Honda Civic Coupe — Stylish driving fun

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

If you are intrigued by the new 2016 Honda Civic with its cutting-edge styling, energetic turbocharged engine, stylish interior, renowned build quality, and excellent resale value, but you simply want something more sporty looking than a sedan, we have the answer for you.

It's the equally stylish Civic Coupe that offers the same amenities, engine choices, and infotainment and safety technology as the sedan but in a coupe package with an actual trunk, not a hatch. And unlike a lot of compact and even mid-sized coupes, two adults can fit with reasonable comfort in the back seat. Even with its compact stance, the Civic Couple offers long-distance comfort for four.

While the coupe can be loaded with numerous desirable features not found on mainstream compact cars of the recent past — the way we like to have our rides outfitted at our advanced age — it can also be purchased for the budget-challenged buyer in a fun-to-drive light clutch six-speed stick-shift base model for $19,885 including destination charge. It comes with the standard 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine making 158 energetic horsepower.

You will get a lot of stuff in addition to great toss-ability for your 20 grand outlay including 16-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights, full power accessories, cruise control, automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver's seat, rearview camera, Bluetooth, and a four-speaker sound system with a USB port. In addition to great gas mileage measured at 31 mpg city, 41 highway and 35 combined you will get very adequate performance measured at 8.3 seconds from 0-to-60 and 16.5 seconds at 88 mph in a quarter mile.

Most people will bypass the base LX version in the coupe, however, and opt for a higher trim levels designated as LX-P, EX-T, EX-L and Touring. While the base car continues with areas of hard plastic here and there (not a problem with us because they are well executed), the materials in the up-level Touring trim could easily live in an entry-level Acura. There are some neat interior storage touches including USB and 12-volt power outlets tucked under center stack with an ingenious cord management system. A new electronic parking brake allows room for a large center bin with a sliding armrest and removable cupholder tray.

A seven-inch touchscreen placed mid-dash features new Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration that allows for smartphone control of the infotainment system. The navigation screen now uses pinch-to-zoom and swipe gestures we have all become accustomed to with our iPads and smartphones. Unfortunately, Honda has gone with a hard-to-use-while-driving touch control for radio volume. What happened to the seemingly irreplaceable knob that could be accessed without eyes leaving the road? Thankfully, there is a volume button on the redundant steering wheel controls.

Driving a variety of winding roads we found the standard setup exceeded our expectations for a family compact car, a definite step up from the outgoing 1.8-liter 143-horsepower engine. Handling is rewarding with very little body roll, and the Civic exhibited excellent on-center feel. The interior is surprisingly quiet at highway speeds, and visibility is excellent. Note that Honda has endowed the coupe with a sportier suspension than the sedan.

For our current test of the coupe we drove the upscale Touring model with the new 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine making 174 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. We found it a solid performer. For comparison purposes, the turbo-equipped Civic has been measured in a quick 6.7 seconds from 0-to-60 and at 15.2 seconds @ 94 mph in the quarter mile. Those numbers trump just about anything in the segment.

To get the most out of the setup there's an S (sport) mode that boosts the engine by increasing engine speed to make the turbo's sweet spot more attainable. While we wish for a traditional transmission, the continuously variable transmission (CVT) did a good job of acting like a real automatic. Perhaps some of the benefit of the CVT is gas mileage, which comes in at an eye-opening 31 city, 42 highway and 35 combined.

While a majority of buyers will probably be drawn to the mid-level EX models, which add numerous standard safety features as well as an eight-speaker audio system starting at $23,135, our top-of-the-line Touring edition came with such goodies as a 10-speaker audio system, adaptive cruise control, and the Honda Sensing safety package as standard equipment for $26,960.

For those desiring more performance in their coupe, the new Si model will be out later this year promising more than 200 horsepower. It would be worth the wait for us.

Base price: $19,885; as driven, $26,950
Engine: 1.5 turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 174 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 162 foot-pounds @ 1,700 rpm
Transmission: continuously variable
Drive: front wheel
Seating: 2/2
Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
Length: 176.9 inches
Curb weight: 2,888 pounds
Turning circle: 35.7 feet
Luggage capacity: 11.9 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 12.4 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 31 city, 41 highway, 35 overall
0-60: 6.7 seconds (Edmunds)
Also consider: Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus, Mazda3

The Good
• Strong performance
• Excellent handling
• Advanced technologies
• Stylish inside and out

The Bad
• Top trim level pricey

The Ugly
• Audio volume control annoying