The Turbocharged Honda Civic: Fuel-Sipping Fun for All?

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet
Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Call me crazy, but I can’t help but compare the Honda Civic sedan to the Toyota Prius in certain regards. But before you get all hot under the collar and delete me from your Christmas party invite list, know that I’m not talking about styling, drivetrains, or handling characteristics, because outside of being Japanese sedans, these two vehicles could not be any more different. I’m talking about the legions of devoted fanatics that are biting at the bit in anticipation, as the latest generations drop just months apart from one another. Ever talk to a Honda Civic fanatic or a Prius zealot? They are going to tell you for hours about how great their car is when it comes to reliability, its otherworldly fuel efficiency numbers, all of the obscure facts even the engineers don’t know, how badass the newest model is going to be, and how they are going to get one the minute it drops.

This is what happens when an automaker has a continuous hit on its hands and somehow manages to keep the buyer interested year after year, generation after generation. Both the Prius and the Civic could have gone the way of the Echo and the Prelude with a blunder or two, but instead they have maintained their place at the top of the food chain as staples of Japanese economy car culture and efficiency. As I reported from Las Vegas, the next generation of Prius is here to impress and rope in a fresh herd of buyers, and while the Civic was a joy to cover during its unveiling in Detroit, touring the Honda plant in Indiana where it is being built is what ultimately inspired this article.

Source: Honda

If you’ve been living under a rock, please note that the 2016 Civic sedan has been completely redesigned from the ground up, is the first version to ever be designed by an American team, went on sale November 12th, and offers starting prices that hover around $18,640 — an increase of just $150 over the outgoing model. This is the largest redesign in the 43-year history of the Civic line, the exterior styling cues are about as controversial as marijuana legalization in Ohio, and while it will undoubtedly attract throngs of buyers regardless of either of these facts, it’s Honda’s choice to put a turbocharged engine under the hood that has everyone in the office atwitter over here at The Cheat Sheet.

According to Honda, the 2016 Civic sedan “offers buyers more choices than ever before” with the EX-T, EX-L, and Touring models all rocking a 174-horsepower, 1.5-liter DOHC turbocharged engine for “unprecedented levels of power, refinement, and class-leading fuel economy ratings.” Having said that, when we got the chance to drive one out in California before they went on sale, we ran into a few issues; the biggest problem is that in order to get a manual gearbox, you have to forfeit the turbo engine entirely and opt for the 2.0-liter model instead, which kind of sucks since not all of us want or need the base, Si, or Type-R model.

But let’s look over a few of the reasons why the turbocharged Civic sedan remains a solid option, because as I reported back in the summer, manual transmissions are dying due to a general lack of interest from drivers, and with modern transmissions offering better fuel gains than cars equipped with clutches, we can kind of see why.

Source: Honda

Available in EX-T, EX-L, and Touring trim levels, the second Honda to ever rock a turbo here in America (behind the first-gen Acura RDX) gets an estimated 35 mile-per-gallon average, and packs a CVT transmission to keep this goal as attainable as possible during real-world driving conditions. The sedan’s 1.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine offers up 162 pound-feet of torque in the 1,800 to 5,500 RPM range, giving it a 31-horsepower bump over the outgoing 1.8-liter engine, and showcases 33 pound-feet of added torque as well.

So more horsepower, better gas mileage, and a sizable bump in torque, but no manual gearbox, and in its place a CVT transmission designed to keep things just as smooth and inanimate as possible. Not the most thrilling of automotive options ever to surface, but a consistently sound one for the masses who crave a hair more power, but don’t want to worry about down-shifting in rush hour traffic. But we’ll get to that later. For now, let’s talk a little bit about some of the other major changes found in the 2016 Civic.

Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet
Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Honda says the latest generation of Civic has a “bolder, more aggressive face” that is complimented by “sharp and sophisticated body lines,” which have both been accentuated by the use of copious amounts of LED lighting. With a 1.2-inch longer wheelbase and a body that is almost two inches wider to give it a more athletic stance and a more refined ride, this sedan’s larger cabin can now offer my lanky ass 1.2 inches of additional rear-seat legroom. Praise the gods, my prayers have been answered.

Featuring a far more rigid, tightly sealed chassis that is both lighter and quieter than anything seen to date, the latest Civic sedan boasts a skeleton that is now completely manufactured using Honda’s all new Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure. For those of you who are not familiar with this revolutionary form of manufacturing, this production format has landed the 2016 Civic sedan an NCAP 5-star Overall Vehicle Score and IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating, thus giving concerned buyers reason to relax.

Speaking of relaxing, being able to stretch out in the Civic’s spacious, premium-appointed cabin is a huge selling point for Honda because heated front and rear seats, automatic climate control, a remote engine start, and eight-way power driver’s seats aren’t things you would typically expect to find in this model a few years back. Leading the safety charge with Honda Sensing technology, the Civic now features a collision mitigation braking system, lane keep assist, and road departure warnings, along with adaptive cruise control and low-speed following capabilities. Addicted to tech? The Civic offers an intuitive new seven-inch audio touchscreen interface that runs on an Android operating system, so that drivers may now enjoy Apple CarPlay/Android Auto capabilities for flawless smartphone integration and uninterrupted infotainment connectivity.

How much does all of this Honda goodness run after the turbocharged, low-emission smoke clears? After modding an EX-T model to our liking on Honda’s website, complete with Honda Sensing safety and a bunch of aero add-ons, the Civic came to $26,521 after destination fees — not awful considering what all you get for that amount. Plus, all of those dedicated Civic fanatics out there are going to get what they want soon enough, as the Si preps for launch and the Type-R readies itself for an onslaught on all things domestic, European, and Asian here in America for the first time in history. Couple that with a fun little entry-level sedan like this, and this really might just be the year of Honda after all.