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Honda Civic sedan review: Still practical but now fun, too

The Civic, Canada’s best-selling ride, gets a complete makeover in its 2016 edition

The Honda Civic is now longer and wider, and even though the roof swoops down at the back, rear-seat headroom remains the same as before.

Jil McIntosh/For Metro

The Honda Civic is now longer and wider, and even though the roof swoops down at the back, rear-seat headroom remains the same as before.

Even when something’s at the top of the heap, it still has to be kept up to date, but that rule hasn’t always resonated with Honda. Its Civic has been Canada’s best-selling car for almost two decades, but the last couple of “all-new” redesigns were so watered-down that it was sometimes tough to see exactly what had been done.

All is forgiven with the 2016 sedan, which truly is completely redesigned and which is now one of the more impressive mainstream compact sedans that I’ve driven.

There are two new engines, starting with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder that makes 158 horsepower, but my tester used the 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder. It’s Honda’s first turbo in North America and cranks out 174 horsepower, and runs on regular-grade gasoline. While the 2.0-litre is available with a six-speed manual, the turbo exclusively uses an automatic continuously-variable transmission (CVT). The steering and handling are also much improved, and the car feels lightweight and nimble, with sharp response.

It’s now longer and wider, and even though the roof swoops down at the back, rear-seat headroom remains the same as before. The cabin is very roomy and comfortable overall. The interior is also updated, most notably with a new instrument cluster that replaces the weird two-tiered version Civic used to have. Almost all materials are now soft-touch for a premium feel, and there’s more small-item storage space than before. Most of the controls are large and easy to use, but the stereo needs a real volume dial, instead of an annoying touch-screen slider that’s nearly impossible to accurately tap when you’re moving.

There’s also smartphone integration on all but the base model. Plug in your phone, and either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto will access many of your apps on the car’s centre screen (but please pay attention to your driving instead).

The Civic’s still practical, but now it’s fun as well. It’s taken a few tries to get here, but Honda has finally released a version that’s truly worthy of its best-seller status.

The checklist: 2016 Honda Civic sedan

THE BASICS
Type.
Four-door, five-passenger compact sedan
Engine (hp/torque). 2.0-litre four-cylinder (158/138); 1.5-litre turbo four-cylinder (174/162)
Transmissions. Six-speed manual or CVT
Price. $15,990 (base), $24,990 (as-tested), plus destination

COOL FEATURES
• Capless fuel filler
• Walk-away locking
• Lane Watch passenger-side monitor
• Wireless phone charging
• LED headlights
• Forward collision warning with braking
• Lane departure warning and mitigation
• Electronic parking brake

POINTS
• The Civic is also made in Ohio, but all sedans sold in Canada are built at Honda’s plant in Alliston, Ont.
• Although it’s larger than the outgoing model, the new version uses more high-strength steel, so it’s stiffer and weighs less than before.
• The base DX trim comes only with a stick shift, and air conditioning is not available on it.
• The 2016 Honda Civic was named the Best New Small Car by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada.

MARKET POSITION
Honda admits it was previously only chasing the competition, but now tries to move ahead. Civic is now a global vehicle, and all factories worldwide use techniques and training developed at the Ontario plant.

THE COMPETITION
Toyota Corolla — Base price: $15,995
Dodge Dart — Base price: $17,995
Volkswagen Jetta — Base price: $15,995

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