean, while the tires and suspension deliver good grip and a reassuringly balanced feel.
The front seats are low but comfortable. That low seating position can complicate entry and make getting out a challenge when parked next to a high curb. The rear seat is quite roomy for the compact class.
The new hatchback transforms the Civic, taking it from a rewarding sedan or coupe to an amazingly useful all-around vehicle. Credit its 46.2 cubic feet of cargo space once the rear seats are folded. The sedan’s trunk is also competitively sized for the compact field with a rating that challenges some midsize cars: 15.1 cubic feet. The sedan’s rear seatback also folds to enhance cargo capacity. This seat is split 60/40 in all but the base LX. While we have received only Civic sedans from Honda for review, at least one owner who loves her Civic hatchback did comment that closing the rear hatch takes some effort.
One more comment on the sedan’s trunk: The lid is quite small. Blame the stylish, sloping roof and short rear deck. This is an increasingly common problem affecting many sedans and it means that some larger items that would easily fit in the trunk can’t, because they won’t pass through the lid’s opening.
A demerit should go to the infotainment system on the upper trim levels. The center screen is touch activated only. Not even a volume control knob is included, though there are buttons on the left steering wheel giving the driver somewhat more positive control. Offsetting this: Every Civic gets a backup camera.
It barely took a mile to convince me that the current Honda Civic is a very nice car. It just feels right. It is easy to handle, responsive and comfortable. The back seat seems quite spacious for a compact and the fuel economy is excellent.
While our Touring had several advanced safety features, it did not offer the increasingly common combination of blind-spot information and cross-traffic alert. Instead, it has Honda’s LaneWatch, which projects a picture of what is in the right side blind spot on the central infotainment screen whenever the right directional signal is used. But, what about the left side? And what about a warning when backing out of limited visibility parking spaces? Honda is adopting the more common radar-based blind-spot warning systems on some of its models that addresses both of these issues. The LaneWatch is standard on all Civic sedans except the LX, where it is not available. It is standard on EX, EX-L Navi and Sport Touring hatchbacks.
Other safety features are impressive for their availability and function. Every sedan can have lane keeping assist and adaptive cruise control, advanced safety gear that is becoming more common but is often reserved for buyers who are willing to spring for more expensive models. Even LX buyers can opt for these features, which is a definite plus for Honda. Hatchback buyers who chose the Sport model will not be able to buy these systems, however.
The Honda Civic is really easy to like.
Honda Civic: Starting at $18,740 plus $875 for destination charges
Engines: 2.0 1.5 Turbo 2.0 Turbo (Type R)
HP: 158 174 306
Torque: 138 162 (167 w/manual) 295
EPA Manual: 28/40 31/42 22/28
EPA Automatic: 31/40 32/42 Not offered